Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Chinese Fighting Crickets

Thanks to the Christmas break I've had the chance to read a few books such as "Bugs in the System" by May R. Berenbaum. In the chapter on behavior there is a short section on Chinese Fighting Crickets. Being the skeptic that I am, I immediately thought that this was worthy of the Uncyclopedia. However, a bit more research backed up the fact that the Chinese have been running this sport for many centuries.

May writes, "As soon as immature crickets are old enough to be sexed, males are caged in elaborate houses and solicitously fed vegetables, fruits, chopped fish, and event honey as a tonic."

The crickets engage in a multi-stage battle starting with antennae fencing, then displays of spread mandibles, leading into interlocking of the mandibles and finishing up with wrestling. The contest can be stopped at any stage by one of the crickets retreating. The losing contestant won't fight for 24hrs unless tossed in the air by it's trainer.

It makes flea circuses in comparison look positively calm affairs.


May R. Berenbaum: Bugs in the System, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jin, Xing-Bao: Chinese Cricket Culture, Shanghai Institute of Entomology, Academia Sinica

Mark Shwartz: Will fighting crickets unlock the mystery of human depression?, Stanford University

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Flea Quotes

Quotes Daddy has some excellent Flea quotes including my favourites.

Mark Twain: "Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a congressman can"
Shakespeare: "That's a valiant flea that dares eat his breakfast on the lip of a lion."

Friday, 5 December 2008

Fleas don't always jump

I was watching the "Invasion of the body scratchers" yesterday with Mike Leahy and it just happened to be the one where he looks at ticks and fleas. One thing that was obvious from the section on fleas was that they don't actually spend all of the time jumping. Perhaps, Fleas jumping is just something they do when a new food source (person or animal) arrives in the area they are dormant.

Amoret Whitaker from the Department of Entomology, The Natural History Museum provided some clarification.

"Most film footage of fleas probably shows them in isolation, when they are likely to do a fair amount of jumping, as they are trying to find a new host to settle on. However, once located on a suitable host, they will move around by crawling/walking through the hair/fur, and are unlikely to do much jumping unless disturbed, or the host dies, in which case they will try to jump onto a new (live) host. They will spend most of the time on the host itself, although adult fleas will also be found in the host's "nest" eg. cat basket, bird's nest etc."

Amoret Whitaker (nee Brandt) is a renowned flea expert and responsible for the recently updated and catchily named "RES Handbook Volume 1 Part 16: Fleas (Siphonaptera) 2nd Edition" she is currently working on Forensic Entomology.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Whos fleas are these?

In the flea circus culture section of the flea circus research library the following poem was attributed to Anon.

Big fleas have little fleas,
Apon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

However various sources claim that it is Dutch, from the 1872 A. De morgan Budget of Paradoxes 377 or Dean Swift. Following up on the Budget of Paradoxes, that also points to Jonathan Swift with some slightly different wording.

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so _ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on

It's also mentioned in the Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources By James Wood 1893 and The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art by Robert Walsh, Eliakim Littell, John Jay Smith - 1835.

William Henry Hudson in 1894 credits the poem to De Morgan in An Introduction to the Philosophy of Herbert Spencer, with a Biographical.

Yet another variation accredited to Swift as

“So, naturalists observe, a flea - Hath smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite 'em; And so proceed ad infinitum”

I'll update the culture page with these interesting findings.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The flea circus as a teaching resource

As previously mentioned I regularly trawl the web and blogs for people discussing flea circuses. A recent article came to my attention that raised the suggestion that flea circuses were not relevant to teachers.

So here are my thoughts on why it is relevant and some suggestions for teaching ideas. I'd like to point out that I'm not actually a teacher so you may need to adjust these ideas to meet the age range of your students and to meet the needs of your curiculum.


You’ve got magnification, magnetism (as used in lots of humbug style circuses), springs, syphoning (the flea is of the order siphonaptera), machining small items such as watch cogs (the first flea circuses were made by jewelers and watch makers), sensing heat and detecting CO2 (which is how fleas find their hosts) and even Nanotechnology although just plain old micromaching would be fine for a flea circus.


