Fleas have active population during the warm and humid months. These tiny critters thrive in temperatures ranging between 70 to 75 degrees celsius. They also do well in cooler places.
In many states, fleas infestation skyrockets during spring and summer. That is the duration between May through September. However, for the Southern American states, the prevalence of these pests is all year round.
But, do fleas die in the winter? To be precise and pragmatic in equal measure, winter temperature only inhibits the reproduction of fleas. It hardly kills the little pests.
First, the cold winter temperatures usually force fleas to stay indoors to avoid the freezing outdoor temperatures. This alone helps a great number of its population to remain unaffected all through winter seasons. However, how the fleas survive cold months primarily depends on their life circle.
The Life Cycle of a Flea
Fleas undergo four stages in their life cycle. To effectively eliminate them, you must understand every stage in the cycle, the time they occur and the effective extermination mechanism to use.
1. The Egg
The fleas life cycle starts with female laying eggs. Just like the butterflies, these species of animals lay their eggs on the host (e.g. pet’s fur). However, these eggs usually slide off and land on surfaces such as the carpet and floor.
For female fleas to lay eggs, they must take blood from their hosts and increase to about 3 times their normal body size. They cannot reproduce without blood intake. A single female flea can lay up to fifty eggs in a bunch of twenty. These eggs are so tiny, less than the size of grains as seen under the microscope.
Under ideal environmental conditions– the temperature of between 70 and 75 degrees celsius; and 70 to 80 per cent humidity–the eggs take 4 to 10 days to hatch. In freezing temperatures, the eggs will take 2 to 3 weeks before they hatch. Most of the eggs undergo a dormancy period whereby not even the strongest of all pesticides can kill them.
Whenever the females lay eggs, they shed them randomly from their bodies. As a result, the eggs may occupy every space inside your room. Furs and carpet fabrics provide an ideal environment for their survival. Otherwise, when the eggs are laid in an outdoor environment, the freezing temperatures below 37 Fahrenheit hardly allows for their survival in ten days period.
50% of the total eggs can survive through temperatures of 55.4 Fahrenheit in a range of between six days. Anything below that will impair the development of eggs.
Flea eggs do not undergo any form of dormancy. They rely on indoor infestation for their survival during such extreme environmental conditions.
2. Flea Larvae
Flea eggs develop and hatch into larvae. Usually, larvae make up a third of the total flea populace in the home environment.
Flea larvae are negatively phototaxic. They normally move away from light. Normally, they hide in cracks and crevices in floorboards and walls. Carpet environments also make conducive survival environments more so in dark rooms such as bedrooms.
Unlike the adults, larvae do not feed on blood. Rather, they depend on debris, droppings from adult fleas and skin cells.
To fully develop for the next stage, larvae undergo three instars. Between these three stages are three moulting phases that make the overall stage a success. However, to successfully moult from one phase to another, larvae require an ideal temperature of between 70 to 78 Fahrenheit. Any near-freezing temperature will render them inactive or cause their death.
3. The Invisible Pupa
After one to three weeks, flea larvae will start to weave cocoons on their body to form an invisible pupa. In a warm environment, this period can be even less than a week.
In its pupal stage, fleas can remain dormant for as long as one and a half years without any interference. Low winter temperatures hardly affect them.
Flea pupates can survive everywhere. They can be found in carpets, furniture, garden soils, vegetation and animal bedding. Under normal environmental conditions, they will only take approximately 13 days before emerging out of the whitish cocoons in search of blood.
4. Adult Fleas
Adult fleas are pupas that have finally broken their cocoons. This is the last phase of their life cycle. However, before the adults can emerge from their cocoons, they must be sure of the existence of ideal conditions such as conducive temperature and humidity.
The pupa can know this through body heat, vibration from the external environment and also increased concentration of carbon (IV) oxide. Secondly, before adults emerge from the cocoons, they must assess the prevailing environment to ascertain whether there is a readily available host or not. They can know this through the vibration that signifies the movement in their prevailing environment.
Can Adult Fleas Die of Extreme Cold Conditions?
While it is very true that adult fleas can survive through various micro-climatic conditions in the homestead, they can also thrive through a vast range of temperatures. Low winter temperatures hardly exterminate them.
During winter months you will notice that fleas tend to disappear. In reality, they hardly disappear. They only hide in places they can get microclimates that are favourable for their survival.
During the onset of winter, adult fleas usually migrate from the outdoor habitat and go inside buildings. They can also get attached to the fur of their respective hosts. In this manner, they can survive from heat emitted from the bodies of their hosts.
However, cold temperatures below freezing points usually impair the basic metabolism of adult fleas. As a result, most of them will die in their first day of exposure to these extreme conditions.
Fleas are smart enough to survive through the cold winter environment. They depend on the microclimatic conditions created in the indoor environment and their hosts’ body to survive. Therefore, it is extremely hard for the tiny pests to die during winter.
Even with the extreme environmental conditions, do not wait for the pests to die a natural death. They will not. The only viable method to do away with fleas is through engaging them in a full-year control system. Otherwise, during the larval stage, they are vulnerable to several pesticides.