What do flea larvae eat? Flea larvae (35% of the flea population) are the second phase of the fleas’ life cycle. Depending on the levels of humidity and temperature, flea Larvae development takes 1 to 10 days. But what do flea larvae eat?
The short answer is flea larvae feed primarily on flea dirt, which is (1) adult fleas’ feces (or undigested blood) & (2) conspecific (or non‐viable) eggs – this is unlike other holometabolous larvae—related: Best flea bombs.
Details: What Do Flea Larvae Eat? Foods For Flea Life Cycle
As hematophagous obligate epiphytes, flea larva doesn’t require a host to survive or grow.
1. Feces from Adult Fleas
Cat flea larvae have mandibles to chew solid organic matter but won’t bite on either cats or dogs.
As highlighted above, flea larvae primarily feed on flea dirt – which is feces (or pre-digested and dried blood) from adult fleas.
Undigested cat or dog blood
The blood may have originated from various hosts such as cats and dogs or human beings.
- Therefore, a large quantity of the ingested blood comes out in feces undigested ready to give the flea larvae the required nutrients.
- Flea larvae won’t grow appropriately if they don’t feed on flea dirt.
Despite that the flea’s eggs are laid wet on the host’s hair coat, they’ll dry out, and over 70% of them will fall off in about 8 hours.
Hemoglobin with Protein and Iron
The blood in flea dirt has a varied amount of hemoglobin essential for flea larvae’s growth.
- Specifically, Hemoglobin contains 85-89% proteins (from the host’s blood protein) that aid larvae’s evolution.
Further, Hemoglobin intensifies sclerotization and larvae growth due to its high 45-79% iron (from the host’s blood iron) content.
Coils & spherules (Coils have 32% extra proteins)
Feces in the coil shape have 32% additional proteins than the spherule’s form of flea feces.
However, the key to note is that coil-shaped flea feces are mainly ejected by fleas about two weeks old, while the spherule-shaped wastes are from the newly developed flea adults.
Therefore, younger flea larvae will favor the spherule-shaped feces since they are softer and smaller, while those in their elder days will take the coil-shaped feces since it has 32% additional proteins.
Females Fleas produce more Feces.
Adult fleas (particularly females) will suck blood about 13.6 µl of host blood, which is significantly higher than their male counterparts (that suck about 5 µl – 6.97 µl of host blood).
- Therefore, female fleas will generate more massive feces, which plays a more significant role in parenting and feeding their larvae.
Also, female Fleas feed on more blood to balance their body metabolism to allow higher egg production.
2. Non-viable or Conspecific flea Eggs
Besides, undigested host blood, fleas will also feed on non-viable (or conspecific) eggs.
- For example, a recent Hsu MHin recent research concluded that non-viable flea eggs contributed to the proper development of more than 90% of the flea larvae into adults.
- But who many such eggs would one larva require.
Scientific evidence varies with the larvae eating from 7 – 20 dead & non-viable flea eggs per flea larvae.
3. Scavenging and Cannibalism
Flea larvae mainly live in bedding or the nest where they turn around to scavenge for food in the environment.
- They are worm-looking or legless with their mandibles that will be feeding on flea dirt.
- Flea larvae will move around (up to 90 cm) in search of food.
But, they’ll be within 16 cm around the flea nest if flea dirt is readily available in that habitat or hatching area. However, flea larvae have a higher probability of dying if they don’t get food in three days.
Cannibalistic Tendencies? Finally, flea larvae will also cannibalize (or eat one of their own) larvae that are either injured or weakly.
Further, some larva may also eat different naked pupae or the larval casings that have been shed.