Are you aware that fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, and bed bugs eat blood to live? They also need blood to mate and have babies. It's like a bad vampire movie. But, although this is somewhat disturbing--on so many levels--fleas are actually quite fascinating.
Adult fleas are built to live on furry animals. They wait in the grass, dormant and cocooned, until a host animal comes near. Then, in a matter of seconds, they burst free, and leap onto their host. And, that is where they stay, for the majority of their life.
Their bodies are created to live in hair. They are a flat insect, so they can weave through hair as easily as you and I navigate the furniture in our living room. Each of their body segments has two legs--like eyelash brushes--angling backward, and a spine on their head, to hold themselves in place, while they feast on the blood of their host animal. Sounds delightful, doesn't it?
Vampires vs Fleas
Besides the fact that vampires are fictional and--sadly--fleas are not, there are other differences between the two. Fleas don't have fangs like a vampire. And, they don't turn into bats either. The mouth of a flea has both piercing and sucking mouthparts that are made up of three stylets. The first two stylets saw into the skin, and the third stylet is inserted into the incision. Then the three stylets form a straw, and the flea draws the blood out. The flea then injects saliva into the wound, to keep it from clotting. This is how viruses and disease are spread.
They need blood to mate
As gross as it sounds, female fleas have to eat blood in order to develop eggs. After consuming an amazing 18% of her body weight in blood, the female can lay 4 to 8 eggs, which fall from the host animal--leaving baby fleas to grow inside a cocoon, and lay dormant for their host animal to come along. A female flea will generally feed every day or two and can produce 400-500 eggs in the course of her life.
Is this a flea bite?
Fleas don't prefer human blood, but they'll bite you if they lose track of their host animal. Your blood isn't as good, but it will do in a pinch. If they do bite you, the bite will typically be smaller, harder, and darker red, when compared to a mosquito bite. But people react differently to flea bites. Some people barely notice they have a bite, and other itch like crazy for several days. For some, a rash can even develop.
So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about flea bites. Now you can go on with the rest of your day, knowing that, in some small way, you're a little bit smarter than you used to be. And that makes it all worth it.