Fleas are amazing, nearly indestructible little freaks of nature. They (as I learned this morning from a fellow noder) build up immunities to insecticides and in fact evolve to flourish in environments full of certain types of chemicals (damn the little bastards!) which renders a once-effective flea killing agent no good at all after a few seasons. Worse, they cause endless kinds and shapes of discomfort and ickiness for you and your family's pets.

Tapeworms are transmitted by fleas. Here's how it goes: Rover has fleas. Being a dog, he scratches at himself with his little front teeth, thereby ingesting one of the blasted offenders. Said ingested offender has tapeworm eggs in its belly. Eggs hatch inside Rover, and hurrah, you've got a tapeworm infestation. (Characterized by weight loss in spite of an abnormally voracious appetite; things that look like animate rice escaping from his anus and crawling about on his stool; large, segmented worms squiggling around in his vomit. Nice.) Tapeworms are certainly gross but they can be pretty readily obliterated with medication your vet's got on hand.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (F.A.D.) is another disgusting thing fleas bring along with them. Fleas bite, the bites itch. Some dogs and even some cats are actually allergic to flea saliva, and so after just one little flea bite, they start to itch and scratch like lunatics. Their hair starts to fall out and a red, sometimes lumpy rash starts to spread. It's a very uncomfortable condition, and the only real fix for it is to get rid of the fleas once and for all.

Hot Spots are another gift that fleas have given us, and our pets. Hot Spots differ from F.A.D. because they don't involve an allergic reaction. If your pet constantly scratches and bites at the flea-infested areas on his body, he can actually end up biting patches of his fur off and chewing through several layers of his skin, exposing a raw, pussy, inflamed and extremely uncomfortable area that is sensitive to the touch. The real bitch of this situation is that the more the affected area burns and itches, the more your critter will pick and bite and scratch at it, which of course makes the condition worse, which makes the scratching worse, et cetera ad nauseum. Desenex Athlete's Foot Powder is really helpful for curing hotspots. It tastes terrible, (evidently,) and it helps to dry out the moist, infected area. Cortisone shots from the vet, antibiotic pills to help prevent systemic infection, and getting completely rid of the fleas are also helpful for treating hotspots.

There are some products on the market that are currently effective in killing fleas and their larvae. Of course, these things might only be good for the next year or two. Frontline and Advantage are topical treatments you use on your pet's skin once a month. There are some oral medications that have good reputations as well, but I haven't tried them on my own critters so I don't know how they compare to the topicals.

Killing adult fleas isn't going to do you any good, really, if that's the only step you take towards flea-eradication in your home. It's better than nothing, but only marginally. Eventually, the eggs that have been laid in your carpet, upholstery, bedding, and other porous places will hatch, those new fleas will breed, and you'll be back at square one within 14 to 21 days. I've been a pet owner and an animal health tech just about forever, and this is the way I like to go about de-fleaing when I need to:
1) Seal up the car, set off a flea bomb in there. Wait several hours.
2) Treat the critters. Bathe them, dip them, use the topical meds, or whatever. But get the adult fleas off of them completely. Use a flea comb to make sure they're all dead and they're all gone. Put critters in the car WITH the a/c on. (I'm sure nobody needs to be reminded that putting your pet in a hot car in the summer is akin to putting him in the microwave, right?)
3) Spray the house. After you've vacuumed, taken down the drapes and the animal bedding and thrown all that in the wash, after you've cleaned the whole entire house really, painfully, Martha-Stewart thoroughly, after you've closed the windows, turned the a/c off, and covered the dishes and food items that aren't put away, use a non-aresol type of spray that contains a growth regulator for fleas. These kinds of insecticides (currently) render the fleas that will come out of the eggs (that you can't really kill effectively) sterile so they won't breed once they hatch. Thoroughly spray all carpets, upholstery, and under things like tables and beds where the mist from your bombs isn't going to reach. (See step 4)
4) Bomb your house. Not in a guerilla warfare kind of way, I mean with flea bombs that again contain a growth-regulating chemical. You need one in every room for sure, and if your rooms are big, use more. Set the bombs off, start them spitting, then get the hell out of dodge.
5) Drive around in your car with your creatures for about 4-6 hours, depending on what the directions on the bombs say. Come home, open the windows, air the joint out and relax. But don't relax a lot, because...
6) If you really want this to work and you're completely serious about it, all of the above should be repeated in 14 days.

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
- Augustus De Morgan.

There can hardly be a person on the planet who wouldn't recognise a flea if they saw one; they are found literally all over the world and fossils dating back 200,000,000 years have been found in Australia.

Fleas are pesky little 'critters' that delight in hopping aboard the nearest warm blooded animal for a blood meal. All fleas (and there are over 1600 species of them) belong to the insect group Siphonaptera. Most, but not all, of these feed exclusively on one species of host. Exceptions to the rule include mouse and rat fleas which are happy to hop from one type of animal to another whenever hunger strikes.

