Do fleas live in clothes?

Summary

Cat fleas don’t live in clothes. Nor do they stay on people after taking a blood meal. However, fleas may briefly hide in the seams of clothing if they’re disrupted while feeding. In rare instances, a flea might not be to able to find it’s way out of the clothes and off the person. It’ll remain in the clothing for up to 24 hours, feeding periodically.

Details

Adult Fleas don’t Live in Clothes

Adult Fleas Stay on their Host

Adult cat fleas are permanent ectoparasites. They live on their hosts and rarely leave. They’ll feed and reproduce directly on the animal.

Humans aren’t Preferred Hosts

Humans aren’t suitable hosts of cat fleas. Bites on people are incidental. Emerging fleas will jump to the nearest warm-bodied animal, which could be a person if cats and dogs are absent. However, fleas can’t reproduce on human blood in natural settings. Also, fleas are poorly adapted for living on humans because of our lack of body hair. They’re often seen and killed before they can even feed.

Fleas Bite People & Leave

Fleas don’t stay on people after obtaining a blood meal. And they don’t breed on humans. They’ll often bite two to three times before leaving, with the meal lasting around 5 minutes.

In rare circumstances, fleas may get stuck on a person. They can’t bite through clothes. As a result, they’ll move beneath clothing to feed on exposed skin. If a flea is disturbed while feeding, it may hide in the seams of clothing briefly. This occasionally results in the flea being unable to find a way to leave. In these instances, it may remain in the clothing for up to a day and periodically feed.

Flea Larvae don’t Live in Clothes

Flea larvae develop in the environment. In homes, their usual habitat is carpeting. The larvae instinctively move away from sources of light, burrowing deep down into carpet fibers. They may also move under clothes if the garments are left on the floor. Just like carpeting, they seek refuge in the dark folds of the fabric.

References

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Discussion

  • Michelle January 11, 2017, 6:00 pm

    If an adult flea lives, feeds and mates on its host, then how does the flea “dirt” feces get to the developing Larvae to eat? Also, how long does it take the eggs to hatch into larvae and how long does it stay in that state before becoming a fully adult flea? Thank you!

    • Adam Retzer January 12, 2017, 6:16 pm

      Hello Michelle, good questions.

      Both eggs and flea dirt are deposited on the host animal. The eggs aren’t sticky and fall out easily. Flea dirt is essentially just host blood, and it’s more prone to getting lodged into pet hair when it dries. However, both eggs and flea dirt fall from the host when the animal grooms itself by scratching. The itchiness caused by flea bites helps aid in this. Flea hot-spots tend to be where animals rest and groom themselves.

      It takes 2-3 days for eggs to hatch into larvae. The larvae then develop through 3 instar stages, molting between each. At the end of the 3rd instar, around 7-11 days after hatching, the larva forms a cocoon and begins pupating. The pupation process takes another 7-19 days before the adult flea is fully mature. These durations may fluctuate based upon temperature and relative humidity. However, in most homes, the complete life cycle from egg to adult usually completes in 17-26 days.

      There is one more catch with the life cycle. After reaching adulthood, cocooned adults can enter into a quiescent state for up to 5 months. However, they’ll rapidly wake up and emerge once they detect heat and pressure on the cocoon, which indicates a host is resting on it. Most fleas won’t enter this quiescent pre-emerged state, but some do, and it causes control issues.

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