Sand Fleas Vs Fleas – 3 Vital Differences That You MUST Know

Sand fleas and fleas have a few things in common, but only cosmetically. Inherently, they’re different.

In this guide on sand fleas vs fleas, you’ll learn the differences that no one talks about.

By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll find out what makes these bugs poles apart despite their similarities.

You’ll also find out which one of these two is more harmful to you and your pets. Plus, the valuable tips in this guide will help you keep sand fleas away.

Keep reading.

Sand Fleas Vs Fleas – Differences In Species

Both sand fleas and fleas can look a bit similar at the first look, but they’re anatomically different.

First, unlike fleas, sand fleas are not bugs. They’re crustaceans. Crustaceans are living beings with several pairs of legs and a body covered in a hard outer shell with scaly sections.

Crabs, lobsters, shrimps, crawfish, and sand fleas are crustaceans.

In contrast, fleas are bugs belonging to the family Canidae. Fleas are parasites that feed on and survive on the blood of their hosts. 

Sand Fleas Vs Fleas
Left – Sand Flea ; Right – Flea

Fleas grow up to 1/3rd of an inch in length, thinner than sand fleas, and they’re reddish-brown. Their bodies have three parts, the head, thorax, and abdomen.

The thorax has three pairs of legs which they use to grip the skin or fur of their host. Fleas have a pair of strong hind legs, which are bigger than the front legs, for jumping.

Most sand fleas are of the same size as fleas. But some sand fleas, especially the sand fleas in Florida, can be an inch in length.

Sand fleas are grey, brown, or greenish with five to seven pairs of legs. Unlike fleas, sand fleas have a pair of long and thick antennae visible with a naked eye.

Sand fleas do not have claws like other crustaceans. Sand fleas are also known as sand hoppers, beach fleas, and beach hoppers. 

Sand fleas are also known as mole crabs, albeit mistakenly. 

Mole crabs, also known as sand crabs, belong to a different crustacean family than sand fleas. And they’re bigger than an average sand flea too.

Sand Fleas Vs Fleas – Differences In Their Habitat

Fleas’ habitats are in dense, tall grasses and shrubs growing in moist and damp places outdoors.

So, fleas can be in your yard, too, if it’s dense with many waterholes and dampness.

When you walk through these places, fleas will latch onto you. 

If your pet, or any other animal, walks through these bushes with fleas, then fleas will jump onto them to live as parasites.

Fleas attached to your clothes can also travel from their habitat to your home. That’s how pets get fleas. They can also get fleas infection from other flea-infested pets.

That’s why you must wash your clothes, without keeping them in your closet or bed, immediately after returning from any outdoor activity.

Dense bushes and tall grasses are habitats for fleas and other biting parasites like ticks.

Sand fleas live on sandy beaches. During the day, sand fleas remain buried in the sand. 

After sunset, sand fleas will come out of the sand to forage for food.

In the US, sand fleas are common on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. So, beaches in Florida and California have many sand fleas in them. 

Sand Fleas Vs Fleas – Differences In Infestation In Your Home

Sand fleas don’t survive in urban environments. So, having a sand flea infestation in your home is quite unlikely.

In certain conditions, sand fleas can get inside your luggage. 

For example, if you keep a sand scoop without getting rid of the sand and sand fleas from it straight into your luggage, then you can bring sand fleas home.

But inside your home, sand fleas won’t survive for long. They won’t breed either.

Plus, sand fleas eat the plankton on the beaches. It’s unlikely that they’ll find it in your home.

In contrast, fleas feed on mammal blood, including humans. And they can breed and infest in your home fast if they’re getting their blood meals often.

Fleas can be in your bed too. Fleas get into your bed when your pet dog or cat with fleas sleep or spend time in your bed.

The flea eggs, and at times, adult fleas, will drop off their bodies and infest your bed. 

You can also bring fleas from outdoors. If you’ve been to a flea-infested place, then fleas will latch onto your clothing and luggage and travel to your home.

Sand Fleas Vs Fleas – Similarity, They Both Bite

Both sand fleas and fleas look somewhat similar and bite humans and pets.

Sand fleas, like fleas, bite humans. But they bite to check if you or your pet is plankton which they eat.

Sand fleas can jump like fleas too. So, they’ll bite you in your ankles most of the time, which is also a similar place where most flea bites occur.

Sand flea bites occur when you’re lying on the beach or while you’re digging the sand. It causes the sand fleas to come out from the sand and land a bite.

