Do Fleas Fly?

Do Fleas Fly? [break]

This is a question I come across a lot.  The short answer is, no, fleas can’t fly, but there seems to be a common misconception that they can.  Fleas don’t have wings, so unless their host is a bird, they can’t fly!  [break]

However, I can see why some people would think that fleas fly. Fleas are prolific breeders and once an infestation is established it can feel like they are all over the house.  In addition, you can find bites all over your body.  Because they are everywhere, it does feel like they must be able to fly.  The truth is somewhat different.[break]

Fleas can jump [break]

Fleas are great jumpers.  Their back legs are adapted to enable them to travel high and far.  Not only do they have strong muscles in their back legs, but they are equipped with a particular kind of protein, resilin.  Resilin is a rubbery substance found in the flea’s back legs.  When the flea prepares to jump it crouches down, compressing the resilin.  As the resilin is released it propels the flea, the action being something like a spring being loosed. [break]

How far do fleas travel?  They can jump distances of up to 35 cm (14 inches) in length and around 20 cm (8 inches) high.[break]

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It may feel that fleas must be jumping, because you have bites up your legs and on your arms.  They can jump as high as your knees and can get on to chairs and settees too.  So, once on your furniture, they can get at you once you sit or lie down.[break]

Fleas hitch rides[break]

Adult fleas use your pet as a host.  They hop on to feed, breed and lay eggs.  Only around 5% of the fleas in your home are on your pet.  The adult fleas can jump off at any time and the eggs will roll off too.  That’s how the fleas find their way around your house; they don’t fly, they disembark.[break]

Is it really a flea?[break]

Occasionally, people report their pet itching and see tiny insects around them, and assume that these are flying fleas.  Actually, they are probably seeing gnats or mosquitoes.  These will cause an animal to shake them away and, if a mosquito bites, it will be itchy.  However, none of these insects live on your pet.  It may be coincidental that your pet has fleas and you have seen another insect flying around.[break]

Despite their inability to fly, fleas can infest an animal and a house very quickly.  If you suspect your pet has fleas, act quickly:  treat your pet and your home (both inside and out) immediately.  If you delay the problem will quickly escalate.  Be sure to check out our posts for advice on how to get rid of fleas. [break]

Summary

  • Fleas are wingless insects, they don’t fly.
  • Fleas have a phenomenal ability to jump, relative to their size.
  • Fleas travel around your home on your pet.
  • Don’t assume that every insect you see around your pet is a flea.