Pulex irritans

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female (left) and male (right) Pulex irritans (click on image to enlarge it)
Author(s): Herms, William Brodbeck (1876-1949)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pulex irritans Linnaeus, 1758 - (human flea)

The human flea is widely distributed around the world. It not only bites humans, but can also parasitise pets, domestic animals, other mammals and birds. Flea bites cause itching and skin swelling, also often secondary infections or allergic reactions. In addition, flea can transmit several diseases, including cestodes, Rickettsia, and in some areas the bacterial agent of plague (Yersinia pestis). While Y. pestis is associated with rodents and is transmitted mainly by the Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis), Pulex irritans has been also found naturally infected with the plague bacterium during epidemics, although it usually does not bite rodents. Compared to other flea species, P. irritans is not an effective disease vector.

Vernacular names
• Deutsch: Menschenfloh
• English: human flea
• Español: pulga común
• Français: puce de l'homme

Female fleas typically lay eggs after every blood meal. These usually fall off the host and the emerging larvae feed on a variety of organic substances. They develop over a period of 3-4 weeks, including the pupal stage. The pupae are surrounded by a sticky cocoon which is usually covered by debris. The emerging adult fleas depend again on blood meals and might live for up to 2 years. Adult female fleas are around 3 mm long, with males being slightly smaller. The body is laterally compressed and wingless.