If you’ve ever dealt with a flea infestation, you know that fleas are tough to kill. They can survive for months and, on average, lay one egg every hour, making them some of the most resilient pests worldwide. You may think that if you leave your home for a while and return in several weeks, a flea would die, but you might want to think again on that one.
How long can fleas live without a host? Adult fleas can live between two days and two weeks without a host, but they cannot reproduce if they don’t have blood to eat. Still, flea pupae can lay dormant for up to 6 months without food.
If you want to understand how long fleas can survive in different conditions, keep reading. This article will go over all of the various conditions that can affect a flea’s lifespan and answer some common questions along the way so that you can get the upper hand during any flea infestation.
How Long Do Fleas Live?
After a flea larva hatches from its egg, it can live between 4 weeks and 19 months. If you are dealing with a flea infestation, the pesky insects might seem invulnerable. That’s because they not only live for a long time but also reproduce very quickly.
Adult fleas can live for over a year, depending on how much food they get, the humidity, and the temperature. Still, it also takes a long time for fleas to develop from eggs to adults.
Once a female flea has had her first blood meal, she can lay 40-50 eggs per day. These eggs usually hatch two days later, but they have been known to hatch up to 10 days later.
From the egg emerges a larva, and the flea will remain in this worm-like stage for around 15 days. Then, it builds a cocoon and lies dormant. When a potential host applies heat or pressure to the cocoon, the flea will emerge as a full-grown adult.
Flea pupae usually remain in their cocoon for one to four weeks, but in some cases, they can survive in this state for six months if no one applies heat or pressure to them.
How Long Do Fleas Live Without a Host?
Fleas can only live for two weeks without a host, but they can occasionally live for up to a month with no host or food source. Fleas removed from their host will die two to four days after removal if they cannot find another one.
Compared to other organisms and insects, fleas can live a long time, even if they have no host. Still, fleas without a blood meal cannot reproduce. That’s because, without blood meals, a female flea’s reproductive system will not develop.
It is also important to note that pupae can stay in their cocoons for many months, even without a source of food.
How Long Can Fleas Live in Different Situations?
Fleas usually die within a week if they are deprived of a favorable host, a warm environment, and low humidity, which are all they need to stay alive. So, fleas will only stay alive if the conditions are right.
So, what situations will kill fleas quicker, and what won’t affect them? Let’s talk about that.
How Long Can Fleas Live on Humans?
Fleas can survive for 139 to 185 days on human blood alone, though they would rather not live on humans. They will also try to find a better host if they have to eat human blood. This is because many fleas are specific about the kind of animal that they eat.
For example, one of the most common fleas, the cat flea, can only reproduce if it can find a non-human host. Fleas also like to hide in thick, long hair, making long-haired cats, dogs, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, and other furry animals favorable hosts.
So, without cats, dogs, or other hairy animals in your household, it is unlikely that you will ever become infested with fleas.
How Long Can Fleas Live Without Food?
Most fleas will die within a week or two without food. Fleas cannot reproduce without blood to eat, which means that flea larvae will also die since the adults feed their offspring. But some fleas can live many months without a food source, and the pupae also do not require food to stay alive.
If you have fleas, it may seem like a good idea to try to starve them out. However, fleas often live a very long time, making them difficult to kill just by removing food sources.
How Long Can Fleas Live in an Empty House?
Fleas can live for up to 9 months in an empty house. That’s because flea pupae require no food to survive, and fleas can rest in dormant phases until they detect a new host. Still, adult fleas that once had a host will usually die within a week of hatching if they have no food source.
How Long Can Fleas Live Underwater?
Fleas cannot live underwater. It only takes minutes to drown them, although it may be challenging to keep them in water long enough to drown them. Fleas have a unique ability to jump many times their height, so many people use soapy water to drown fleas since the soap reduces their ability to jump.
Where Do Fleas Live?
