So, how do fleas move? Do fleas have wings? Wondering if fleas have wings, can they fly like gnats? or do these clitters jump like frogs? Fleas are tiny insects of the Siphonaptera order that’ll feed off human or animal blood.
Fleas move quickly and it may seem like they fly. Most of their over 2,000 types, like human fleas or cat fleas have strong legs, flat bodies and a length of ~ 0.1 inches.
Well, the short answer is, No, fleas don’t have wings. The suffix “aptera” in Siphonaptera order denote that fleas are wingless arthropods – like most ectoparasites such as ticks.
Fleas use their powerful and tiny legs to jump (about 8 inches vertically) or move between hairs of host animal. Fleas, besides froghoppers, have the highest jump-body size ratio.
Details: Do Fleas Have Wings? 9 FAQs for Fleas
So, fleas have no wings. The suffix aptera in the order Siphonaptera (a Greek word) denotes that fleas are wingless while siphon is interpreted as siphon.
Most ectoparasites attacking mammals and birds – lice, bedbugs, ticks, and fleas – can’t fly and lack functional wings. They use legs to walk around but, to move quickly or further, fleas use the powerful but tiny legs to jump.
The over 2,000 flea types including human fleas, cat fleas, oriental rat fleas, dog fleas lack wings and thus can’t fly.
How Fleas Lost their Wings
Scientific evidence points that fleas had winged ancestors and they lost their wings along the evolution journey. Fleas “originated” from order Mecoptera. Boreidae insects like snow scorpion-flies are considered to have been the descendants of fleas.
Fleas were not originally parasites in mammals for ages – they were free-living. But when they moved into their parasitic tendencies they ended burrowed in their hosts’s bodies – mainly mammals.
Therefore, flying capability and wings became useless in the fleas’ new life. In fact, wings would tend to hinder their parasitic life as they tried to burrow into their hosts’s bodies. Thus, flea wings degenerated in the evolution process.
Adapations in Fleas for movement (Jumping)
Fleas move from one place or host (animal) by jumping with their spring-loaded feet (about 5 feet high) using their strong but tiny hind legs. Also, the fleas’ flattened, small body allow the fleas to easily hide on the animal’s hair.
Despite the fleas’ wings had degenerated, their flight structures were retained and modified to ease its jumping. Fleas have pleural arch that’s akin to wing-hinge ligaments found in flying insects.
This pleural arch has resilin which allow storage of energy required for fleas to make their giant flea jumps – about 5.2 inches vertically. Also, fleas have flight muscles (basalars and subalars) plus tergo-trochanteral depressor – its starter muscle.
Fleas lack wings and thus won’t fly. But fleas don’t require the wings to move as they can jump easily with their powerful legs. Fleas will use their powerful legs for clinging on hosts like humans.
Fleas (especially adult fleas) will stick on the skin of their hosts such as pets and mammals while sucking blood. Eventually, they’ll take their full feed and lay over 100 flea eggs daily.
But fleas are toxic bugs that can spread dangerous diseases such as plague and typhus. As the flea jump from one pet or human to another, they’ll ready spread the diseases such as Bubonic plague.
What Looks Like a Flea But Has Wings?
Have you seen some bugs looking like fleas but can fly? Well, those are definitely not fleas since fleas can only jump but can’t fly – these might be small fruit flies or gnats.
- Fruit flies – So, fruit flies are the most regular visitors around your house or yard that you may confuse with fleas. Fruit flies will mainly follow and land around rotten and smelly vegetables and fruits.
- Fungus gnat – Next up are the tiny fungus gnat that you’ll see near windows or houseplants – thus these will definitely look like fleas, they’l fly and feed on various houseplants.
- Dog ticks, Springtails etc. – These smaller bugs that also look like fleas but don’t have wings include dog ticks, springtails, flour beetles, black carpet beetles, and springtails.
- However, these ones – drugstore and cigarette beetles have wings but also look like fleas.
How Fleas Move Over Long Distances?
Do fleas have wings? Can they fly? As noted above, fleas won’t fly as they lack wings like other Siphonaptera insects. Thus, fleas rely on their jumping capability or attaching their-selves on humans or host animals to move over long distances.
Notably, fleas will hitchhike their hosts including rodents like mice and rats. In addition, the critters may attach on socks and shoes worn by humans as they move around the house or yard.
Do Baby Fleas Jump or Crawl?
First, note that in reality “baby flea” don’t exist. Definitely, flea eggs will hatch to become larvae but won’t be adequately developed to be considered as baby fleas – they’re called “blobs”.
The blind fleas will thus require additional time to grow. Therefore, the blobs create cocoons around their body and will thus continue developing to adulthood.
The fleas will attain their adulthood while inside their cocoons – its referred to as “quiescent phase” in the life-cycle of the fleas. During this time, the fleas will reduce their metabolism and thus won’t require feeding.
In addition, in the quiescent phase, the fleas will remain motionless in their cocoon as they wait to hatch – for even 5 months. Thus, in their “baby” stage, fleas don’t move around but will be fixed in their cocoons.
In summary, we’ve outlined that fleas cannot fly since they’re wingless insects. But these bugs have strong legs that help them in jumping from one place or host to another.
In addition, fleas will hitchhike humans, shoes, or clothes such as socks to move over long distances as the animals transit to different places.