There are approximately 70-80 species of fleas in Australia (Order Syphonaptera), the most common being the cat flea and the dog flea. They are 1-6mm in length and black or brown in colour. The cat flea is far the more common species, with this parasite being found upon both dogs and cats.
People often refer these as grass fleas or sand fleas. It is incorrect to assume that these fleas just live in the grass or sand. They are usually cat fleas that their pet has deposited on the ground. All fleas are blood sucking parasites and they need a living host in order to survive.
Fleas are wingless insects with a laterally flattened body, hairy with hooks on their legs to move easily through and to grip onto the fur of their hosts. They have very powerful legs that have a rubber-like resilin in their joints. When they compress these legs and release them, they are catapulted into the air, by as much as 20cm up and 35cm horizontally - 150 times their own length. That is comparable to a person jumping onto Ayres Rock.
A female flea can lay up to 25 eggs in a day and over 800 in a lifetime. The eggs hatch between 5 & 14 days becoming larvae. These are blind & leg-less and feed upon organic matter such as dried blood from the host. After 2 to 3 weeks the larvae are fully grown, spin a silk cacoon and become pupae. When a stimulus in the form of vibration or heat is sensed, the pupae emerges as an adult. This can take from 2 to 3 weeks normally, or over a year to happen. This explains why people returning from holidays & entering their houses are attacked by large number of fleas. An adult flea can survive for over 4 months without a blood feed.
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