If you have ever attempted to kill the fleas on your pets then you may know how hardy they can be. However, various problems have plighted flea circuses, even the great L. Bertolotto had problems with his fleas dying in the cold on his trip to New York.
An American friend of Charlie Cochrane suggested that he could bring to America some acts including a flea circus. Charlie duly commissioned a Scotsman who had already shown fleas at the Aquarium, a theatre, to obtain and train a Flea circus to go to America with him. However the Fleas were sealed in a box and failed to survive the trip across the Atlantic.11 There is a playbill advertising Vidcou's Performing Fleas at Royal Aquarium 12 December 1885 but its not necessarily the Scotsman.
Pete Collins the famous showman had a "Great Flea Circus Disaster" when a slide projector broke and sizzled all the fleas9
Yet another act who has trouble with with the performers dying out in the cold was Mimi Garneau, who discovered that Florida fleas did not like the cold weather of Canada. In an attempt to rectify the problem she even shipped a dog from the USA but the fleas were dead on arrival.15
More recently Maria Cardoso and Walt Noon failed to bring live animals (fleas) into the UK because of lack of import licenses for their flea acts.
Walt suffered a bigger problem when transporting his circus, I'll let him tell the story in his own words:
"When I was to appear on National Geographic I traveled to New Orleans from California
and the fleas flew safely by FedEx. However, airport security did not like the looks
of my suitcase which contained the circus. (On Xray I'm sure they saw many metal
tubes and wires in an irregular box, so I'm sure that didn't look good.) In order
to test the suitcase for explosives, they sprayed the inside down with something
that seemed like WD-40! I guess this stuff was supposed to evaporate, but it left
a slight residue. After getting set up for the cameras, we found that any trained
flea set on the circus diving board dropped dead literally in seconds! It happened
so fast in fact, that at first we thought it had to be heat from the studio lights,
but we checked and the board was perfectly cool. We ended up having to shoot the
ACTUAL scenes of the fleas performing at other locations off the circus as it may
as well have been covered with INSECTICIDE!. And a few interesting observations:
First, even 6 months later, after carefully cleaning the circus many times, a flea
placed on my high dive will still dropped dead from this stuff, so the circus was
effectively ruined for fleas, and I'm a little worried what they are spraying in
OUR suitcases! I was pretty upset to lose 3 trained fleas before we figured out
what was going on!"
UK Flea Trainer, Malcom Jephcott managed to tip over a whole jar of fleas in his workshop, his wife suggested that he wore a flea collar in bed.
In the advert for DHL a foolish flea owner has his fleas "stamped" when he posts them using a rival service.
Weekly World News, September, 2003 reports of a Russian flea circus trainer "Vladimir Ponekin" being attacked by his fleas.
There's been a few accident's in flea films too with P.T.Flea's show going terribly wrong in Bugs Life and Eric Koerfer dark film Death of a Flea Circus Director.See Flea Circus History and Advertising with Flea Circuses