What is the Difference Between Fleas and Mites

The main difference between fleas and mites is that fleas belong to the order Siphonaptera under the class Insecta whereas mites belong to the subclass Acari under the class ArachnidaFurthermore, fleas are small, jumping insects that are ectoparasites of mammals and birds, while mites are tiny arthropods, similar to spiders and scorpions. Also, mites are either free-living, being decomposers and predators, or parasites.  

In brief, fleas and mites are two types of small, bloodsucking creatures on humans and other animals. Also, they may serve as vectors for the transmission of several diseases. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. Fleas
     – Taxonomy, Characteristics, Behavior
2. Mites
     – Taxonomy, Characteristics, Behavior
3. What are the Similarities Between Fleas and Mites
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Fleas and Mites
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Arachnids, Blood Meal, Ectoparasites, Fleas, Insects, Mites Difference Between Fleas and Mites - Comparison Summary

Fleas – Taxonomy, Characteristics, Behavior 

Fleas are the small, wingless, bloodsucking insects that belong to the order Siphonaptera. Around 3000 species of fleas live on the planet. Mainly, they feed upon mammals and birds. Furthermore, the three common types of fleas are rat fleas, human fleas, and cat fleas. Also, fleas undergo complete metamorphosis in four stages, in their life cycle; the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Typically, the adult has a narrow body, which is 1-4 mm long and is flattened sideways, enabling them to move through their host’s fur or feathers.

What is the Difference Between Fleas and Mites

Figure 1: Flea

Moreover, the main characteristic feature of fleas is their ability to jump for which their long hind legs are adapted. Also, their color can vary from white to dark. In the larval stage, it is 4-0 mm long and white in color. Although it is very mobile, it does not have legs. However, the pupal stage is very sticky to soon become covered by sand.

Main Difference - Fleas vs Mites

Figure 2: Dog Flea Life Cycle

Furthermore, flea bites can cause a loss of blood, irritation, and serious discomfort. In addition to that, rat fleas serve as a vector for the transmission of diseases such as bubonic plague and flea-borne typhus. Also, cat fleas sometimes transmit tapeworms. Besides these, sand fleas or jiggers are other important types of fleas since they burrow into the human skin and cause infections.    

Mites – Taxonomy, Characteristics, Behavior 

Mites are tiny arthropods belonging to the class Arachnida and the subclass Acari. More than 45,000 species of mites live in the world. Mainly, they belong to three superorders; Opilioacariformes,  Parasitiformes, and Acariformes. Here, the superorder Opilioacariformes consists of a small order of large mites resemble harvestmen (Opiliones) Also, the superorder Parasitiformes consists of three orders; Holothyrida (predatory mites from the southern hemisphere), Ixodida (hard ticks and soft ticks), and Mesostigmata (bird mites, phytoseiid mites).

Fleas vs Mites Comparison

Figure 3: A Mite

In addition to these, the superorder Acariformes consists of two orders; Trombidiformes (plant-parasitic mites, spider mites, peacock mites, gall mites, red-legged earth mites, etc., snout mites, chiggers, hair follicle mites, velvet mites, water mites, etc.) and Sarcoptiformes oribatid mites, beetle mites, armored mites, and mites in humans). 

Fleas and Mites - Similarities and Differences

Figure 4: Harvest Mite Life Cycle

Moreover, one of the significant features of mites is that their body, containing two sections of the body; cephalothorax and abdomen. Also, they are less than 1 mm in length. Basically, mites can be free-living; many live in soil as decomposers while others live in water and on plants. However, some mites are parasites such as scabies mites in humans. Usually, these parasitic mites may cause allergies while serving as vectors for disease transmission. 

Similarities Between Fleas and Mites  

  • Fleas and mites are two types of ectoparasites that feed on the blood of humans, mammals, and other animals.  
  • Generally, they are small,  wingless, and belong to the phylum Arthropoda.  
  • And, both do not have compound eyes.  Still, they have simple forms of eyes while some are blind.  
  • Also, their bloodsucking counterpart has mouthparts to pierce the skin and to suck blood.  
  • Besides, they both have separate sexes.    
  • Both may associate with skin allergies upon bites and can serve as vectors for the transmission of diseases. 