Look at Flea Circus Books and Flea Circus films discuss how the flea circus is used as a metaphor and how there is often a mysterious or sinister connection. Use the flea circus to introduce students to rhyming e.g. Freds Friendly Flea Finale. The British Council suggests that the flea circus can be used as a comprehension exercise.

Foreign Languages

What is a flea circus in different languages? Use the idea of a flea circus performance to introduce directions such as left, right, up down etc. See Portland Secondary College's "Le Cirque des impossibilités" project.


In my research I've been looking into historical flea circuses. I used genealogy techniques such as censuses, births, deaths and marriage records, church records and newspaper reports with regards to tracking down L.Bertolotto. Many towns had flea circuses, see if there was one in yours. Look at how social changes reduced flea populations and discuss what may have reduced peoples visits to shows such as flea circuses.

Look at the environmental conditions needed to sustain fleas and how that compares to other animals. Show how fleas and other parasites have transmitted diseases such as the plague.


Historically the flea circus was used to enact political satires of the time, also see the Death of a Flea Circus Director film.


For a junior audience a flea circus performance could be done. For teenagers there are many books and films that reference flea circuses and could be used as short plays. The ideas misdirection and comic timing can be examined.


There are many flea circus songs and music that can be used and analysed. Often the flea is expressed in staccato notes and stanzas often with big "jumps" in pitch. The Ukulele in Hawaiian means "jumping Flea".

Friday, 28 November 2008

Flea Circus in Tivoli Gardens with Else Torp

Thanks to Magic Puk I got to see this video of a Historical Flea Circus in Tivoli Gardens run by Else Torp. One interesting fact is that she used platinum wires rather than the gold mentioned in a lot of other historical examples. It's also very clear from the film that the fleas are doing the pulling and also that they are walking not jumping which would imply some conditioning on top of the fact that they are restrained by the wires.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Flea Circus Television

A new Flea Circus television channel has just started up on the Mogulus site. The channel shows all things to do with flea circuses and but is happy to include other performing insects too. It aims to show exclusive new video material that's not previously been shown on other locations such as Youtube, MySpace or Yahoo! Video. Graphic designer Rafael Olea Ramirez has kindly provided the logo for the channel.

Watch Flea Circus Television

If you want to submit short films, animations or documentaries then you can reach the organiser Xavier Proubasta at fleacircustv - hotmail - com

Friday, 14 November 2008

Fleas feel the cold too

There are different interpretations of this humorous sketch by political cartoonist John Deering. Perhaps those are cracker crumbs but I like to think of it as fleas eating soup?

Strange Brew by John Deering

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Top 10 flea circus contraptions

Oobject specialise in putting together top 10 lists of gadgets based on people's weblists. As part of their wacky gadgets series they have put together a list of their top 10 flea circus contraptions. By visiting you can vote for your favourite, one of Walt Noon's circuses is currently in first place.

oobject's list of flea circuses

They also have a list of the worlds smallest gadgets.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Buy a flea circus

Martin Duffy has spared time from his busy schedule as a professional performer to tell the Flea Circus Research Library about how he's teamed up with the father and son team from Sven Svenson's Flea Circus to market the flea circuses Eric (the father) builds.

Q: Why did you get into selling flea circuses?

A: In the past Flea Circuses were made pretty crudely with any materials that happened to be at hand. This made them rather awkward to use and notoriously temperamental! Eric looked at it from an engineer's point of view. He has nearly 30 years of "hands-on" experience in many different aspects of engineering and industry. I had bought 3 Flea Circuses in the past made for me by different makers. They all had problems. The Svenson is the first I have been totally happy with. I am very pleased to say that my fellow professionals agree with me. I have exhibited them at magic conventions where they draw extremely favourable comments...and orders!

Q: How does Eric go about making a product that everyone praises?

A: His aim was simple; to create a traditional style Circus that was easy to use, realistic, consistent and great value. In short he wanted to make the best! He uses reliable mechanical controls rather than "electronic", and he only uses the best quality materials.

Q: The Svenson's Flea Circuses contain quite a few new acts, how long does it take to build one of these larger circuses?

A: It normally takes around 3 to 4 weeks work to make one. Other than the trunk or case virtually all parts are made by Eric from scratch (pardon the pun!) from just the raw materials; almost nothing is "off the shelf". The components for the cannon alone take a full day.

