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Fleas For many, the tiny flea is the nastiest creature on the planet. Just ask the woman in California who was hospitalized after one bit her in 2018. The bloodsucker had feasted on the woman just before she contracted a potentially fatal disease called typhus. The disease is mostly spread by fleas that hop on animals such as raccoons, mice, and domestic pets, such as cats and dogs. In this case, doctors suspected that the fleas were on the woman’s outdoor cat. Fleas are so-called hematophagous insects. In other words, both the male and female feed off animal blood. Like all insects, fleas have three pairs of legs and three different body parts. They also see through compound eyes. Fleas are an ectoparasite, and unlike their prehistoric ancestors, they do not have wings. Instead, fleas rely mostly on their very strong legs to move from host to host. There are 828 flea subspecies. Approximately 95 percent of these feed on mammals, and the rest live on birds. Fleas have a four-stage life cycle. Once flea eggs hatch, they turn into larvae and begin to feed on organic matter. The larvae eventually form cocoons, which is the pupal stage. In about three to four weeks, the adult fleas appear and begin seeking blood meals.

Oriental Rat Flea

The oriental rat flea is perhaps the most infamous flea in world history. Originating in Asia, these fleas hitched a ride to Europe on the backs of rats during

Scientific Name: Xenopsylla cheopis Range: Temperate climates, but it also inhabits warm, tropical, and subtropical regions Life Span: 376 days Danger: Carries the bacteria that causes plague

the 1300s. They carried with them the bacteria that caused the Black Death, or bubonic plague. The plague killed millions in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The Ultimate Book of Dangerous Insects


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