Siphonaptera are wingless insects otherwise know as fleas. They are very small, measuring between 1-4mm long.

Fleas are known for their ability to jump large distances, which can be up to 200 times their body length.

Fleas are distinctive looking, with their bodies being:

  • hairy
  • shiny¬†
  • light red-brown to almost black in colour
  • laterally flattened (narrow) allowing them to easily pass through hair or feathers

Only adult fleas are parasitic and feed by sucking the blood of warm-blooded hosts such as birds or mammals, making them common pests.

The larvae are not usually parasitic, but feed on surrounding organic matter.

Ctenocephalides canis, dog flea
Siphonaptera collections

Learn more about the Rothschild collection of Siphonaptera at the Museum.

About the name

The name Siphonaptera is derived from the Greek words "siphon" meaning a tube or pipe and "aptera" meaning wingless.