Q: Why would a performer want a flea circus?

A: Having a unique presentation that has built-in curiosity value can only lead to higher fees for you.

So whether you want full sized Mossman Flea Circuses or an ultra-portable Cigar Box Flea Circus these are the people to talk to.

Cigar Box Flea Circus

Many thanks to Martin and the Svenson's team for their time and a final word
from Paul Daniels.

"I have seen these props, not just the photographs, and they are beautifully
made" Paul Daniels

Monday, 3 November 2008

Fleas on Radio York 4th November

On 4th November between 11.00am - 12.00pm (possibly around 11.40) BBC Radio York will be interviewing the Father and Son Flea Circus designers, builders and performers of the ‘svensons’ flea circuses

BBC Radio York 103.7 - 104.3 (3 & 95.5 fm)

You can also listen online at

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ian Lumsden's thoughts on a Flea Circus

Animation teacher Ian Lumsden has been watching Tex Avery's 1954 movie, The Flea Circus. Like many animated flea films it's full of jokes about dogs and scratching.

"And aren't they clever, 'specially Fifi. She's so gorgeous a man could forget to scratch."

Monday, 20 October 2008

Bertolotto Books

Whilst researching the History of L. Bertolotto, I've been specifically looking for references to his book, "The History of the Flea with Notes and Observations" and have been using google books to get me a short list of books to track down at the local library.

There are several documents that make reference to the Bertolotto books and confirm the publishing dates of 1834 (French and English Editions), and St. Petersbourg, 1838.

There is also a reference to one of these books being sold at Sotherby in 1975, it would be interesting to know who bought it and what it sold for. The seller is listed as Ganthony (Robert) Bunkum Entertainments.

In addition I've been looking at the printers for the books. The American edition was printed by John Axford of 29 Ann Street, New York 1976. This is interesting because it is right next door to "Barnum's American Museum" which was located on the corner of Ann Street and Broadway. It suggests that Bertolotto may have met with Barnum at some point.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Victorian Fleas

Lee Jackson from the Victorian Dictionary has been accumulating a whole range of materials from news papers and Punch magazine to letters and journals of the people of the time and categorising this material for his dictionary.

So far his writings have uncovered two flea exhibits:

  • The first an exhibit in NewCut, South of the Thames, of insects under the microscope courtesy of Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1843

  • And the second from Charles Manby Smith, 1857 reports of the amusements of the moneyless; "there is a flea harnessed to a brass cannon on wheels, which it actually drags along - though this last curiosity is not a gratuitous exhibition, being only shown to those who pay their penny."

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Real fleas seen at Oktoberfest

Jeremy Schoolfield attended Munich's Oktoberfest this week and visited the Flea Circus. He was surprised to see that there were real fleas playing football, running a chariot race and performing a ballet.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Sceptical Wikipedians

Over at Wikipedia the Wikipedians are questioning if real flea circuses really exist or existed historically and if it is really possible to train fleas.

This is something I have done myself a few times over the 5 years I have been investigating flea circuses. The problem is two fold, the first is that the very idea of a flea being "trained" to pull a small model is quite fantastic. The second problem is that the flea performers themselves like to hype up their performances and it is in the interests of those who don't perform with real fleas to have their audiences believe that they do. I also questioned the very existence of one of the great performers L.Bertolotto speculating at one point that he was a fiction created by Charles Dickens.

The question of L.Bertolotto is answered by the diverse range of different sources in which references to Bertolotto appear which I believe to be more than even Dickens could manage. The story of L.Bertolotto is fantastic but less fantastic than the idea that someone managed to make it all up and distribute clues all over the globe. It's a bit like a Flea Da Vinci code!

