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Fleas: Interesting facts
Fleas are vectors of bubonic plague, carried from rodents to humans when they suck our blood. In an epidemic in Europe in the 14th Century 25,000,000 people died from the disease. That was over one-third of the entire population of that continent. This epidemic was part of a worldwide epidemic, and from 1347 to 1351 over 75 million people died around the world.
There are 1,830 different kinds of fleas known throughout the world.
The largest known species of flea is a very rare kind found associated with Mountain Beavers, and it is one/third of an inch long-Hystrivhopsylla schefferi.
The nursery rhyme- “Ring around the Rosy”- refers to and describes the horrible death caused by bubonic plague, and the Black Death epidemic in the 14th century.
A flea may remain in its cocoon for as long as 6 months, waiting for something to touch it to cause it to emerge as the hungry adult. Once touched it can only hatch in 1 second and jump onto you and begin feeding in only 3 seconds or more.
A single female flea can lay up to 2000 eggs in her lifetime, with as many as 50 eggs per day. Under ideal conditions, with all of the offspring surviving and breeding themselves, a single pair of fleas could produce 2 trillion descendants in nine months.
A female flea may consume up to fifteen times her own body weight in blood each day, to support the huge production of eggs.
A flea capable of jumping up to 8 inches high (some people say as high as 34 inches!!), or about 150 times its own height. This is certainly worth an Olympic Gold Medal, and would be the equivalent of a human leaping over 1000 feet high. It can jump horizontally about 13 inches, or 100 times its body length.
Fleas can survive for months without feeding. They can remain frozen for a year and survive. When first emerged as a hungry adult flea they can jump 40,000 times without a break, in their search for food.
The “Flea Circus” is real. There actually are people who will hitch living fleas to tiny carriages with gilded wires, and in the fleas struggle to escape it causes them to appear to dance, jiggle, or otherwise move things around.
In Mexico you might find “pulgas vestidas”, or “dressed fleas” for sale. Fleas are dressed up in costumes and posed holding tiny loaves of bread, tools, or whatever.
In the 1920’s an unusual craze involved dressing up dead fleas as bride and groom and putting them on display.
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