The Flea Life Cycle
Although you are only able to see the adult flea, there are actually 4 stages of the life cycle.
This entire life cycle (adult flea egg larva pupa adult) can be completed in 14-21 days with the proper temperature and humidity conditions. This adds to the problem of flea control.
The adult flea constitutes only about 5% of the entire flea population if you consider all four stages of the life cycle.
Flea Eggs (Days 1-10)
- Flea eggs are pearly white and about ½ mm (1/32 in) in length. They are too small to see without magnification.
- Fleas lay their eggs on the dog, but the eggs do not stick to the dog’s hair. Instead, they fall off into the dog’s environment.
- The eggs make up 50% of the flea population.
- They hatch into larvae in 1 to 10 days, depending on temperature and humidity. High humidity and temperature favour rapid hatching.
Flea Larvae (Days 5-11)
- Flea larvae are slender and about 2-5 mm (1/8 – 1/4 in) in length.
- They feed on organic debris found in their environment and on adult flea faeces, which is essential for successful development.
- They avoid direct sunlight and actively move deep into carpet fibres or under organic debris (grass, branches, leaves, or soil).
- They live for 5 to 11 days and then pupate.
Moisture is essential for the survival of these immature stages of the flea; larvae are killed by drying. Therefore, it is unlikely that they survive outdoors in shade-free areas. Outdoor larval development occurs only where the ground is shaded and moist and where flea-infested pets spend a significant amount of time. This allows flea faeces to be deposited in the environment.
In an indoor environment, larvae survive best in the protected environment of carpet or in cracks between hardwood floors. They thrive in warm conditions.
Flea Pupae and Cocoon (Days 9-21)
- Following complete development, the mature larvae produce a silk-like cocoon in which the next step of development, the pupa, resides.
- The cocoon is sticky, so it quickly becomes coated with debris from the environment. This serves to camouflage it.
- In warm, humid conditions, pupae become adult fleas in 5-10 days.
- However, the adults do not emerge from the cocoon unless stimulated by physical pressure, carbon dioxide, or heat.
Adult Fleas (Days 14-140)
- Pre-emerged adult fleas can survive up to 140 days within the cocoon.
- During this time, they are resistant to insecticides applied to their environment.
- Because of this, adult fleas may continue to emerge into the environment for up to 3 months following insecticide application.
When the adult flea emerges from its cocoon, it immediately seeks a host because it must have a blood meal within a few days to survive.
- It is attracted to people and pets by body heat, movement, and exhaled carbon dioxide.
- It seeks light, which means that it migrates to the surface of the carpet so that it can encounter a passing host.
- Following the first blood meal, female fleas begin egg production within 36 to 48 hours.
- Egg production can continue for as long as 100 days, which means that a single flea can produce thousands of eggs.