For me the existence that real flea circuses once existed is also covered by the diversity of the references. The film footage from British Pathe news is pretty convincing, the photos of the Torp flea performances in Denmark and Hecklers in New York are also quite believable. But the fact that at least 2 people have reproduced these acts (Cardoso and Noon) for me is the icing on the cake meaning conclusively that it can be done.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as a real flea circus?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Turning a flea into a steam engine

It's improbable but I expect that is the point.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Fleas and Circuses is now Flea Circus Research Library Blog

The Fleas and Circuses blog has been renamed to the Flea Circus Research Library Blog, but is otherwise unchanged with articles on Fleas, Flea Circuses, small things, art, films and a whole lot more.
On a related note, the Flea Circus calendar is looking a bit empty, I know I've missed a couple of events over the last month but if there's anything up comming then please let me know.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Insights into flea searches

Looking at Fleas vs Flea Circus in Google insights we can see that the Fleas are very cyclical with the summer months having more searches but the Flea Circus searches does not have this trend. The geographical differences are also quite distinct with the UK and Australia topping the table for people searching for Flea Circuses and the USA being the biggest searchers for fleas.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Captian Henry float's Flea Circus

A Spanish flea expert Magic Puk has found a tin of fleas on a site about Cabinets of Curiosity that you can buy at a very reasonable price (currently £2.50).

It is not know if fleas can ride a penny farthing bicycle but it's a great image to have on the tin. Those holes look a little large so best not shake the tin as flea eggs might fall out!

There are several Mafeking Roads around London, from Newham (E16) to Haringey to Enfield and one in Australia. According to the dictionary Mafficking means "To rejoice or celebrate with boisterous public demonstrations" as was done following the siege of Mafeling in the Boer war.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Fleas not seen

Tom reports in his blog that he saw the Prof Jephcott flea circus in Regent's Park. He says that he could not see the fleas, presumably they were very small.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Fleas in cartoons 1948

Thanks to an anonymous contributor at Wikipedia

"Another vintage Warner Bros. cartoon, 'Curtain Razor,' has Porky Pig as a theatrical agent auditioning acts, including a shaggy dog, who turns out to be the transport of a flea circus, which proceeds to set itself up, perform, and return to the dog, on command."

The Looney Toons film is from 1949 and the dog shuffles into the office and blows a whistle to command the fleas. The act does look to be more of a funfair than a circus but they do have a big top which presumably contains all of the acts. Apparently the film was retitled for TV changing from "Curtain Razor" (a reference to the Razorback pig) to "Show Stopper" and was remade with Daffy for "Show Biz Bugs" in 1957

The BFI have some good information about this film in their film at TV Database.

BFI film and TV entry for Curtain Razor

According to Scanton & Wilkes Barre the film preceded many of the Warner Bros. films released theatrically in 1949 and was incorporated into the 1983 feature film Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island.

You can also watch this on youtube (at the time of writing)

Saturday, 9 August 2008

The Rattling Bog

Whilst searching for articles on fleas, I came across this old Scottish song, The Rattling Bog.

Things start getting interesting around verse 9

Now on this feather there was a flea.
A rare flea. A rattling flea.
Flea on a feather.
Feather on a bird.
Bird on an egg.
Egg in a nest.
Nest on a twig.
Twig on a branch.
Branch on a limb.
Limb on a tree.
Tree in the bog
And the bog down in the valley-o.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Interactive Fleas

I can't believe I've not spotted this one before.

Dan Hero Designer, Illustrator and Animator

Dan Hero has created an amusing range of animations, sketches and an impressive interactive flea circus complete with magnifier.

Monday, 4 August 2008

BBC Flea

Mark Easton, the BBC home editor has been admiring Bob George's Flea Atlas and comments on the distribution of fleas in his map of the week.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Chasing Mr Kitchingman's Educated Fleas

I couple of years back I discovered an article about Mr Kitchingman and his flea circuses from an Andy Clarke of The Foxearth and District Local History Society

A followup of this led to:

The World of Wonders appears to have a fabulous article with pictures on page 37 about Professor Kitchingman and states "Professor Kitchingman, an enterprising entomologist recident near Brussels" and reference to what appears to be a tightrope act. The British Library has a copy of this so hopefully it's not one of those items that they are moving to Boston Spa.

Albert Fournier's book also provides an interesting lead in the form of an new function in the google books search, the subject search. For example I could search for subject:"Fleas in literature".

Looking up "Frank Buckland", I discovered that he had written a series of books called "Curiosities of Natural History" which seems like a good lead too

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Flea Circus Research Library Wordles

Flea Circus Wordle

Microcosmos: Flea Circus

Leah Palmer Preiss, a freelance illustrator & calligrapher has designed this fabulous flea circus painting in acrylics.

