A cat flea is a very tough insect found on your everyday cat. The flea can jump one foot high. It would be impossible for a human to accomplish such a feat if it were the size of the flea. The cat flea has an interesting anatomy which accounts for its spectacular abilities. It can survive high amounts of pressure when it jumps.

TAXONOMY:

Genus: Ctenocephalides

Species: felis

Order: Siphonaptera

Family: Pulicidae

Jumping

5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Liftoff, that’s the countdown for a space shuttle leaving the Earth. The flea when jumping accelerates 50 times faster than a space shuttle. Although fleas cannot fly, they can jump over seven inches high and thirteen inches long, that is about one hundred and fifty times its own length. Without its outer shell it would get smashed by the velocity of the jump, and especially on its landing. Fleas have a well-built body for jumping. Did you know that if fleas were the size of humans, they would be able to jump over the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London six hundred times for three days!

Anatomy

When you drop a flea from five feet, it does not die because the cat flea has an extremely strong exoskeleton and it is lightweight. Heavily armored plates protect its body parts. The head structure of the flea allows it to the move through fur and part the animals hairs for easy forward progress; it also inhibits the flea from backing on a fur producing animal. The exoskeleton is waterproof, shock resistant and able to survive high pressure at a 140 g’s (gravity=10m/sec/sec). In order for the cat flea to get its food (blood), it punctures the skin to suck blood. The flea’s eyes are not very useful but its antennae helps the flea detect movement and shapes. The antennae is what eyes are to us. The flea’s thorax and abdomen have claws to hold onto its host.

Reproduction

Fleas pass through a complete life cycle of four stages from eggs, larva, pupa, adult. The eggs are small and white. The complete life cycle from egg to adult varies from two weeks to eight months. Generally, after two days to two weeks the eggs hatch into larva. Larvae are blind, avoid light, and take a week to several months to fully develop. They pass through three larval stages. Their food source consists of digested blood from adult flea feces, dead skin, hair, feathers, and organic debris. Pupa mature to adulthood within a cocoon woven by the larva to which dust, pet hair, carpet fibers, and other debris adhere. After about five to fourteen days adult fleas emerge from the cocoon. The alarm clock that awakens the adult flea may include the detection of vibration of pet or human movement, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide (a potential blood meal). Female fleas lay-up to twenty eggs per day and six-hundred in a lifetime.

Although fleas can live up to two months or one year without eating, they cannot survive or lay eggs without blood. Newly emerged adult fleas live only about one week if a blood meal is not obtained.

Other Fleas

There are three different kinds of fleas: the mobile fleas, the sedentary flea and the stick tight fleas.

A type of Asian sedentary flea can produced 1,000 flea eggs. Sedentary fleas spend most of their time in the nest.

Mobile fleas spend most of its their life in nests or on hosts. The sedentary flea stays on its host wherever it goes.

The stick tight flea is the most interesting type. The female attaches itself to the host by digging itself into the host’s skin. The Chigoe flea, AKA the jigger, lives in South America, Africa, and Asia. Their hosts are pigs, dogs, and sometimes even humans. The female digs itself into the host and starts sucking blood. When the flea is still under the host’s skin, it mates and its abdomen starts swelling to the size of a pea. The unlucky host’s skin stretches with it. The male flea then hops off the host. Then the female lays the eggs which fall onto the ground. The female, still the size of a pea, and still under the host’s skin dies. If bitten on the toe area, a person might lose their toe. Not only that, but since it is still inside the skin, it can cause a fatal blood poisoning.

Pesticides & Control

Don’t you just hate those annoying little pests that suck your pet’s blood, invade your house, live on your pet and maybe even on you? Do you want to know how to get rid of them? You can by cleaning the bedding area and places where the animal sleeps which will help to reduce flea problems. The ultrasonic collar is sometimes used for the control of fleas on domestic animals. However, a study by Koehler, Hinkel and Patterson in 1990, shows that ultrasound devices are ineffective. Insect growth regulators interfere with the flea molting. When the larvae molt, the growth regulator will kill it. One problem is that when the growth regulators are exposed to light they break down. Insecticides should be applied to areas where the flea is most likely to breed which includes animal bedding, cracks in the floor, and baseboards. When using insecticides you should know that a pre-emerged adult can stay in a suspended state and insecticides will be ineffective against it. There are some special combs that can be used to remove adult fleas from short-haired pets. Some of the newer and more effective treatments available are Advantage, Frontline, and Revolution.

Links

http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~ohioline/hyg-fact/2000/2081.html

RESILEN LINKS

http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/pae/glossaryr.html
http://www.ucmc.uchicago.edu/news/how.flies.fly.html