This ability to jump species was responsible for wiping out around a third of the population of Europe in the 14th Century when rat fleas jumped off their dying hosts and transferred the bacteria responsible for the Black Death to man - it's no wonder we have an abhorrance for these insignificant looking insects.

As with probably every other living thing, even the humble flea is susceptible to parasites of its own. They can become infected with nematode worms, mites, bacterial, fungal and protozoan infections.

Impact on people

Fleas have a significant impact on humans and their pets and domestic animals. Flea bites directly cause:
  • Itching and redness at site of bite. Scratching may lead to secondary infections and sores.
  • When a flea bites it excretes chemicals in the saliva which digest and soften the skin. Allergic reaction to flea saliva is common and may result in Flea Allergy Dermatitis or FAD leading to intense, widespread itching, inflammation and hair loss.
  • Severe infestations cause anemia, sometimes to the point of death, especially in vulnerable new-born animals.
Indirectly fleas bites can be extremely dangerous because they act as vectors transmitting a number of other diseases:

Life cycle of the flea


The most easily identifiable stage of the flea's life cycle is the adult form. They have hard, shiny brown bodies, 0.1-0.8cm long, which are flattened laterally. The distinctive shape of the flea allows it to crawl unhindered through the dense hairs or feathers on the bodies of their hosts. Many species have rows of backward facing bristles, combs and spines which catch in the fur helping the flea to remain in place when the host animal tries to shake or scratch it off.

Adult fleas have specially modified mouth parts designed to feed on blood. Once they have emerged from their cocoon they can live for up to a fortnight without a blood meal, but before they emerge they can hibernate for up to one year. Blood passes quickly through their bodies and is excreted in the faeces. Flea feaces look like small black specks of dust - a surefire way to detect the presence of fleas in your pet is to sprinkle dust from their coat onto damp blotting paper. The dried blood in the faeces becomes bright red on contact with the water.

Fleas are wingless but possess an incredible ability to jump due to the evolution of specialised back legs. The world record for the highest flea jump (yes, there is such a thing) is 34 inches - that's a force of 200g!


Tiny white eggs, the size of salt grains, are deposited in the bedding of the host animal, or on the animal itself, at a rate of 15-50 a day. The eggs can drop off anywhere and happily mature in carpets, cracks in floorboards or in moist sand and gravel. The eggs take between 2 days and 2 weeks to hatch depending on conditions.


The larvae look like small legless caterpillars. They are blind and seek out moist dark places where they go through 2 moults before pupation; this can take from a week to several months. During this time they feed on dead skin and other organic matter, and semi-digested blood from the feaces of the adult fleas.


After the second moult the larva produces a cocoon of silk stuck together with other debris from its surroundings. During the next week to 14 days, a mature adult is formed inside the cocoon and lies dormant until conditions are right for hatching. The hibernating adult is sensitive to heat, noise, vibration and carbon dioxide, all of which indicate a nice warm body to feed off, so out it jumps ready to go on a wild feeding spree!


  • Insecticides such as pyrethrum, rotenone, and malathion eliminate adult fleas and may be dusted onto animals or used in lotions and shampoos. Chlorinated hydrocarbons and organo- phosphates are also used on suitable animals. Some of these chemicals are very toxic to certain animals and great care must be taken when prescribing and administering them. Secondary measures may be required to stop reinfection as the eggs and larvae hatch.
  • Flea collars are often used for pet cats and dogs. These emit a toxic (to fleas) gas which kills adult fleas near the animal's neck. If this method of control is used, it is helpful to put a collar in the vacuum cleaner bag to kill any emerging fleas which have been 'hoovered' up. Eggs and larvae are unaffected.
  • Spot-on treatments (brands include Bio-Spot, Advantage and FrontLine) provide long lasting (up to 8 weeks) effectiveness by killing adults and larvae and also prevent the eggs from hatching.
  • Oral (and injectable) medications such as Program and Sentinel circulate in the blood of the host. When this is absorbed by feeding females their eggs are rendered incapable of hatching, thus breaking the life cycle.
  • Careful vacuuming and frequent washing of pet bedding helps break the life cycle and reduces the size of the flea infestation.

And finally, just for fun...

A flea and a fly
Flew up in a flue.
Said the flea, "Let us fly!"
Said the fly, "Let us flee!"
So they flew through a flap in the flue.

Nice pics of life cycle can be found at http://www.placervillevet.com/flea_life_cycle.htm

Michael Peter Balzary a.k.a. "Flea"

born: Oct 16 1962, Melbourne, Australia


I stumbled upon this node on The Content Rescue Team's Nodes page. I was shocked that such a popular and "important" contemporary musician did not have a biography worthy of his own reputation. Having collated information from several websites and also my own knowledge, I'm hoping that this one will be.


