Human fleas

Woodcut by Plinius of human flea

Fig. 60. Pliny the Elder wrote a book of natural history nearly 2000 years ago. The woodcut of the overweight human fleas, are from the 1492 edition, which states the following about human fleas: “They are called pulices because they prey on girls” (lat: puluere).

The human flea, Pulex irritans, was previously the most common flea inside houses. Nowadays, the chances of finding a population of human fleas inside a house are very small. In rare cases, human fleas can survive in damp houses where the larvae mainly live in creeks in the floor, in upholstered furniture or in damp mattresses.

When human fleas are so rare today it is because the climate inside houses have become too dry for the human flea larvae, which need high humidity. Human fleas do not only live on people. They are also found on pigs in stalls, as well as on foxes, badgers and rats, but not in Denmark.

In Southern and Central Europe, the human flea is still common inside houses. Human fleas are controlled by spraying the house with one of the remedies used to control cat fleas.

Human flea

Human flea

Human flea

(Latin: Pulex irritans)

The human flea has become a rather rare insect, but in former times it was the constant companion of men of all classes. At one time the Chinese and others used flea traps made of ivory or bamboo which were gently warmed and placed between the sheets before they went to bed, the idea being that the fleas would crawl in and could then be easily killed. In the 14th-16th centuries ladies wore fur collars, known now as flea cravats, which were supposed to catch fleas, which could then be shaken out.

Nowadays when one acquires a human flea it is usually as a result of a visit to a pigsty. The human flea also thrives on pigs. There is little risk of this flea multiplying in a home.

Modern houses are much too clean and in particular too dry for the larvae to survive.