The Flea Life Cycle

All pet owners know about fleas, but very few know about the flea life cycle, which can vary from 20 days to a year. However, knowing about the flea life cycle can better help us treat the fleas in our home and keep them out of our house permanently.

Flea Eggs

It's estimated that in any flea population about 95 percent of the members are sub-adult. This is beneficial to the flea population because these sub-adult fleas can lie dormant in their surroundings until there are ideal conditions for survival. Thus, flea eggs can lie dormant in your carpet for months. Warm or humid weather often speeds up the cycle.

Fleas can lay up to 20 eggs at a time as often as once daily. The eggs can be deposited on your pet, in your house or in your yard and survive until the right conditions present themselves.

Flea Larvae

The second stage of the flea life cycle begins as soon as 2-14 days after the eggs are laid when they hatch into larvae. The larvae rely on adult flea excrement for nutrition, so keeping areas where fleas are suspected clean can reduce the larva's source of nutrition. Larva molt three times before entering the next stage, which may take anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on environmental conditions.

Flea Pupa

Temperature is a big factor in the next stage of flea development as the larvae spin cocoons around themselves where they can remain for anywhere from a week to a year. Warmer temperatures speed up the cycle, but fleas in this state can live in your home undetected through the winter.

During this phase, fleas are very resistant to chemical insecticides and other environmental treatments.

Adult Fleas

When fleas arise from their cocoon, the first thing they do is look for a host. They can jump 8 to 10 inches high, so they can jump on their hosts from any environment without being detected. They hook onto the host with their hooked legs and bite your pet to insert their feeding tube into the blood stream.

Fleas often abandon the host after feeding, which is why you often see your dog chewing on himself but can't find fleas. Fleas often lay eggs after feeding, so your pet also may be a warm home for the next generation of pests. Black flecks of flea excrement can also be a sign that fleas have been feeding on your pet.

Fleas can live up to 58 days without food, so one month of flea repellent may not be long enough to keep the fleas from your home. Effective flea treatment usually isn't a quick fix.

Understanding the flea life cycle can help us develop effective flea treatment to keep this pests from our home. Since they can survive as sub-adults for so long, it's important to keep cleaning carpets, furniture and other surfaces with which your pets come in contact. Continue treatment longer than you think is necessary—just to be sure.