Fleas are known as one of the world’s peskiest insects, not only because they can compel you itch incessantly, but also because they have a reputation for spreading disease. To make matters even worse for us humans, fleas are incredibly resilient insects, making them unbelievably challenging to kill.
There are more than 2,500 different flea species, including those that love nibbling on our pets and those that specifically seek out humans. Fleas can sense your presence via a number of different ways, including by the carbon dioxide you exhale, the heat your body expels, and the vibrations you produce on the Earth as you walk. Once you’re detected, fleas jump a far distance to latch onto you – up to 100 times their body length.
Most fleas wreak havoc by biting into the skin with razor-sharp blades called maxillary laciniae, and then they slurp up the byproduct of their skin destruction with a straw-like object called the epipharynx. Others do far more damage, physically burrowing beneath the skin to feast on your flesh and laying eggs in their burrow to multiply.
As fleas feast on your flesh, they excrete proteins that result in itching, and it’s this sharing of organic material that can result in the spread of disease. One disease in particular that made fleas infamous was the plague in the 1300s, but they can also carry a wide array of other ailments.
Getting rid of fleas is very difficult, so the best thing you can do is prevent them in the first place. Most of the time, fleas enter your home with the help of your pet, and so that’s why it’s a good idea to actively treat your pet with anti-flea medications and to clean your home frequently, as it can keep them at bay.