And it goes without mentioning that fleas bite humans. They survive on the blood of humans, pets, and other furry mammals. 

Both flea bites and sand flea bites have the same symptoms. Itchy red welts appear in clusters on the bitten portion of your body.

Another similarity is both sand fleas and fleas don’t fly. They jump.

However, there’s one significant risk that sand fleas bring, which the fleas don’t. And that is the female sand flea can burrow itself into your skin. 

The Biggest Risk Of Sand Fleas – They Can Burrow Into Your Skin

Female Sand Fleas Can Burrow Into Your Skin

Female sand fleas can burrow into your skin. They’ll burrow into your skin, feed on your blood, and lay eggs.

As per World Health Organization, the female flea will live inside your skin for 4-6 weeks. Then she’ll expel the eggs from your skin. 

Sand flea eggs look like tiny white rice grains, which are difficult to spot with a naked eye. The eggs are only 1/50th of an inch in size.

Inside your skin, the female sand flea will feed on your blood. It’ll make the female sand flea inside your skin grow 2000 times more than her initial size in 4-6 days. She remains inside your skin for three weeks before she dies.

The folds in the toes, finger webs, and ankle are the common areas where female sand fleas will enter your skin.

Symptoms of sand flea inside your skin are itching, pain, and skin lesions with abscesses. This state of infection on the skin because of sand fleas is known as tungiasis

The female sand fleas can enter the skin of your pets too.

If you’re wearing insect repellent, then it’s unlikely that female sand flea will try to burrow itself into your skin.

To get rid of sand fleas from your skin, see a doctor asap. However, applying diatomaceous earth or baking soda paste with water to the infected area will soothe the itching and pain.

How To Protect Yourself From Sand Flea Bites?

As most of the sand flea bites occur on the beach, you must take these five precautions to protect yourself from sand flea bites.

  1. Wear insect repellent on your ankles, arms, and back. If you’re going to sunbathe, then apply it on your body, especially on the folds of the elbows, knees, and neck.
  2. Avoid sitting or lying on the beach after sunset. These are the times when the sand fleas are most active.
  3. Don’t sit or lay on wet sand, especially after rains. Rains and high tide can cause sand fleas to come out of the sand.
  4. Always lay on a towel or a lounge chair. It’ll break the contact of your skin with the sand and will prevent sand flea bites.
  5. If you’re walking on a beach known for sand fleas, then wear shoes with socks to avoid sand flea bites on ankles. 

Can Fleas Burrow Into Human Skin?

No, fleas that infest pets can’t burrow inside the human skin. They can bite humans and feed on their blood.

Can Fleas Infest Homes?

Yes, they can. If there’s no pet in your home, you can also have fleas inside your home. 

Fleas inside your home can be in your bed, soft furnishings like carpets and rugs, couches, and pet beds.

If fleas are in your bed, there will be signs of fleas like flea feces, flea larvae on your bed. You may also have flea bites on your body.

Fleas can also hide in hardwood floors and furniture. They’ll hide in the gaps and cracks on these places, waiting for a host.

Use a steam cleaner to get rid of fleas in soft furnishings like bed, carpet, and couch. The heat from the steam cleaner kills adult fleas flea larvae and destroys their eggs and pupae.

Wash the pet bed with hot water to remove fleas hidden. And also, treat your pet for fleas.

A flea infestation can get bad fast unless you get rid of them. Even one flea in your home can be a precursor to a massive infestation waiting to happen.

If the infestation is at the early stages, you can get rid of fleas by using home products. But do not use flea bombs to eliminate fleas in your home.

Flea bombs make flea infestation worse and they’re massively risky for you and your home.

However, you’ll need to call a pest controller to do the job if the infestation is severe.

Can You Bring Sand Fleas Home From A Vacation?

Sand fleas can be in your clothing and beach accessories like towels and blanket if you’ve kept them on the sand.

When you keep them in your luggage without washing or dusting the sand off, you can bring sand fleas home from your beach vacation.

You can also transfer sand fleas to your child’s sandbox if you use the sand from the beach.


This post puts to rest the confusion between sand fleas and fleas. There are differences between both, which this guide reveals precisely. 

Even though sand fleas are unlikely to infest homes, the female sand fleas can burrow inside your skin and cause tungiasis. 

Fleas that infest dogs and cats can infest your home. They can even feed on your blood too. 

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