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Just the thought of a flea causes an itch. The annoying insects usually get into the apartment with pets or used clothing. How long can fleas survive in textiles?

In a nutshell

  • Fleas (Siphonaptera) are blood-sucking parasites
  • they can be transmitted from pets to humans
  • Flea bites are unpleasant and not harmless
  • a flea can survive for a maximum of two months without food
  • a female flea lays 40 to 50 eggs daily

The way to the apartment

How do fleas get into the apartment? Cats usually have the insects with them, which, as free roamers, can move freely between the home, the garden and the surrounding area. They come into contact with other cats, but also with hedgehogs, birds, mice and other animals. Dogs can also bring dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) into the house after a walk. However, dogs are also interesting for cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis).
A flea can jump far. Even without direct contact between the animals, it can change hosts.

way of life

Fleas feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide in the air breathed by humans and animals. Without food, adult fleas can survive for up to two months.
The lifespan of fleas depends on the variety. Some species have a lifespan of 18 months.
Appearance of the adult flea:

  • one to two millimeters long
  • wingless
  • colored brown to black
  • hard shell
  • flat physique
  • six legs with claws

Life cycle:
There are five stages in the life cycle of a flea.

  1. egg laying
  2. hatching of the larvae
  3. repeated molting
  4. pupation of the larvae
  5. hatching of the animals
dog flea; Source: Katja ZSM, Ctenocephalides canis ZSM, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

A female flea, under favorable conditions, will lay several hundred eggs in her lifetime.
Good conditions for reproduction: temperature above 5 degrees Celsius
Good conditions for the development of the larvae, pupation and moulting: 20 to 27 degrees Celsius, sufficient food and high humidity
The larvae feed on dander and faeces of adult animals. The larvae molt several times during growth. After the third molt they pupate. Flea pupae can survive in the cocoon for several months without food. At room temperature, the fleas hatch after 10 to 14 days. If it's colder, it can take up to 12 months for the flea to hatch. Because of this, flea populations can vary significantly in their lifespan.

Notice: A flea drinks 15 times its body weight in blood.

nest fleas and fur fleas

Researchers have identified differences between nest fleas and fur fleas. Nest fleas have a strong attachment to their nests in textiles such as clothing, pillows, mattresses, carpets, etc. They prefer a dark, dry environment and tend to stay close to their host's roosting site.
They leave this place at night to feed themselves with blood. Signs of this nocturnal visit are flea bites on the body. The human flea (Pulex irritans), a typical nest flea, spends the day in mattresses or duvets. He is very shy of light.
The fur flea, on the other hand, stays in the host's fur. Cat and dog fleas are examples of fur fleas. They only affect people in exceptional cases. Fur fleas like to settle in the neck area of pets. They are not sensitive to light.

Clothes should be washed as hot as possible to combat fleas.

Notice: Be careful when cleaning the bird nest boxes in the garden in the fall. It is not uncommon for bird fleas to be found in the nest boxes, just waiting for a new host. Protect yourself with long-sleeved clothing and gloves. Do not hold the nesting material too close to the body.

frequently asked Questions

How can you protect unused wardrobe from flea infestation?

Fleas are sensitive to very high and low temperatures. Wash clothes at 60 degrees if possible. Alternatively, you can freeze infested clothing for 12 hours. Harmful fleas do not survive temperatures below 3 degrees Celsius. Never hang used winter clothing unwashed in the closet. Have coats and thick jackets professionally cleaned. Clean your closets regularly. Use vinegar cleaners.

What hygiene measures do people have to follow if they are infested with fleas?

In the case of a human flea infestation, normal hygiene measures such as showering and changing clothes are sufficient. Wash your clothes, curtains, bed linen and other home textiles thoroughly. Vacuum the carpets daily and clean the apartment. After three to four weeks, the rooms should be free of fleas again.

How do you recognize a flea bite?

A flea bite is usually noticeable in humans in the morning due to severe itching. Small red dots that are close together and form a so-called "street" are a typical sign. Small wheals may form. Flea bites are not immediately visible on pets because of their fur. The most striking initial symptom is the constant scratching of the animals. Flea bites become visible when checking the fur.

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