Senckenberg German Entomological Institute Müncheberg





(C. Kutzscher)

„The fleas have long been the subject of highly diverse texts and sayings. They have been illuminated from philological and satirical viewpoints, commemorated in songs about their amusing leaps, and more frequently cursed for their bloodthirstiness. They have even been "trained" so as to make them profitable. Only the zoologist has not yet given them his proper attention.“ (Taschenberg 1880)


Flea species that occur on humans (photos: C. Kutzscher)

The current state of knowledge about the flea species which occur in Germany is based primarily on the ecological-faunistic works of Peus (1968, 1970 und 1972). Supplementary works thereafter appeared mainly for individual federal states. The most recent faunistic overview for the whole of Germany, by Kutzscher & Striese, dates from 2003.
The data in this work are arranged according to federal state and reflect mainly the intensity of investigation in the areas concerned. Only occasionally can conclusions be drawn on the geographical distribution of the species. For many common species, that can be expected to occur throughout the country, numerous gaps still exist in the distribution. Although recent records are available for a large number of species, these have mostly not been obtained as the result of targetted, specialised investigations, but have more the character of chance findings. Peus forecast the discovery of about ten further species on the basis of their occurrence and distribution in neighbouring countries. Such hints and suggestions by Peus (1972) have generally continued to be valid. As before, our knowledge of the flea fauna of the subalpine and alpine zones of the Alps still appears especially deficient.

Checklist of fleas found in Germany

Within the framework of investigation and recording of Siphonaptera species occurring in Germany, material collected personally and sent regularly by others (often as chance captures made in the course of various nature conservation projects, e.g. „Hessische Naturwaldreservate“ - Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg) was prepared and identified. The collection data are registered in a database and published as faunistic contributions.


Heimische Floharten (photos: C. Kutzscher)


Sand fleas in the nasal cavities and under the tongue: the unusual way of life of Hectopsylla narium Kutzscher, 2007 

(see PDF)

The so-called sand fleas (Tunga and Hectopsylla, Pulicidae) are generally best known through Tunga penetrans, which in humans causes the notorious tungiasis. The females attack mainly the feet, where they burrow deep in the skin and cause inflammation. The sedantary way of life of the female is typical of all Tunga and Hectopsylla species. The other 22 species occur mainly in South America on various mammals and birds.

Hectopsylla narium maleHectopsylla narium female

Hectopsylla narium (photos: C. Kutzscher)

 male and female (larger photos)

The Burrowing Parrot, Cyanoliseus patagonus patagonus (Psittacidae), has its worldwide largest breeding colony of 35,000 nests on the Patagonian coastal cliffs of Argentina. Since 1998 the way of life of the parrot has been investigated there by J. F. Masello and P. Quillfeldt, including infestation by ectoparasites. As well as mites, two species of lice and a parasitic bug, a species of flea was discovered that is parasitic on the chicks, burrowing under their tongues and living in their noses. The part of the host affected is so far unique amongst the fleas. The fleas, collected on more than 200 chicks, belonged to a new species of the genus Hectopsylla. The resulting publication describes the new species and places it in an identification key to closely related species. Its systematic placement is analysed using phylogenetic methods. In the light of bionomic data, the distribution and evolution of host relationships within Hectopsylla are discussed.
The project was carried out in cooperation with colleagues at the Universities of Bristol (J. F. Masello, England), Cardiff (P. Quillfeldt, England) and Christchurch (R. L. P. Pilgrim, Neuseeland).

H. nariumH. nariumH. narium

REM-photos of Hectopsylla narium (photos: C. Kutzscher)