How Long Will Fleas Live Without A Host

How Long Will Fleas Live Without A Host

You may be wanting to know how long a flea can live without a host, these parasites need a host, right?

Good question: you may also be wanting to know how to get rid of these bloodsuckers for good and prevent them from returning.

In this article, we will give you the answers that will go a long way to make your pet and home flea free.

What Are Fleas? 

Fleas are an insect, they cannot fly but have strong back legs that enable them to jump long distances.  Some species of fleas are able to jump an amazing 30cm! That is quite a distance for a tiny insect.

This is how they are able to travel from one host to another, the fleas do not travel far from a host if at all unless the fleas are knocked off the host. Fleas will remain on the host as long as there is a blood supply.

Fleas are tiny but visible to the naked eye, the fleas eggs, however, are even smaller and are white and oval in shape.

When on the lookout for fleas you are looking for an insect between 1-4 mm and light to dark brown in color.

Fleas like to live on fur-covered animals they have adapted to do so, having spiked legs, narrow bodies, and strong biting mouthparts allowing them to pass around in pet fur with ease.

Types Of Fleas

There are thousands of different species of fleas in the United States, the most common are cat fleas, cat fleas will bite dogs and humans for a blood meal.

Adult cat fleas ( Ctenocephalides felis) are around 1/8 0f an inch and are brownish-black in color, and are wingless. A cat flea likes to feed on furry animals rather than birds.

Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) are not as common as cat fleas, they like to feed on hosts similar to cat fleas. Dog fleas are able to jump the furthest, over 20 inches. A dog flea will live for 7-14 days.

Human fleas (Pulex irritans) and rat fleas (Nosopsyllus fasciatus) are the other more common fleas and affect humans.

It was rat fleas that spread the plague. The rat flea can be brought into the yard by mice, rabbits and rats.

People working closely with pigs can pick up the human flea as they are happy on both pigs and humans.

The different species of fleas tend to stick to their favorite host.

Signs Of Fleas

The first thing you may notice is bites on the skin, fleas tend to bite around the ankles and legs, the bites will often be in groups.

The bites are red, swollen and itchy, similar to a mosquito bite but not as red.

Anyone who has allergies to flea bites suffer a bit more, bites can be more swollen, with rashes and heightened itchiness. Symptoms of an allergy appear after 24 hours after the initial flea bite.

Flea dirt

You might find flea dirt, which appears like black flecks a little like pepper.

Flea dirt is actually flea feces and you are likely to find it in pet fur or in the pet bedding.

To be sure it is flea feces you could put some suspected flea feces on a damp tissue if it turns red it is flea feces. This is because it is made up of blood from the host.

Pets scratching often

Fleas release saliva into the body of the host which contains an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing and an anaesthetic so the host does not feel the flea feeding.

The body reacts to the saliva in its body which causes itchiness around the site of the flea bites.

If your dogs or cats scratch constantly the chances are it is due to fleas biting.

There are other conditions that cause scratching, if you are in any doubt take your pet along to the vet.

You find fleas

Fleas are visible to the human eye, you may see them jumping around looking for a host or see them moving around in your pets’ fur.

Disease and fleas

Fleas are not just an irritating insect that makes you and your pets scratch like crazy.

Fleas can carry disease, and parasites, a flea bite can transmit blood-borne disease. The disease they can transmit can be Typhus, plague and parasitic tapeworms.

A dog can ingest fleas when chewing at their fur and become infested with tapeworms.

With this in mind if you discover a flea infestation it is time to act fast to prevent a serious infestation.

What Part Of The Body Do Fleas Like Best?

Fleas like to be warm and they do not like light, and this is why fleas prefer furry animals to humans and birds.

Furry animals offer warmth and protection, but they will jump on and feed on humans if the fleas need to survive.

What Are The Ideal Conditions For Fleas?

Fleas like warm humid conditions and temperatures of 80-90 Fahrenheit, humidity around 70 % is ideal to bring the fleas out!

Flea life cycle

There are four stages to a flea’s life cycle. Knowing the stages of the fleas life cycle fleas pass through and what to look for can help you to get rid of the fleas.

The life cycle starts with an egg, laid by a female flea after a blood meal. They will be laid on the host and can fall off during movement landing on carpets, pet bedding and furniture.

The egg stage can last up to two weeks or more.

The next stage of the flea life cycle is larvae, at this point, they have no legs and can be around 1/2 an inch long, and are white in color.

The larvae will only move off the host to feed on flea dirt.

This stage of the life cycle lasts up to two weeks. After that, the fleas enter the pupal stage and create a cocoon, the fleas can remain in the cocoon for several months.

They will emerge if the fleas sense carbon dioxide and a heat source from an animal.

Flea eggs

Female fleas can only start laying eggs after a blood meal.  After her first blood meal, a female flea lays  8 – 12  flea eggs a day.

Flea eggs will hatch quicker in a warm humid environment, this could be as early as 2-3 days.

Flea larvae

Fleas larvae are commonly found in pet bedding. A female flea will lay eggs on the host but they can fall off and hatch in the pet bedding.

