We all know that fleas and ticks cause a lot of harm for our beloved pets, but how much do you really know about these dangerous parasites?
Here are a few weird, crazy and scary facts about fleas and ticks to keep you informed.
10 Bizarre Flea and Tick Facts You Need to Know
Flea, the common name for the order Siphonaptera, includes 2,500 species of small flightless insects that survive as external parasites of mammals and birds. Fleas live by consuming blood, or hematophagy, from their hosts. Adult fleas grow to about 3 mm (0.12 in) long, are usually brown, and have bodies that are “flattened” sideways or narrow, enabling them to move through their host’s fur or feathers.
They lack wings, but have strong claws preventing them from being dislodged, mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood, and hind legs extremely well adapted for jumping. They are able to leap a distance of some 50 times their body length, a feat second only to jumps made by another group of insects, the superfamily of froghoppers. Fleas’ larvae are worm-like with no limbs; they have chewing mouthparts and feed on organic debris left on their host’s skin.
A female flea will lay at least 20 eggs a day. Half of the eggs will be female, which can eventually produce about 20,000 new fleas in 60 days.
Fleas put Olympic athletes to shame. They can jump 110 times their length. A flea jumping several inches is like an average-sized human jumping over a 30-story building.
When a flea jumps, it accelerates 20 times faster than a space shuttle.
Fleas have been on the earth for at least 165 million years. Flea fossils date back to the Mesozoic era, which includes the Jurassic period. At that time they were giants compared to today’s fleas, and their victims would have been dinosaurs.
Winter does not always kill fleas. Many larvae can survive short periods of freezing temps as long as they are wrapped snuggly in their cocoons. The lucky ones find warm spots to hide out until temperatures are more hospitable.
Ticks are arachnids, typically 3 to 5 mm long, part of the order Parasitiformes. Along with mites, they constitute the subclass Acari. Ticks are ectoparasites (external parasites), living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks evolved by the Cretaceous period, the most common form of fossilisation being amber immersion. Ticks are widely distributed around the world, especially in warm, humid climates.
Almost all ticks belong to one of two major families, the Ixodidae or hard ticks, and the Argasidae or soft ticks. Adults have ovoid or pear-shaped bodies, which become engorged with blood when they feed, and eight legs. In addition to having a hard shield on their dorsal surfaces, hard ticks have a beak-like structure at the front containing the mouthparts, whereas soft ticks have their mouthparts on the underside of the body. Both families locate a potential host by odour or from changes in the environment.
Ticks are arachnids. Meaning, they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than insects.
Ticks do not fly, jump or fall from trees. They generally crawl up their hosts from the tips of grasses and shrubs.
In many hard ticks, the saliva also acts like cement, helping to anchor the tick in place and making it harder for you to remove it.
There are more than 850 species of ticks on the planet.
Bites from a Lone Star Tick can cause rare allergies to red meat in humans. Dogs can also develop this allergy and will react with itching, skin lesions and hair loss if their diets contain beef, lamb or pork.
An Introduction to the Study of Insects, 4th Edition
National Park Service
Centers for Disease Control
New York Times