She was inspired by the proverb

Big fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
And so ad infinitum.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Fleas at Glastonbury Festival

Professor Malcolm Jephcott will be performing with his flea circus at Glastonbury Festival this weekend. He'll have to make sure he does not end up with more performers when he leaves than when he arrived.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

More locations for Industrious Fleas

A couple of book references found via google books indicate that L. Bertolotto also performed at 100 Piccadillyin London and also in Plymouth. There is also some clarification on which of the Royals patronised the exhibition.

Passages in Foreign Travel
By Isaac Appleton Jewett
Published 1838
C.C. Little and J. Brown

Page 75 "The industrious Fleas, patronized by their Royal Highnesses, the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria, may now be seen at No. 100, Piccadilly"

A history of Plymouth By Llewellynn Frederick W. Jewitt, Llewellynn Jewitt
Published 1873

Page 409 "Signor Bertolotto's exhibition of the Industrious Fleas opened in Plymouth, and cause a good deal of attraction

Monday, 23 June 2008

Alberti Flea Circus - Review

Karl Kunkel visited the MerleFest earlier in the year and sent me a review of the Alberti Flea Circus, here's his comments for your reading.

"The Alberti Flea Circus, with its wonderful cast of entertainers, has been a mainstay on the flea entertainment circuit for many decades. The troupe, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., is headed by the talented Mr. Jim Alberti and ably assisted by professionals such as Capt. Spalding. Mr. Alberti and his troupe constantly draw an audience of kids of all ages eager to participate in the many stunts performed by the fleas. The High-Dive into a coffee can is a popular segment as is the one in which a flea is shot from a cannon, flies around the fairgrounds and then lands in a puff of powder on a soft powderpuff. Mr. Alberti is a true historical treasure. He was born and raised in the Tin Pan Alley tradition of entertainment and actually uses props that go back 100 years, in some cases. This Spring's MerleFest music fest in Wilkesboro, NC ( was that much better because of the presence of the Alberti Flea Circus." ....Karl Kunkel, High Point, NC

Friday, 20 June 2008

Ripley's Believe It or Not

Ripley's Believe It or Not is coming to London's Picadilly Circus but they won't be bringing fleas.

The new venue will be opening in August at the prestigious location of 1 Piccadilly Circus. The new location that has previously housed exhibitions such as Rock Circus and the night club On Anon. Among the attractions will be a two-headed calf, a $1 million Swarovski crystal-covered Mini Cooper, a genuine 16th-century iron maiden, a trio of shrunken human heads from Ecuador and a 13-foot-long Tower Bridge made of wooden matchsticks, the company said.

Although other Ripley's venues have shown Plugas Vestidas (Painted Fleas), I've been advised that there won't be any dressed fleas in Piccadilly. However, there will be some exhibits for lepidopterists and entomologists, Edward Meyer (VP Exhibits & Archives) tells me "Butterflies and ants for sure".

Ripley's already have a location in the popular Northern seaside resort of Blackpool as well as over 60 others around the globe.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Flea Words

The following dictionary words are valid in Scrabble or Scrabulous. If you find yourself playing with a flea in your letters, I hope they will come in handy.

I am currently researching plants and medicines so there will be a future article on Fleawort and Fleabane and natural flea remedies.


Thursday, 5 June 2008

Dancing Micro Robots

Microrobots from Duke University have been dancing on the head of a pin. Perhaps their next project will be a mechanical microscopic flea circus?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Jumping fleas

A mechanical model of a flea circus trampoline by artist Eleanor Morgan

Eleanor Morgan is a multi-talented artist with an interested in our desire to connect with animals. Her videos, sculpture, performance and drawings "explore animals as shifting, sticky 'things': animal as activity, rather than animal as object".

This piece is in the form of an automata with 3 jumping fleas on a trampoline, winding the handle causes them to jump up and down, you can see a video of it in action on the artist's website.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Atlas of the Fleas (Siphonaptera) of Britain and Ireland

The Biological Records Centre has released Robert George's latest edition of the "Atlas of the Fleas (Siphonaptera) of Britain and Ireland". This new Atlas includes distribution maps, species accounts, details about flea hosts, over 60 different types of British Flea and is an update of the first edition of a “Flea Atlas” which was published by BRC in 1974 also by Mr George.

