Breeding females burrow into exposed skin on the feet of mammals and remain there for two weeks while developing eggs, during which time they swell dramatically, sometimes causing intense irritation (a condition called tungiasis). After this point, the skin lesion looks like a 5- to 10-mm blister with a central black dot, which are the flea's exposed hind legs, respiratory spiracles and reproductive organs.
The parasitic flea lives in soil and sand, and feeds intermittently on warm-blooded hosts, such as humans and cattle. Males leave the host after a blood meal like other fleas, but the female flea burrows head-first into the host's skin, leaving the caudal tip of its abdomen visible through an orifice in a skin lesion. This orifice allows the flea to defecate while feeding on blood vessels from which it gets its oxygen as well. It lives in the cutaneous and subcutaneous dermal layer. Over the next two weeks, its abdomen swells with up to several hundred to a thousand eggs, which it releases through the caudal orifice to fall to the ground when ready to hatch. The flea then dies and is often the cause of infection as the body rots under thick scales its body chemistry created to protect it. The eggs mature into adult fleas within three to four weeks and the process begins anew.