Fleas, also called Siphonaptera are flightless insects. Aptera means wingless. These tiny insects are terrific jumpers. But, I wonder, “Do fleas have wings?” And if fleas have wings, “Can fleas fly?”
Fleas are among the most annoying pests. Even though they can’t fly, fleas are everywhere. These tiny insects feed off human and animal blood, and there is a good chance you have been a victim of one in the past. And when they are on your pets, they may jump on you too, becoming quite a nuisance.
But what do you know about fleas beyond their painful bite? Do fleas have wings? And if fleas don’t have wings, how do they get around? We have researched some of the most common questions about fleas, and this article shares our findings.
Do fleas have wings?
Fleas don’t have wings. Therefore, fleas can’t fly. Although sometimes it may seem like fleas can fly because they can jump.
Did fleas ever have wings?
The ancestors of fleas had wings. But, the fleas we have today are wingless insects.
Do fleas use their wings to fly?
Fleas don’t use their wings to fly. Because of their speed, many people think that fleas can fly. Even though they move quickly, fleas are wingless and can’t fly.
The scientific name of fleas is Siphonaptera, and they don’t have wings. Even their name describes the wingless nature of fleas. Aptera, the second half of the scientific name of fleas, means wingless in Greek.
Do fleas need wings?
Fleas don’t need wings. For some insects wings provide several advantages, but not fleas. Fleas don’t rely on wings to move from host to host. And having wings would be a major disadvantage for fleas. Wings would limit the movement of fleas on the body of the host animal. Having to drag bulky wings through the furry body of a dog, for example, would be a real challenge for fleas.
Why don’t fleas have wings and other insects have wings?
There are three types of insects without wings. Immature insects lack wings because they haven’t developed wings yet.
Wings either develop slowly or develop during the pupal stage. An example of slowly developing wings would be grasshopper wing development. But, butterflies, on the other hand, develop their wings during the pupal stage.
So, by the time these insects reach adulthood, they have developed fully functioning wings. Wings are essential for insects because they allow them to disperse, mate and lay eggs in a different area.
But, certain primitive insects, such as silverfish, never had wings. Therefore, these insects remain flightless during their entire lifespan. And it seems that none of the ancestors of these insects have had wings.
Finally, some insects have secondarily lost wings or have reduced wing size to the point where they cannot fly. Many parasitic insects like lice and fleas are wingless. And even some grasshoppers, some beetles and even some moths like the bagworm are wingless insects.
The ancestors of fleas and many other wingless insects had wings. But, they lost the use for wings and the requirement for flight. And as a result of selection pressure, the wings of fleas and their ability to fly have been eliminated.
In the case of parasitic insects such as fleas, wings may have been a major obstacle. As a result, wings were probably eliminated relatively fast. Simply put, wings were in the way when fleas attach themselves to the host’s hairs or feathers and make it difficult to hide.
How does a flea move without wings?
Fleas move without wings using their prodigious jumping feats. Jumping allows to freely move from one host to another, a skill generally restricted to flying pests.
Having wings would hinder moving on the furry body of a dog, cat or another animal. Jumping provides fleas with much greater mobility on the host than having wings. In other words, wings would be in the way and would limit the movement of fleas on the host’s body.
Their powerful legs are better suited for moving from one host to another. Jumping allows fleas to move farther and faster, more efficiently.
What other wingless insects are confused with fleas?
Chiggers, like fleas, don’t have wings. And they are often confused with fleas because they are hard to spot due to their extremely small size.
Like fleas, chiggers can leave behind a painful rash after a bite. Besides the pain, these pests leave welts that are even itchier than flea bites.
So, now you know that fleas don’t rely on wings to move around. Instead of using wings to fly from one place to another, they jump.
Which wingless bugs are confused with fleas?
If you see tiny bugs with wings, you can be sure they aren’t fleas. You could confuse small flies and gnats for winged fleas.
You could easily confuse a flea with a tiny bug with wings like the fungus gnat. One can spot a fungus gnat near a window or feed on a houseplant.
People often confuse small flying insects like fruit flies with fleas. And they think they have seen a flea with wings.
Many small wingless insects can be mistaken for fleas, such as dog ticks, springtails, flour beetles, and black carpet beetles. Although these bugs, like fleas, don’t fly, they may look similar to the untrained eye.
How to identify fleas?
