AskDefine | Define flea

Dictionary Definition

flea n : any wingless blood-sucking parasitic insect noted for ability to leap

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /fliː/
  • /fli:/



flea (plural: fleas)
  1. A small, wingless, parasitic insect of the order Siphonaptera, renowned for its bloodsucking habits and jumping abilities.

Derived terms


  • Afrikaans: vlooi
  • Albanian: plesht
  • Bosnian: buha
  • Bulgarian: бълха
  • Catalan: puça
  • Croatian: buha
  • Danish: loppe
  • Dutch: vlo
  • Esperanto: pulo
  • Estonian: kirp
  • Ewe: dosu
  • Fijian: kutu
  • Finnish: kirppu
  • French: puce
  • German: Floh
  • Hawaiian: 'uku
  • Hungarian: bolha
  • Icelandic: fló
  • Indonesian: kutu
  • Italian: pulce
  • Japanese: (のみ, nomi)
  • Kurdish: kêç
  • Latin: pulex
  • Latvian: blusa
  • Lithuanian: blusa
  • Maltese: bergħud
  • Norwegian: loppe
  • Polish: pchła
  • Portuguese: pulga
  • Romanian: purice
  • Russian: блоха
  • Scottish Gaelic: deargad , deargann
  • Somali: booddo
  • Slovak: blcha
  • Slovene: bolha
  • Spanish: pulga
  • Swahili: kiroboto (nc 7/8)
  • Swedish: loppa
  • Ukrainian: блоха

Extensive Definition

Flea is the common name for any of the small wingless insects of the order Siphonaptera (some authorities use the name Aphaniptera because it is older, but names above family rank need not follow the ICZN rules of priority, so most taxonomists use the more familiar name). Fleas are external parasites, living by hematophagy off the blood of mammals and birds. Genetic and morphological evidence indicates that they are descendants of the Scorpionfly family Boreidae, which are also flightless; accordingly it is possible that they will eventually be reclassified as a suborder within the Mecoptera. In the past, however, it was most commonly supposed that fleas had evolved from the flies (Diptera), based on similarities of the larvae. In any case, all these groups seem to represent a clade of closely related insect lineages, for which the names Mecopteroidea and Antliophora have been proposed.
Some well known flea species include:

Morphology and behavior

Fleas are small (1/16 to 1/8-inch (1.5 to 3.3 mm) long), agile, usually dark coloured (for example, the reddish-brown of the cat flea), wingless insects with tube-like mouthparts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their bodies are laterally compressed (that is, flattened side to side), permitting easy movement through the hairs or feathers on the host's body (or in the case of humans, under clothes). Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping (vertically up to seven inches (18 cm); horizontally thirteen inches (33 cm)) - around 200 times their own body length, making the flea the best jumper out of all animals (in comparison to body size). The flea body is hard, polished, and covered with many hairs and short spines directed backward, which also assists its movements on the host. Its tough body is able to withstand great pressure, likely an adaptation to survive scratching etc. Even hard squeezing between the fingers is normally insufficient to kill the flea; it may be necessary to capture them with adhesive tape, crush them between the fingernails, roll them between the fingers, or put them in a fire safe area and burn them with match or lighter. They can also be drowned.
Fleas lay tiny white oval shaped eggs. Their larvae are small and pale with bristles covering their worm-like body. They are without eyes, and have mouthparts adapted to chewing. While the adult flea's diet consists solely of blood, their larvae feed on various organic matter including the feces of mature fleas. In the pupae phase the larvae are enclosed in a silken, debris covered cocoon.

Life cycle and habitat

Fleas are holometabolous insects, going through the three life cycle stages of larva, pupa and imago (adult). The flea life cycle begins when the female lays after feeding. Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction., winged insects with good eyesight. The flightless snow flea with its rudimentary wings seems to be close to the common ancestor of the 2000 or so currently known varieties of flea, which split off in many directions around 160 million years ago.
Borax is sold as a "Natural Laundry Booster" and can also be used as another home treatment for flea infestations. Borax contains boric acid which kills fleas by dehydrating them.

See also


flea in Arabic: برغوث
flea in Min Nan: Ka-cháu
flea in Bosnian: Buha
flea in Breton: C'hwen
flea in Catalan: Puça
flea in Czech: Blechy
flea in Danish: Loppe
flea in German: Flöhe
flea in Estonian: Kirbulised
flea in Spanish: Siphonaptera
flea in Esperanto: Pulo
flea in French: Siphonaptera
flea in Galician: Pulga
flea in Ido: Pulco
flea in Indonesian: Kutu
flea in Italian: Siphonaptera
flea in Hebrew: פרעושים
flea in Haitian: Pis
flea in Kurdish: Kêç
flea in Latvian: Blusu kārta
flea in Lithuanian: Blusos
flea in Hungarian: Bolhák
flea in Malay (macrolanguage): Kutu
flea in Dutch: Vlooien
flea in Japanese: ノミ
flea in Neapolitan: Flea
flea in Norwegian: Lopper
flea in Polish: Pchły
flea in Portuguese: Pulga
flea in Romanian: Purice
flea in Quechua: Piki
flea in Russian: Блохи
flea in Sicilian: Pùlici
flea in Simple English: Flea
flea in Slovenian: Bolhe
flea in Finnish: Kirput
flea in Swedish: Loppor
flea in Thai: หมัด
flea in Vietnamese: Bọ chét
flea in Turkish: Pire (parazit)
flea in Ukrainian: Блохи
flea in Chinese: 跳蚤

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

broad jumper, bucking bronco, buckjumper, cat flea, chigoe, cockroach, crab, dog flea, frog, gazelle, goat, grasshopper, grayback, high jumper, hopper, hurdle racer, hurdler, jackrabbit, jigger, jumper, jumping bean, jumping jack, kangaroo, leaper, louse, mite, nit, parasite, pole vaulter, red bug, roach, salmon, sand flea, stag, sunfisher, timber topper, vaulter, vermin, weevil
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