The TimesOnline reports:

"His fascination with fleas began in 1949, when he was living close to a butcher's and restaurant in Gloucester and trapped 35 mice over three nights. He collected 15 fleas from one mouse and sent them to Frans Smit, curator of the Rothschild Collection of Siphonaptera at Tring, Hertfordshire. Mr Smit told him that they included two species that had never been recorded in Gloucestershire before."

this inspired Mr George to switch from studying beatles to studying fleas. His work has since been recognised as a national recording scheme in 1964 by the Biological Records Centre (BRC), and encourage by Hon. Miriam Rothschild.

Atlas of the Fleas (Siphonaptera) of Britain and Ireland
by Robert.S. George
Edited by Helen Roy, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Published by the Field Studies Council of behalf of the Biological Records Centre
ISBN 978-0-95576-723-4

Ordering Information:
CEH Publication Sales,Monks Wood,Abbots Ripton,Huntingdon,Cambs, PE28 2LS
Tel: 01487 772400
Fax: 01487 773467

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

National Flea Week 2008

TV presenter and ‘Perfect Housewife’ Anthea Turner is fronting the 3rd National Flea Week which runs from 19th-25th May 2008. Because of the recent spell of warm weather, fleas could be hatching out now and feasting on your family pets. This week is an ideal week to visit your vet for preventative treatment and advice.

Anthea’s top tips for keeping pets and homes flea-free:

  1. Vacuum carpets and soft furnishings at least every other day, paying particular attention to your pet’s favourite spots
  2. Wash your pet’s bedding (and yours if they prefer it!) regularly. Experts recommend washing at 60°C for at least ten minutes to ensure eggs, larvae and pupae are removed.
  3. Check your cats and dogs often for fleas and treat immediately. Gently part the fur and check for flea dirt (small black specks). Comb through your pet’s coat and collect any debris on a wet piece of white paper or cottonwool. If the dirt speck dissolves or makes red/brown patches, then your pet has fleas and requires treatment. Consult your vet
  4. Once you have treated your pet, adopt a preventative approach by treating your pet regularly while keeping on top of the vacuuming!
Flea Circus Director's top tip for keeping pets and homes flea-free:
  • Don't take your pets to see a Flea Circus as they may steal the show!

Friday, 25 April 2008

You can get anything on Ebay

I spotted the following advert the other day.

Example Advert

Although I could not actually find anybody selling human fleas on Ebay, there is something in their terms and conditions that would let you sell them. It's possible to sell "hatching eggs" on ebay provided you only offer domestic postage. Your only problem then would be to find someone who is willing to transport them, I'd expect that having the fleas hatch out in transit would lead to disaster. Perhaps best to ask people to collect.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Flea Circus Review

Naomi Guss from the puppet making company "Sticky Apple Legs" in Melborne visted the Unima show the other weekend. She provided a handy report on Allenby's Famous Flea Circus, highlighting the problems that a flea circus performer might have.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Merelefest - Alberti Fleas

MerleFest 2008, presented by Lowe’s, will feature artists from a variety of styles and genres to celebrate the music of Doc and Merle Watson for the 21st year. Once again Doc Watson will host the four-day festival to be held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC on April 24-27, 2008.

The Alberti Flea Circus will be performing

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Booth for Performing Fleas - £1

9ft Square Booth for Performing Fleas, with Two Grand Oil Paintings for same, price £1

This advert from was from a theatrical periodical Era Newspaper in January 1893 from a "TOM NORMAN, Silver King, Pearce's Temperance Hotel, Elephant and Castle, SE". Tom was selling up his fair equipment to allow him to travel to Chicago, USA, presumably to join up with the Worlds Fair that was there at the time. Tom Norman was quoted in his autobiography as saying "you could indeed exhibit anything in those days. Yes anything from a needle to an anchor, a flea to an elephant, a bloater you could exhibit as a whale. It was not the show; it was the tale that you told.". Nothing is currently known about the flea circus act or who bought the booth.

