Echidnophaga gallinacea (Westwood, 1875), commonly known as the hen flea, is a cosmopolitan sticktight flea occurring on a wide range of bird and mammal hosts.
The genus Echidnophaga (Olliff, 1886) includes some 21 species occurring in the Palaearctic, Afrotropic and Australasian regions, except for the hen flea which has acquired an inadvertent cosmopolitan distribution through the widespread introduction of domestic animals.
Female fleas attach at one site on their hosts and feed for prolonged periods of up to 19 days, causing tissue to become swollen and ulcerated. Males feed intermittently while displaying mating behaviour. Eggs are laid in the ulcers that have formed on the host's skin. The larvae drop to the ground and feed on any organic debris found. Large numbers of the flea may congregate around the eyes, comb, wattles, and other naked skin on poultry - these are difficult to dislodge as their heads are embedded deep below the host's skin.
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