How Big are Fleas? Size in Flea Life Cycle

Fleas are tiny insects (order Siphonaptera) that exist parasitically (sucking blood) on hosts birds, mammals, and pets like dogs & cats. 

Key identifies of the fleas include their color which can vary from black, reddish-brown, or brown; visible with naked eyes but may hide in furniture & carpet fibers, and animals coats or fur. 

But how big are fleas? Adult fleas are dark brown and will measure about 1.4 – 3.3 millimeters in body length.

But male fleas have a shorter body (average 1 millimeter) compared to females (average 2.5 millimeters). Despite being tiny, fleas can be seen through naked eyes. 

Related: Commercial Grade Flea Killer for Yard

Details: How Big are Fleas?

1. Fleas’ Body Length 

First, fleas are classified as true insects as they have 6 legs and 3 body segments (head, the thorax & abdomen). 

  • Fleas have a narrow body but their body length is about 1.55 – 3.25 millimeters. 

As noted above, male fleas have a shorter body length – males have an average length of 1 millimeter or under while females have an average length of 2.5 millimeters. 

Despite that fleas are tiny in length and width, you can see them with naked eyes. However, fleas can still hide animal fur or hair including animals and pets with white fur

  • The length of the fleas’ body is covered with protective plates known as sclerites. 
  • These sclerites work well to protect the fleas from animals bites or injuries that they may suffer while jumping. 

Fleas will feed only on the blood of birds and mammals (this includes humans). 

  • The fleas glands are positioned at its front end and thus the bug will look glossy.
  • The glands will secret oil or grease to create the sheen look on the flea’s body that allows easy movement. through animal hair and fibers.

Compare Size of Fleas to Common Objects

  1. Poppyseed measures 1 millimeter in diameter
  2. Sesame seed measure 3.5 millimeters in diameter
  3. Penny’s side measure 1.5 millimeters thick
  4. A dime measure 17.9 millimeters in diameter
  5. Black pepper peppercorn measures 5 millimeters in diameter

2. Fleas’ Head

The head of the fleas is narrow or elongated and thus it’ll easily move through tiny spaces including the carpet fibers and animal hair.

  • Males fleas have a head that is almost equal in length to its head. However, the head of the female fleas measures about double the pest’s body length.

Fleas, unlike other insects (others come with compound eyes), have simple eyes (2 eyes) on their head. 

Further, the eyes of these fleas have biconvex lenses (single) and are dark in color. 

  • Its lower lip has three stylets, where the center stylet (that creates the fascicle) will be one extracting blood from the fleas’ host. 

The mouth of fleas has parts that allow easy piercing of the hosts’ skin so that they suck blood.

  • Further, the fleas’ head has an antenna that allows the pest to sense various stimuli.
  • The stimuli that the fleas will sense through the sensilium (sensory organ) include temperature, vibrations, humidity, smell, and touch.
  • However, female fleas have shorter antennae but the males use their antenna for mating.

3. Fleas’ Abdomen 

The fleas have an abdomen with ten segments but just eight of these are visible.

  • However, the female fleas will have an abdomen that is heavier compared to that of the female fleas.
  • Further, the abdomen of the female fleas has a rounded dorsal (backside) while that of the males is flat.

Also, the abdomen of the male fleas will be curvier on their underside and this will make it appear as if the bugs are upside down. 

  • Notably, you check the gender of fleas by examining the fleas’ abdomen. 

However, the abdomen of the fleas will change in size as the bug sucks blood or remains without a blood meal. 

  • The ten segments of all fleas (females and males) will be overlapping prior to taking a blood meal. Thus, the bugs will look smaller compared to when its well-fed on blood. 

As the flea consumes more blood, its ten abdominal segments continue to open ready to take up more blood.

  • Thus, the abdomen segments will continue expanding and make the fleas’ abdomen to become longer. 

When the flea is well fed, you can inspect its last segment and see the flea’s sensilium (senses the bug’s host) and also the genitals. 

  • Fleas have a lifecycle that lasts about 2-3 months but these bugs could live for even 1.5 years in different localities (varied humidity and temperature), and the presence of host blood. 

3. Fleas’ Thorax 

The thorax of fleas has 3 leg pairs with their hind ones being the longest.

  • The thorax has 3 segments; the prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax. 

The 3 parts of the fleas’ thorax have their backsides overlapping and thus they’re squeezing onto each other. 

  • For easier movement on the host or around the carpet fiber, the joints in the thorax of the fleas are flexible enough. 

Are Flea Eggs Visible To The Eye?

Yes, flea eggs are about 0.5mm (tiny) but they’re visible to a naked human eye – they’re smooth and oval-shaped.

  • However, since the eggs are white, you might not see them when on fabric that’s light-colored. 

The flea eggs are white to semi-transparent and will appear shiny and oval-shaped.

You’ll notice that the flea’s eggs will appear like salt grains – since they measure about a length of 0.5 mm and a width of 0.3 mm.

Matura fleas eggs may look a bit darker and hence they’ll be noticeable faster. Despite that flea eggs are largely dry, they’re laid in a wet and sticky form. 

  • On the structure, fleas are highly fragile and they’ll get crashed with light force to form a gel.

Notably, the eggs have a wall that measures just one picometer in thickness and you can view the larvae through their shell. 

Related: Why Do Flea Bites Itch?

What Do Flea Larvae Look Like?

Flea larvae are tiny organisms that’ll measure about 2 to 5 millimeters in length – they have pale-colored hairs and a white-looking body.

Flea larvae largely feed on flea dirt – these are body waste from fleas – its undigested blood that’s excreted once the fleas take their blood meal.

  • Once hatches, the flea larvae will be measuring about 2 millimeters in length and thus visible with naked human eyes.
  • These organisms have no legs and will be hiding in dark locations, crevices, and also carpet fibers.
  • The larvae of fleas will be blind and they’ll evade sunlight – they’re negatively phototactic.

The organisms will grow to move through 3 stages; the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd instars. The larvae will shed their bristles as they grow to elongate.

  • Further, as the flea larvae grow, they’ll feed on flea feces, organic matter, and dead skin – which will make the organisms transform from translucent to become reddish-brown. 

Conclusion 

Fleas move between hosts very fast and this makes it challenging to spot them – adult fleas measure about 1.4 – 3.3 millimeters in body length.

  • However, with suitable and enough blood, fleas will settle on a host before the females drop off to lay eggs.

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