Fleas are incredible, hardy insects but should not be underestimated because of their tiny size. Xenopsylla cheopis fleas (thankfully rare in the UK) transmit the bubonic plague which has killed millions of people worldwide but it wasn’t until 1910 that the connection between the fact that fleas transmitted the plague from rats to humans was confirmed. As the fleas increase in number, more rats become infected, and so on until an epidemic breaks out in the rat population. When the rats die the fleas jump off and search for a host.
Today there are over 3000 worldwide cases of bubonic plague every year, largely in developing countries such as sub-Saharan Africa. The last outbreak of the bubonic plague in the US was in 1914 in New Orleans. Here are some fascinating facts about fleas:
Facts about fleas
- Fleas can jump non-stop for days without rest.
- There are 62 species of fleas in the UK and over 2500 worldwide.
- In the British Isles just over 25 per cent of flea species are bird parasites.
- At the turn of the 20th century Charles Rothschild purchased twelve dressed fleas from Mexico. They are about 3 millimetres tall and include a bride and groom which can be viewed at the Natural History Museum in Tring.
- The eyes of a flea are often rudimentary. Instead the flea uses sensory pits and short, 3-segmented antennae to detect a host.
- Female fleas lay 20 to 25 eggs daily. The eggs hatch in one to two weeks and larvae emerge, which mature into pupae, which emerge as adult fleas. Ten adult fleas can lay 6,000 eggs monthly, which will then mature and continue the cycle.
- Flea larvae feed on organic matter in carpets or bedding such as dead skin or dropped food.
- A single flea will often bite two or three times in the same area in search of blood.
- A flea can jump over 17 cm high and 33 cm long which is approximately 150 times its own length.
- The flea jump is accomplished by an astronomical acceleration that’s more than 50 times faster than a space shuttle. If you could jump this high, you’d have to have a special hard shell like the flea to survive the impact of your landing. Check out this video by Cambridge University to see in detail how awesome a flea jump is:
Within the past week the temperature has plunged. Around the country log fires have been lit and boilers have rumbled into action. This warmth gets the fleas hopping. When fleas hatch they need a blood meal in order to complete their lifecycle. Flea cocoons can remain dormant for two years or more and are awoken by warmth and the vibration of footsteps which indicates that dinner is close-by.
If you suspect you have fleas the key is to act quickly before an infestation takes place. Try a DIY insect product which helps get rid of fleas quickly and efficiently. Our range includes sprays and powders, which can be used in the house. Here are some tips on how to get rid of fleas:
- Vacuum carpets and furnishings using the strongest suction that will not damage the fabric.
- If you have pets vaccum and wash their bedding weekly above 50°C to kill fleas.
- Shake or beat rugs and pet bedding outdoors so that fleas and eggs fall off.
- Consider placing pet beds in areas without carpets such as on wooden floors.