Fleas vs Ticks: What’s Worse?

Comparing fleas vs ticks is a little like trying to decide which steaming pile of crap smells slightly worse. But the comparison can be done and there is a clear winner.

Both species of blood suckers are terrible house mates, to be sure, but when it comes to the battle of fleas vs ticks, ticks are the reigning champion of suckiness. Here’s why…

So Many Hosts, So Little Time

Fleas are disgusting little squatters who set up homes in the hair of our beloved furry friends. But it’s got to be said that fleas at least have stringent requirements.

For starters, fleas prefer dark, warm areas to live and breed on, which is why they tend to stick to furry animals like dogs, cats, as well as wildlife like foxes, raccoons and opossums.

Whereas a flea may bite a human, our mostly hairless bodies don’t meet their standards for a suitable host.

Ticks, on the other hand, are undiscerning and open to many more options of hosts: bird, rodents, snakes, dogs, cats, cattle, rabbits, squirrels, deer, foxes, raccoons, and of course, humans.

There’s Plenty of Time

When it comes to ticks, there’s actually plenty of time for them to do lots of damage. Whereas adult fleas can live more than 100 days without a blood meal, seed ticks can live 540 days without food!

Even worse? Tick life cycles vary and a tick can live anywhere from a few weeks to up to 3 freakin’ years!

The Babies Bite, Too

Fleas are annoying little buggers, but at least they have the decency to only bite when they’re old enough to do so!

flea vs tick

Fleas go through four life stages – eggs, larvae, pupae and adult flea. The fleas that you see and feel biting you and your pets? They’re only the adult fleas and they make up only about 5% of a flea infestation.

The rest of a flea infestation are in egg, larvae and pupae form and lie dormant and inactive around your home, making it easier to seek and destroy them.

fleas vs ticks

Ticks also have four stages to their life cycle – egg, larvae (seed tick), nymph and adult. But unlike fleas, ticks develop their biting ways early on in life.

That means it’s not just the adult ticks that are after your blood – larvae, nymphs and the adults all feed on hosts.

Fertility Matters

One commonality pretty much all pesky pests share is that they all breed like crazy. But the way they do it differs.

Female fleas, for example, can lay up to 50 eggs per day. She requires a blood meal to begin laying eggs, though, and the egg laying period only lasts for several weeks.

Female ticks, on the other hand, lays thousands of eggs – up to a whopping 5,000 – and then dies. This is really crappy news because the female tick typically lays these thousands of tick babies after she has fed.

It goes something like this: female flea is engorged from her blood meal, detaches herself from the host, lays eggs wherever she falls off, then dies. If she decides to do this while in your house, you’re stuck with thousands of new tick babies even if the mama tick only recently entered your quarters.

Oh, Tick, Where Are Thou?

Adult fleas like to live on their host. And why wouldn’t they? It’s like a sprawling mobile home with a constantly stacked fridge.

While this tendency to remain squatting – and biting – on your pets is extremely annoying, it also makes it easier to kill off huge portions of the adult flea population.

You simply use a flea shampoo, spot-on treatments or oral meds to quickly extinguish the fleas living on your pet.

When it comes to ticks, though, they can be trickier to seek and destroy. That’s ’cause ticks spend most of their lives living off and away from hosts.

Patient predators, they hide out in nooks and crannies where you’re least likely to look for them and wait until the right host comes along.

Leisurely Feeders

If you aren’t already thoroughly disgusted by now, here’s something to turn your stomach: if left undisturbed, tick larvae remain attached and feeding on their host for around 3 days. For nymphs, feeding lasts around 3 to 4 days.

As for adult female ticks? These leisurely diners feast for a good 7 to 10 days on their host!

Sure, a female flea consumed up to 15 times her own body weight in blood daily, but at least she has the decency to space out her feeding times!

Size Matters

Fleas are annoying wingless insects that will drive you and your pets crazy with their persistent, itchy bites. But if you’re the finicky type – at least fleas are tiny. Fleas are usually around 1.5 to 3.3 mm long so you will be able to see them with the naked eye, but not in enough detail to make you shudder and get goosebumps from head to toe.

flea vs tick

Ticks, on the other hand, can grow to a whopping 10 mm long when they’re engorged with a blood meal! Imagine finding that sucker feasting on you! Shudder.

Parting Gifts

Fleas can cause more than itchy discomfort – fleas are the number one cause of skin disease in pets, which can cause a wide array of problems from hair loss to weeping sores.

In addition, fleas can cause severe anemia and transmit parasites and bacteria like tapeworm and bartonellosis.

But when it comes to parting “gifts” – ticks definitely win. Ticks can transmit many potentially deadly diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever through their feeding process.

Overall, when it comes to danger, ticks are the scarier blood sucker.

Infestation Insanity

About the only arena in which fleas are way worse than ticks are when it comes to infestation. Ticks may be scarier to deal with, but fleas are downright annoying. They’re tiny, they breed like it’s going out of style and they’re amazing jumpers that can easily switch between hosts.

Thanks to all that, fleas spread quickly and can be an unbelievable nuisance once they get inside your home.

Most species of ticks, on the other hand, at least have the saving grace of preferring the great outdoors. In fact, most tick species don’t survive well indoors and prefer to lay their eggs on soil.

But that doesn’t mean a tick infestation in your home can’t happen – there are always exceptions, like the brown dog tick, which does very well indoors. And if you’ve got a few of these on your hands, an infestation in your home is very, very possible.

So, of course, you want to wipe out the few ticks that manage to sneak into you house before they become a problem. The best way to do that? Start at the most likely source of ticks: you dog. Here’s how to get rid of ticks on your dog!

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