The body of a flea is made up of the head, thorax, abdomen and six legs. These insects are wingless, meaning fleas have neither forewings nor hindwings.
Fleas are tiny. Their bodies span only one millimeter or two across when full-grown. And their dark reddish-brown color may appear black.
The flat bodies of fleas help them move quickly among the hairs of a host animal. Interestingly, this is one reason fleas don’t need wings. Wings would limit the movement of fleas once on the furry body of a host animal.
Are fleas hard to find on pets and other animals?
Fleas are easy to find on pets. You can use your fingers to separate a cat or dog’s fur and examine its skin. If your pet has fleas, you should be able to spot their tiny, dark bodies weaving between the animal hairs.
Since fleas shy away from light, these pests will attempt to hide when exposed to the light. So even if you catch sight of a flea, it will quickly disappear. Don’t confuse flea droppings with fleas. Flea dirt looks like a fine dusting of dirt or tiny black dots on your pet’s skin.
Another way to spot fleas on your pet is to search for bites. Flea bites on humans are red. They are itchy spots with welts. On animals, flea bites might appear as tiny welts or red dots. Commonly, flea bites appear as one large, red, irritated patch of skin.
In addition to itching, flea bites may cause a secondary allergic reaction on both animal and human skin. Pets with fleas might even develop bald patches where the exposed skin is irritated, red, rough, scaly, and flaky. If your pet is repeatedly scratching, there’s a good chance they are suffering from flea bites.
What to do about flea bites?
Fortunately, flea bites are nothing more than a short-term, itchy annoyance for most people. Over-the-counter anti-itch creams can help relieve flea bite itch. Natural remedies such as aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, and witch hazel can also help. Antihistamine medications can also help treat an allergic reaction to flea bites.
It’s best to resist scratching your flea bites to avoid secondary infection. Visit your doctor if your flea bite symptoms worsen or an infection or rash develops.
What attracts fleas?
Fleas are attracted to warm bodies. They are drawn to the heat radiating of animals. That’s the reason fleas infest pets and various furry animals.
Prevention is the best method for flea control. When it comes to flea control, nothing is more effective than prevention. It’s much easier to make your home and pets unattractive to fleas than to get rid of a full-blown flea infestation.
To prevent fleas from making your pet’s life hell, vacuum regularly and keep your living areas clean. Wash your bedding once a week, especially if your pets like to park themselves in your bed.
You don’t need to buy special products for washing flea-infested bedding or clothes. Throw them in your washing machine with regular soap and let the process kill both flea eggs and larvae.
What are the signs of a flea infested home?
If you find a flea crawling around you or one of your pets, it’s a sign of more fleas hiding nearby. You can do a few simple tests to check for a flea infestation in your house.
You can mop up with a white rag or walk around in white socks around your home, observing for tiny black spots. The black spots may show up on your ankles and feet. They are fleas hitching a ride. Walk slowly through areas where you suspect flea activity. Fleas love to hide in places where your pets spend lots of time or carpeted areas.
With a bowl with water and a bit of dish soap, you can set up a simple flea trap. Just fill a bowl with water and mix in a few drops of dish soap with a small lamp directed at the bowl.
If there are fleas in the area, they’ll be attracted to the warmth of the lamp and will jump – not fly because fleas don’t have wings – toward the light source. Remember that an LED light is not the best for making a flea trap because they don’t emit a lot of warmth.
When the fleas fall into the soapy bowl of water, the soap will cause the fleas to submerge underwater. And the fleas will drown in the water, which will confirm your suspicion of a flea infestation.
How to get rid of fleas?
Fleas lay eggs on your pets. After fleas lay eggs on your dog, the eggs might then fall off onto the bedding, carpet, or other areas in your home.
Therefore, it’s critical to keep your pets clean and regularly groomed. And don’t forget to wash their bedding at least once a week. Bathing animals with normal pet shampoo is not the most effective method to get rid of a flea infestation.
You need soap containing special insecticide to deal with a severe flea infestation for best results. Your local veterinarian can also advise you about the most effective anti-flea medication to use on your beloved pet.
Since rodents also spread fleas, keeping rodents away from your home is important. If you want to get rid of fleas, don’t let raccoons, squirrels, rats, or mice nest anywhere near your garage, shed, or home since they can be carriers of fleas that may end up jumping on your pets and enter your home.