Fleas will live anywhere they can find a suitable host. However, if they cannot find a host, they will gravitate towards closed-off cracks, crevices, furniture, carpets, and blankets, since they are vulnerable in open spaces.
Can Fleas Live on Humans?
Fleas can live on humans, but they always prefer animal hosts. If fleas cannot find a suitable animal to feed off of, they will eat human blood. However, given a choice between another animal and a human, most fleas choose the other animal.
Related: Flea Bites on Humans
Can Fleas Live in Human Hair?
Fleas can live in human hair. In fact, of all places that fleas might live on a human, they are most likely to gravitate towards your hair. They like to hide deep in dense, thick hair since they are not easy to remove there. Still, fleas prefer animal hair.
Can Fleas Live in Carpet?
Flea eggs, larvae, and pupae can live and congregate in carpets since they have thick, dense fibers. If flea eggs fall off a host and get into a carpet, the larva will often stay in the carpet until it reaches its adult stage.
Carpets are also an ideal spot for flea pupae because they can safely lie dormant in their chrysalises until a host steps on the carpet again.
Can Fleas Live on Clothes?
Fleas will hide in fabrics such as clothes, sheets, and other textiles to keep out of open spaces if there is no better spot. Fleas know that they are parasites, and they will find any dark, warm, hiding spots they can if there is no host available.
That is part of why it can be so challenging to eliminate fleas in your home.
Related: Does The Dryer Kill Fleas?
Can Fleas Live in Furniture?
Fleas can live in furniture, and it is an ideal spot for flea eggs and pupae. Flea eggs may fall into cushions, fabrics, seams, and crevices of furniture, where they will lay until they become mature fleas.
Since plenty of people and animals often sit on the furniture, fleas always have an immediate host to jump onto once they mature.
Can Fleas Live in Cold Weather?
Fleas cannot live in cold weather and die in freezing weather, although the pupae are far better at surviving cold temperatures. Still, it can take a while for fleas to die from freezing weather, and it usually takes 2 to 10 days for them to die.
Also, if a flea has a host to keep it warm, it will not die.
Can Fleas Live in Blankets?
While adult fleas require a host to stay alive, flea eggs, larvae, and pupae can live in blankets, sheets, and pet bedding. They like to congregate in blankets since they are dark and warm, and people and pets often use blankets, making them the ideal place for fleas to find a new host.
Other Places Where Fleas Can Live
When fleas cannot find a host, or if they are too young to find a host, they will often live in:
- Floor cracks
- Animal bedding
Where Do Fleas Live Outside?
Fleas like dark, humid, warm environments. Some common outdoor places where fleas may live are:
- Tall grasses
- Wood piles
- Leaf piles
What Do Fleas Eat To Stay Alive?
Adult fleas feed on animal blood to survive, while flea larvae eat the excrement of adult fleas. When an adult flea has a blood meal, it only partially digests the blood. Then, it eliminates that blood, leaving small brown, black, and red pellets behind.
A fleas’ offspring will eat that excrement, so the young cannot survive without adult fleas.
Fleas also inject an anticoagulant into their hosts, which keeps a scab from forming once they finish eating. This anticoagulant causes blood to run from the insect bite, which later hardens into flaky scabs.
Given the right host and living environment, fleas can live over 100 days. Since fleas like to hide in enclosed spaces while they develop, they can be difficult to remove from your blankets, carpets, clothes, and furniture.
They are also very resilient, and it takes a deep freeze or drowning to kill them without chemicals. Still, removing food sources will kill adult fleas, but maybe not the larvae and pupae, which can lie hidden for many months at a time.
Related: How To Kill Fleas?
List of Sources
Potter, M. F. (2018). Flea Control and Prevention. University of Kentucky Entomology.
Zentco, D. C., Richman, D. L. (2018). Ctenocephalides felis (Bouché). University of Florida.
Merchant, M., Robinson, J. (2018). Controlling Fleas. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Shetlar, D. J., Andon, J. E. Fleas. Ohioline.