Once you get past the “yuck factor” and look at the flea life cycle objectively, the flea larvae stage is a fascinating and intriguing evolutionary development.
If you have read our page on the flea life cycle you already know that like the butterfly, fleas have a four stage life cycle. Of course, at the conclusion of the flea life cycle, the flea larvae isn’t nearly as captivating as that of the butterfly.
In fact, one could argue that the flea is as ugly as the butterfly is beautiful.
One of the fundamental keys to understanding fleas and flea infestations is that the adult flea lays eggs while feeding on the host (e.g. cat or dog). The eggs will then subsequently fall to the ground. If fortune smiles upon these critters, they will fall where the animal host usually spends most of its time, like its bedding area. The reason this is important is because the flea larvae feed on organic material, including “flea dirt” once it hatches and escapes from the egg.
Fleas Eat Their Own Poop!
At the risk of grossing you out, “flea dirt” is essentially dried blood and adult flea fecal matter. Other organic material includes dried or dead skin and dander and hair.
Adult fleas pierce and probe the skin of their host. When the flea bites, it injects it with saliva that prevents the blood from coagulating. This is how they drink up the blood. When the flea is done feeding, the puncture wound will eventually dry and scab up. When the cat or dog scratches this area the blood scabs will fall to the ground. Similarly, when fleas defecate their fecal matter is essentially blood waste that wasn’t fully digested.
Flea Larvae Description
When flea larvae spring forth out of the egg they look like little white worms ranging anywhere from 1-5 millimeters in length. Their skin is translucent and it is sometimes possible to visibly see their guts which are dark in color. Their digestive tract turns a darkish color as they begin to feed on the “flea dirt.”
If you see flea larvae and cannot detect its darkened digestive tract, you have no doubt come across a freshly hatched larvae.
As you might expect since they have already been described as worm-like, they lack limbs. Additionally, they do not have eyes. Though they are not particularly hairy like a caterpillar, they do have some hair dispersed along their body.
Flea larvae like to eat and hide within the fibers of carpeting, bedding, rugs, drapes and curtains, underneath furniture and cushions, and other suitable environs. They prefer to dwell in areas where the weather is mild and not subject to extreme changes. Also, while they thrive in humid environments they do not do well in wet areas nor in areas with heavy sunlight.
Before entering the third stage of development and becoming a pupae, flea larvae actually go through three separate and distinct stages of development within the larvae stage. Here they shed their skin three times before reaching their full growth potential.
It is at this point that the flea larvae then begins to spin a sticky, silky cocoon where it will then be protected from outside dangers, including pesticides. The flea larvae stage lasts approximately 5-15 days, but can vary.