Field and laboratory observations on the nature and sequence of the host-finding responses of the hen flea Ceratophyllus gallinae are described. The imago over-winters within the cocoon. Tactile stimuli and a rise in temperature initiate emergence. Emigration from the nest is delayed for a few days by a negatively phototactic response, and begins when this becomes positive. The fleas are negatively geotactic and disperse upwards into the vegetation. Eventually they take up a characteristic posture, oriented towards the light. Jumping is elicited when the light intensity is suddenly reduced, and it is suggested that this enables the fleas to reach their avian host. Those fleas whose jump misses the host fall and form a secondary distribution on the ground. The readiness to jump rises during the first few days after cocoon emergence, then falls again, the rate of fall apparently being partly determined by water loss.
The author is much indebted to the Hon. Miriam Rothschild and Drs E. T. Burtt and M. J. Cotton for valuable advice, and to C. R. Brannigan for a critical discussion of the manuscript. The main part of the research was carried out during tenure of a post-graduate studentship provided by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
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