What happens to fleas in winter? Do fleas die off in the winter? At what temperature? And what can you do if fleas are still pestering your pets even during the cold months of the year? We answer these questions and more in this guide to everything you need to know about fleas in winter.
The flea life cycle and ideal conditions for fleas
To understand what happens to fleas in winter, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the flea life cycle and their ideal living conditions.
Fleas thrive in high humidity and warm temperatures, optimally above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why southern, coastal states have the most active flea populations.
Fleas go through four distinct life cycle stages – egg, larvae, pupae, and adult.
Most of the time, flea eggs are laid directly on a pet's skin where they are kept warm by the skin and coat. However, flea eggs are smooth and can fall off of pets and into carpet, bedding, or plush furniture. As larvae, fleas move away from light sources and prefer warm, dark, and moist areas. Indoors, they live in carpet fibers, between floorboards, and under furniture. Outdoors, they settle in grass, branches, leaves, and soil. In fact, larvae start to die off if temps are above 95 degrees so that’s a big reason they seek shade and coolness.
Flea larvae spin a cocoon around themselves and by doing so enter the pupal (also known as the cocoon stage). Flea pupae can survive for a long time (months even!) in the cocoon, emerging into adults only when they’re triggered by movement of a potential host.
Adult fleas are attracted to light and spend time in the open air on the coats of animals. In normal circumstances, an adult flea will live up to three weeks and lay up to 500 eggs.
Fleas in all stages can adapt to “famine” conditions and go for extended periods without a meal. For example, hatched adult fleas can live inside their cocoon waiting for a meal up to six months, while in ideal lab conditions adult fleas can survive months, although in real-life environments, that number is typically two days to up to two weeks.
Do fleas die in the winter? How long can fleas survive freezing temps?
Fleas can survive some winter temperatures but, according to Michael Dryden, DVM, fleas cannot survive freezing temperatures for more than 5 days in a row. In general, it takes two hard freezes to kill fleas outdoors.
That said, fleas are adept at finding ways to survive even the harshest of winters by attaching themselves to warm-bodied animals (like your pets) or finding their way indoors. Once fleas are inside, they can survive indefinitely as long as they have a host to feed on.
Unlike outdoor fleas, the indoor flea cycle won't ever die off unless the fleas are treated and the situation is addressed.
Recap: How cold does it have to be to kill fleas?
If fleas are not otherwise snuggled into a warm host, they cannot survive temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 degree Celsius) for more than 5 days in a row.
How do cats and dogs get fleas in winter?
There are two main ways that fleas find their way onto your pet during the winter months.
- Via other animals: When you take your dog to the dog park, cat-sit a friend's cat, take your pet to the vet, etc., fleas and flea eggs on other animals can find their way onto your pet.
- Flea eggs in the home: If a pupal-stage flea that’s ready to become an adult flea egg is already somewhere in your home, it can hatch at any point during the year, including winter, and cause a flea infestation.
How to get rid of fleas in winter
Flea prevention in winter
Whether you’re suffering from fleas during winter months and you live in a seasonal climate or you live somewhere where fleas can thrive all year long, the best way to combat fleas is by actively preventing the situation.
Solutions like treating your yard and home with a pest control spray or investing in flea-and-tick collars, spot ons, or sprays that repel fleas can go a long way in deterring fleas, avoiding infestations.
Flea treatment in winter
If you’re already dealing with fleas in winter, you’ll need to be more intentional about treating your pet, home, and yard for fleas.
Use the preventative solutions mentioned – treating your home, yard, and pet – at the same time to break the flea life cycle and get control. In addition, a good flea-and-tick shampoo is a smart first step to use with your pet. Regularly wash fabrics in your home, vacuum carpets, and clean areas that are ideal environments for fleas to help prevent re-infestation.
For a more in-depth look at flea treatment, check out our article on how to get rid of fleas.
Stop fleas year-round with plant-powered Wondercide
Wondercide protect pets and their families with plant-powered protection that are safe to use around the whole family when used as directed.
For your dog or cat, use these products per the label instructions:
- Flea & Tick Liquid Shampoo
- Flea & Tick Pets + Home in any one of the four fresh scents
- Flea & Tick Collar or Flea & Tick Spot On, which offer an added layer of repellency and protection
Throughout your home, use Flea & Tick Pets + Home, the same spray you buy for your pet. It’s a versatile solution and a bottle every pet parent should have on hand.
For you yard, use Flea & Tick Yard + Garden in a convenient ready-to-use bottle and refill sizes for yards of all sizes – or buy the starter kit to save even more. Forgetting to treat the yard is a top DIY omission and it’s one of the most important steps in preventing fleas or treating an active infestation. If you treat just your pet, you’ll still have fleas because they life cycle is also in your home and yard. So the formula for success is to treat pet, home, and yard plus patio.
The entire flea-and-tick lineup was formulated under the guidance of holistic vets and is made with steam-distilled essential oils that are further tested for purity. These products offer a smart, easy way to combat fleas in winter or any other time of year!