Common Flea Species

The main concern about fleas and ticks is usually the distress and discomfort that their bites may cause you or your beloved pet. Learn more about the lifecycles and habits of these blood-suckers that are commonly found in Singapore.

Cat Flea

(Ctenocephalides felis)

Cat fleas are often unable to determine whether a host is suitable until it has been bitten. If it is deemed unsuitable, the flea soon drops off.

Appearance

  • Cat fleas are 3mm long wingless ticks, flattened from side to side with long legs enabling them to jump.
  • They have both genal and pronotal combs (ctenidia), differentiating them from most other fleas of domestic animals.

Life cycle

  • Fleas pass through four stages: eggs, larva, pupa, adult. The eggs are small and white. These stages combined vary from two weeks to eight months.
  • The adult flea is awakened by the detection of vibration of pet or human movement, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide for potential blood meals.
  • A cat flea cannot complete its life–cycle feeding only on human blood.

Habits

  • Cat fleas nest where the host is in its usual resting place, for example the cat basket. This is where the young often drop to mature.

Dog Flea

(Ctenocephalides canis)

Adult Dog fleas feed on the blood of dogs and cats, and they occasionally bite humans.

It is a vector of the Dog Tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum, which can also affect humans.

Appearance

  • Adult is brownish black in colour, but appear reddish–black after a blood meal.
  • Adult dog fleas are 1 to 4 mm long. The legless larva is off–white and measures up to 5 mm long.

Life cycle

  • The fleas go through a four–stage life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae, adult.
  • The larvae are longer than the adults and feed on particles of dry blood, excrement, and organic substances.

Habits

  • The body is laterally flattened, which allows it to move easily through an animal’s fur. Spines project backwards from the body of the flea, which help it to hold onto the host animal during grooming.
  • As they can jump approximately 6 inches, they can move from host to host. They can also infest garden lawns.

Human Fleas

(Pulex irritans)

Appearance

  • They are black to brownish–black and wingless.
  • Adult fleas are 1 – 4 mm long.
  • They possess a long, fine proboscis which is used to pierce the skin of their host to feed on their blood.
  • They have a characteristic jumping movement.

Life cycle

  • A female flea will lay 4 – 8 eggs after each blood meal, and can usually lay several hundred eggs during her adult life.
  • The smooth, oval light–coloured eggs measuring around 0.5 mm long, are deposited on, but not firmly attached to, the body, bedding, or nest of the host.
  • The adult generally emerges in a week or two after completing a larval and pupal stage, but under unfavourable conditions, the pupal period may be as long as a year.

Habits

  • Fleas most often bite people around the legs and ankles, usually with 2 – 3 bites in a row.
  • The bites are felt immediately and can be sore for as much as a week.
  • Since they move from one host species to another, they present a risk of transmitting diseases.
  • Human fleas can also be found on animals such as dogs and rats.

Dog Tick

(Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

Appearance

  • Reddish–brown colour. 
  • Elongated body shape.

Life cycle

  • The dog tick is a 3–host tick, so must change host between the 3 stages of growth (larva, nymph and adult). 
  • They require only three blood meals to complete development; once at each growth stage.

Habits

  • It is found on dogs, in kennels and houses, and occasionally on wildlife, but rarely on humans. 
  • In warm areas several generations of tick can be expected per year. 
  • The most common places for attachment on dogs are those areas the animal is unable to groom easily.