Difference Between Fleas and Mites 


Fleas refer to the small, wingless, jumping insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds while transmitting diseases through their bites including plague and myxomatosis. In contrast, mites refer to the minute arachnids that have four pairs of legs, relating to ticks; many live in the soil and some are parasitic on animals and plants. 


Fleas belong to the order Siphonaptera under the class Insecta, whereas mites belong to the subclass Acari under the class Arachnida. 


The main types of fleas include human flea, cat flea, and rat flea, while the three superorders of mites include Opilioacariformes,  Parasitiformes, and Acariformes.  


Fleas are small, jumping insects, while mites are tiny arthropods that are similar to spiders and scorpions. 

Mode of Living  

Fleas are ectoparasites in mammals and birds, while mites are either free-living, being decomposers and predators, or parasites.  

Life Cycle 

Fleas undergo complete metamorphosis and egg, larva, pupa, and adult are the stages of their life cycle, but mites undergo incomplete metamorphosis and the egg, larva, nymph, and adult are the stages of the life cycle. 


Fleas are small in size around 1.5 to 3.3 mm long, while mites are tiny around 0.25 to 0.75 mm long. 


Fleas are reddish-brown or dark in color, while mites have the shades of brown and some of them can be red, orange, black or green in color.  

Body Structure 

The body of a flea contains three sections including the head, thorax, and abdomen, while the body of mites contains two sections including the cephalothorax and the abdomen. 

Body Surface 

The body surface of fleas is covered by sclerites, many hairs and short spines directed backwards, assisting its movements on the host, while the dorsal surface of the mite’s body is clad in hardened tergites and the ventral surface by hardened sclerites. 


Some fleas have simple eyespots with a single biconvex lens, while some mites have one to five median or lateral eyes. 


A proboscis or a stylet is the mouthpart, which occurs in fleas, while chelicerae are the mouthparts in mites. 


Fleas have three pairs of long, gangly legs, highly adapted for jumping, while mites have four pairs of legs, each with six sections and adapted for swimming or other purposes. 

Egg Hatching 

The eggs of fleas hatch in two days to two weeks, while the eggs of mites hatch in two to six weeks. 

Medial Significance 

Flea bites can be slightly itchy and cause a slightly raised, swollen, irritating nodule to form on the epidermis at the site of each bite, while mite bites cause of several types of itchy skin rashes, such as gamasoidosis, rodent mite dermatitis, grain itch, grocer’s itch, and scabies. 

Disease Transmission 

Fleas serve as vector of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague, while mites transmit infectious diseases such as rickettsialpox and scrub typhus. 


Fleas are small insects with long legs adapted to jump. Also, their body has three sections; head, thorax, and abdomen. Furthermore, they undergo complete metamorphosis. Besides, fleas are ectoparasites that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. And, they transmit the bubonic plague. On the other hand, mites are a tiny form of arachnids with four legs in their body with two sections; cephalothorax and abdomen. Also, mites can be either free-living or parasitic on plants and animals. Furthermore, they transmit diseases such as rickettsialpox and scrub typhus. Therefore, in summing up, the main difference between fleas and mites is their body structure and effect on their host. 


1. “Fleas, Ticks, Mites, Lice – External Parasites.” Links Veterinary Group, Links Veterinary Group, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Flea Scanning Electron Micrograph False Color” By CDC/Janice Haney Carr (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia   
2. “A dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis); adult, pupa, egg and lar Wellcome V0022501EL” By Welcome Images (CC-BY-4.0) via Commons Wikimedia  
3. “tick-lyme-disease-mites-bite-2371827” By JerzyGorecki (Pixabay License) via Pixabay
4. “Harvest mite cycle” By Bugboy52.40 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia   

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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