Fleas go through a life cycle similar to that of a butterfly. Their complete metamorphosis includes egg, larvae, pupae and adult life stages. The entire cycle can take 30-75 days to complete, and the process speeds up in hot and humid weather. As a result, flea season in Cleveland, OH runs from July through October.
Adult cat fleas live for 4-25 days. In order to lay eggs, a blood meal is required. When a female flea is properly fed, eggs can be laid at a rate of up to 1 egg per hour. The female loosely adheres her eggs to their host. The eggs will then fall off where the host animal sits and rests. Within 2 weeks, the eggs hatch into tiny worm-like larvae. They feed on skin flakes and dried blood during a development period that can last up to several months. These larvae thrive in hot and humid areas that are protected from rain and sunlight.
In order to mature into adults, the larvae require their own blood meal. In order to provide this, the adult feeds on more blood than they personally require. The adult then excretes this undigested blood — this is what’s known as flea dirt. As the flea dirt dries, the fecal matter falls from the host. The larvae will feed on the flea dirt until they’re mature enough to spin a protective cocoon in which to pupate. Carpet fibers, dust, hair, and other debris adhere to the silk of the cocoon. This adds camouflage and an additional protective layer to the pupal case. Because newly-emerged adults require a blood meal within a week in order to survive, they will wait to pick up a signal that a host is nearby before breaking out of their cocoons.