As adult fleas consume vast volumes of blood each day for their size, it has to go somewhere right?

The adult fleas excrete and this provides food for the flea larvae. The larvae consume a lot of this adult flea excrement( flea dirt ) in order to grow.

Adult fleas

Adult fleas will remain dormant until they sense carbon dioxide from a host, fleas prefer to wait for a host rather than go looking for one.

So How Long Can Fleas Live Without A Host?

Fleas can survive for periods without a host, how long can they live without a host depends on the life cycle stage.

How Long Can Flea Eggs Live Without A Host?

Inside the home flea eggs hatch in about 3 days of being laid if the conditions are suitable.

If you have a warm humid home which fleas prefer they will hatch quicker than in a cooler, dryer house. If the house gets too dry and cold it will kill off the eggs.

If eggs do not hatch after 2 weeks of being laid they never will hatch.

How Long Can Flea Larvae Live Without A Host?

Flea larvae live for around 11 days before they start to pupate.

In ideal conditions, they can develop in a week. In bad conditions, they can survive up to a month and a half.

Flea larvae do not need to feed on a host, flea larvae feed on flea dirt and debris, so they are able to survive the longest.

How Long Can Flea Pupae Live Without A Host?

At the pupae stage in the life cycle pupae lay dormant in a cocoon, waiting for a passing host. They can be at this stage for 5 or 6 months.

How Long Can Adult Fleas Live Without A Host?

Adult fleas need to feed on blood and this should take place at least every twelve hours. Because of this, adult dog fleas survive without a host for up to four days.

Female fleas will die sooner, as early as a day after being away from the host.

Younger adult fleas

Younger adult fleas feed on blood like adult fleas, if the younger fleas have not had a first blood meal at all, they are not yet dependent on blood and can survive up to two weeks without a host.

Our Top Tips For Getting Rid Of Fleas

As soon as you spot a flea infestation you should take immediate action to eliminate adult fleas quickly. Fleas survive longer at different times of the life cycle.

You cannot treat just the adult fleas, there may be newly emerging fleas after treatment that will then go on to breed.

All areas with a flea problem need to be treated thoroughly.

Treat your pets first

Eliminate fleas on your pet firstly, try a shampoo first, after treatment use a flea comb and go through your pets’ fur dipping it in soapy water to kill the fleas. Soap helps control light infestations.

The neck and tail often have high concentrations of flea problems in them, so pay particular attention to these areas.

Flea dips are available to treat your pet, the mixture is applied to the fur of the animal. Any leftover flea dip can be applied on the lawn and will break down into the soil.

Visit your vet for advice on flea control, there are topical and oral medications available as well as flea collars that will kill flea eggs, flea larvae and adult fleas and immature fleas.

Pet beds

Always change pet bedding regularly, pets spend a lot of time in them and it is where a lot of flea eggs will fall and possibly hatch. Flea larvae will also be present in infested pet bedding.

Wash pet bedding in hot water and dry in the tumble dryer on high heat. This kills adult fleas, eggs, larvae and pupae.

Vacuum

Vacuuming the entire house with a vacuum cleaner that has a bag will help reduce a flea infestation. Vacuum all cracks and crevices and surfaces around the home.

When you have finished empty the vacuum bag carefully in the trash.

Fleas can carry on developing inside the bag which could cause another infestation.

Steam cleaner

Invest in a steam cleaner, they are not only useful for various jobs around the house but the high temperature of the steam will kill fleas and other insects.

Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring white powder that is made of fossilised algae. When sprinkled around the home it kills fleas by dehydrating them.

Borates can also be used to kill fleas, Borates kill immature fleas; they are naturally occurring salts derived from Boron that are used to contaminate the fleas’ food supply.

Insect growth regulators

An insect growth regulator affects the insects’ hormones, which interferes with normal growth and development. It is sprayed on carpets and furniture.

Treating the yard

Fleas can be found outside in the yard, treating only flea breeding sites such as pet bedding areas, and treating pet loafing areas around the yard is a must.

Shrubs should be cut back and leaves raked up to limit flea breeding grounds.

How To Treat An Empty House

If you are about to move into an empty house it is worth spraying the house with flea spray. Fleas in the pupal stage can be alive but remain dormant until a host moves in.

Spray just to be sure any possible flea infestations are eliminated.

Flea traps can also be placed around the home, make your own with dish soap and water in a bowl the fleas cannot get out of the flea traps and die. You can also buy flea traps with a sticky surface to trap fleas.

Professional pest control for fleas

Call in a pest control company expert to control fleas if you feel the flea treatments you have used for pest control have not been successful.

Quite often a flea infestation will need chemicals and will be used as part of an integrated flea control program.

The exterminator will have all the tools and equipment needed to deal with the infestation.

They may also be able to give you tips and advice on how to prevent another flea infestation.

And Finally,

We hope this article has answered the question How long can fleas live without a host?

If you have any questions please feel free to drop us an email, and we will do our best to respond as quickly as possible.

Check out the rest of our website where you will find many useful tips and advice on pest control.

Good Luck!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

Read more here.

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