Read more about Tom Norman at the National Fairground Archive University of Shefield

Friday, 4 April 2008

Fleas down under this weekend

"On Sunday April 6th from 10am – 4pm, the UNIMA 2008 Carnival Day bursts into life with a dazzling line up of FREE performances, workshops, exhibitions, surprise entertainment and the official Million Puppet Project Guinness World Record for The World’s Largest Puppet Display!
Featuring 7 stages, over 32 International, Australian and roaming puppetry performances, 50 puppeteers, and an 8 metre shark from Esperance – Carnival Day has something for the whole family!
Celebrate and enjoy a day of discovery as you wander through Swerve’s landscape of transforming balgas, Trojan kangaroos, tinkers on boab bicycles and giant creatures from the sea. Welcome The Puppet Caravan performers who have travelled more than 5000 kilometres across Australia’s vast landscape to spread the puppet love or marvel at Allenby’s miniature flea circus."

Flea Art

There's a lot of people creating flea and flea circus related art. Here's one of my favourite recent finds, a chinese flea house. Hopefully I'll be able to collate enough works to have a Flea Circus Art page on the research library.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Flea Circus on the Internet

Due to a problem roughly equivalent to me not paying the bill, the Flea Circus Research Library site has been offline for the first couple of days of April. Sorry to anyone inconvenienced by that.

There's some good news however, the site should be back online shortly and has made it into the online directory DMOZ under the category "Science: Biology: Flora and Fauna: Animalia: Arthropoda: Insecta: Fleas". This should mean that more people find the site and hence I get sent more useful information to put on it.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

"Jock the Flea"

A few years ago when the script was being produced for the Flea Circus, the character Jock Denim was created. It has since come to light that there is a "Jock the Flea" character in the song "Jock the Flea" by Captain Beaky' writer Jeremy Lloyd. Jock the Flea specialises in jumping and feats of strength such as bending mouse hairs where Jock Denim's speciality is riding a unicycle. Jock Denim is voiced by Biz the Drummer.

It was not the intention of the Flea Circus Film to cause any confusion for Captain Beaky fans and we appologuise if anyone has visited the Flea Circus Film website by mistake when they were really looking for the Captain Beaky website.

For those interested in purchasing the "Jock the Flea" song, you can do so from the Captain Beaky website, details below.

"Jock the Flea" by Jeremy Lloyd - Captain Beaky Volume II.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Flea Circus Performance Calendar

Thanks to google calendar there is now a Flea Circus performance calendar which can be seen at the bottom of this blog. Let me know if you have events to be added.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Flea Circus News

The latest news in the world of the Flea Circus is that Malcolm Jephcott will be performing at Glastonbury this year, Sven Svenson has a new website and an ever increasing range and quality of flea circus for sale, finally there's a new flea circus travelling around Europe, details to follow.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Humane Fleas

Thanks to Esri Rose, I've discovered that the American Humane Society has insects guidelines for the use of insects in films. Nothing too unexpected, very similar to other animal guidelines but with the addition of a clause to stop them flying into the lights and importantly to stop them escaping into the wild. Nothing that any self respecting Flea Circus trainer would have difficulty complying with.

However the first clause "Nothing can be done to an insect that will cause permanent harm, or permanently alter its physical characteristics." is a debatable one. Although it does not cause harm, is conditioning a flea not to jump and tying it into a thin wire, permanently altering it's physical characteristics?

I'm sure everyone will be glad to hear that no fleas were harmed during the making of the Flea Circus Film.

The use of glue and heated trays in flea circuses is something that has been raised by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Insects and refuted by the Union of Fleacircus Operatives.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Memoirs from the Tivoli Flea Circus

I found some comments on Yahoo Answers about Flea Circuses so send out some enquiries had the following response from a helpful chap.

"I was in the U.S. Navy, and about 1958 we were sent to sea because of a conflict with Cuba. After about a month at sea it was announced on the ship that we were going to make an unofficial visit to Copenhagen Denmark. While there some of my shipmates and I were touring the city and ended up at Tivoli Gardens. It was like an amusement park of sorts. That was where we saw the flea circus. Your question prompted me to research, and I found the following site that describes the circus we visited. Being so long ago my memory is faint but the site describes what we saw. I hope it is helpful."

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Fleas at Historic Winchester 20th Feb

Professor Jephcott will be performing his flea circus just outside Winchester at the Tower Arts Centre on the 20th of February. There will be lots of shows through out the day so everyone should be able to get a close up look.
Getting to the Tower Arts Centre

Monday, 11 February 2008

Dark goings on

In Salem there's often talk of dark goings on. Luckily for them, this weekend it was Professor Jonathan Dark with his Flea Circus.
Jonathan has been performing the circus for five years now. He was inspired by a Broadway performance from Ricky Jay. The professor is pushing the boundaries of Flea Circus reseach and hopes to release his new ideas this spring. Hopefully he won't be releasing the fleas from their secret hiding place in his cane.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Early English Fleas

Following on my previous research on Gawen Smith, another trip to the British Library allowed me to investigate Jessica Wolfe's Phd work, Humanism, Machinery, and Renaissance Literature. A reference on page 191 referred to a "catalogue of mechanical minutiae", I mistakely was thinking this was a literal catalogue when it in fact referred to Thomas Moffett's poem "The silkwormes and their flies" (1599)

"The silkwormes and their flies" is described as being written by Thomas Moffatt countrie farmer and an apprentice in physicke for the great benifit and enriching of England. Printed at London by V.S. form Nicholas Ling and to be sold at his shop at the West ende of Paules, 1599

My research was made harder by the fact that the thing I was looking for turned out to be a margin note on this poem. Early English Books Online came to my rescue by having a search facility and by having the origional scans as well as the text.

Nay, for to speake of things more late and rife,
Who will not more admire those famous Fleas,
Made so by art, that art imparted life,
Making them skippe, and on mens hands to feaze,
And let out bloud with taper-poynted knife,
Which from a secret sheathe ranne out with ease:
The those great coches which the feloes did drive
With bended scrues, like things that were alive?
Made by Gawen Smith Anno, 1586
Ingenious & Germane, how didst thou convey
Thy Springs, thy Scrues, thy rowells, and thy flie?
Thy cogs, thy wardes, thy laths, how didst thou lay?
How did thy hand each peece to other tie?
O that this age enjoy'd thee but one day,
To shew thy Fleas to faithlesse gazers eye!
That great admireres might both lay and see,
In smallest things that greatest wonders bee.

This was a manual transcript so if you need the exact spelling or want to see the old English s/f's then you will need to refer to the origional document.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Professor Moves

Professor Jephcott from Devon has moved his website to or should that be his fleasite?

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Eddie Diijon and Der Tod des Flohzirkusdirektors

As part of my research into Flea Circuses I regularly scan ebay for "Flea Circus" related items. I was lucky to find two DVDs this month.

The first was "Der Tod des Flohzirkusdirektors" or "Death of the Flea Circus Director", a film from Thomas Koerfer 1973. This fictional account of the life of Ottocaro Weiss has some good scenes with real flea performances. Following the death of the fleas the Ottocaro's act takes a much darker turn. The film is in German with English subtitles.

One of the things I find interesting about this piece is the performer's historical story telling as part of the act. It's known that this was the style that L.Bertolotto used in his performances.

The second film Eddie Diijon - Entertainer and Showman is an autobiography from this Canadian performer. Eddie learnt the art of Flea training from an Old Chinese gentleman when he was doing the club circuit in Hong Kong. With his act he appeared at the Canadian National Exhibition and on the David Letterman show.

You can purchase the Eddie Diijon DVD from Balance Productions, 181 Devonshire Ave,
London, Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Sanders the Great

Sanders the Great: mentalist, magician, mindreader, wizard of the east, wonder of wonders has been writing about Flea Circuses.

He promises to entertain you with the latest news from the World of magic, enlighten you with his words on magical literature and bedazzle you with intriguing glimpses into his vault of magical curiosities.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Apparently some people don't like fleas

I can't believe it, there's people out there who don't actually like fleas. A friend of mine send me the following link to a Flea Zapper.

Sven's Flea Circus

Sven Svenson has been working hard on his flea circus. The videos below show his cigar box circus and some excellently crafted miniature circus wagons, the size of a 5p.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Dee Clements' Embroidery

The talented Dee Clements has produced an excellent sample with a flea circus.