Flea is the stage name and nickname of Michael Balzary, best known as the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He is famous for his funky slap bass style that forms the foundation of the original funk-metal band.

"Being a Red Hot Chili Pepper is about being free and not being tied down to anything; not trying to fit into any mold or any category and just as far as a lifestyle which extends to the way you look, the way you talk. Anyone that would consciously apply any sort of rock and roll cliches to their life obviously would not be a Red Hot Chili Pepper and someone who had a love for music - particularly natural passion for funk music - would be someone who could be in the Red Hot Chili Peppers."


Born on 16th October, 1962 in Melbourne, Australia to Australian parents. His parents divorced while he was very young, and his mother remarried to a New York jazz musician called Walter Urban, Jr. In 1967, Michael moved to New York with his mother, stepdad, and sister Karen. His stepfather was a major influence - Michael learned to play trumpet and developed a keen interest in jazz.

In 1973, the family relocated to Los Angeles and Michael started at Fairfax High School. Playing trumpet with the L.A. Junior Philharmonic Orchestra, he showed great talent, but was teased at school for his unusual musical taste and odd Australian-American accent.

His first encounter with fellow pupil, Anthony Kiedis, was in 10th grade:

"I had this guy in a headlock and Anthony told me to let go of him or he'd kick the shit out of me".

Somehow this initial encounter led to the two becoming best friends. In 1979 they started hanging around with Jack Irons and schoolmate Hillel Slovak, forming a band called Anthym. It was around this time that Michael was re-christened "Flea". Being a four-piece rock band, Anthym needed a bassist, so Hillel taught Flea how to play bass guitar. Flea quickly became a very proficient bass player.


Flea's skills as a bassist were unsurprisingly intriguing to local bands in the L.A. music scene at the time. In 1981, he toured for a while with the up-and-coming hardcore punk band, Fear (contemporaries of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks). He was offered a permanent place in the band, but turned it down.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: The Early Years

In the mean time, Anthym had become Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, playing strip bars along the Sunset Strip in the early '80s. In 1983, they changed name again - opting to call themselves the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea's uniquely funky slap bass style and Anthony's bizarre vocal style set them apart from other bands.

They secured a record contract with EMI, but before they could record their first album Hillel and Jack quit to concentrate on their other band - What Is This. Recruiting guitarist Jack Sherman and drummer Cliff Martinez as replacements, RHCP recorded their self-titled debut album. The highlight track was True Men Don't Kill Coyotes which stood out due to Flea's incredible slapped basslines.

By 1985, What Is This had folded, so Hillel was brought back to record their next album, Freaky Styley (produced by funk legend, George Clinton). With the return of Jack Irons for the 1987 release of The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, RHCP had finally recorded an album with their "proper" line-up.

Sadly this line-up would never record another album, as Hillel Slovak suffered a fatal heroin overdose on June 25, 1988. Flea was devastated:

"Hillel changed my life. If it wasn't for Hillel, there's no way I'd be sitting here now, because he turned me onto rock music."

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Mother's Milk to Present

After Hillel's death, Jack Irons left the band for good. John Frusciante, a dedicated young fan of the band, was chosen as replacement guitarist as he had been inspired by Hillel's style. Chad Smith was the replacement drummer. The first album recorded by the new line-up was Mother's Milk (1989), a minor commercial success featuring excellent funk covers of Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder) and Fire (Jimi Hendrix) as well as Knock Me Down - an ode to Hillel Slovak.

In 1991 the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their definitive album: BloodSugarSexMagik. Flea believed his distinctive bass style was being too widely imitated, so he didn't use slap bass technique on the album. This didn't prevent him from impressing on two of the hits from the album, Give It Away and Suck My Kiss. Flea was happy to play a subdued role in the smash hit ballad, Under The Bridge - unlike many gifted bassists, he always lets the song take precedence over his own showmanship.

Since BSSM, Flea's role in the band has been less prominent, as the band have drifted away from funk-metal towards a more radio-friendly melodic rock sound. However, his energetic live performances are still a real attraction, and he is incredibly popular with both fellow band members and fans. The last album, By The Way, showed a slight return to the band's funk-metal roots with tracks like Can't Stop and the title track allowing Flea to let loose with his explosive bass technique once again.

Other Musical Appearances

Flea is a widely respected musican, winning Bass Player magazine's Bassist of the Year award in 1996. This has meant that he has been much in demand as a guest musician alongside his work with RHCP. He used his trumpet playing ability to help Jane's Addiction on their studio debut, Nothing's Shocking. He has also been Jane's Addiction's touring bassist since Eric Avery refused to tour with them.

Other notable appearances include his role as guest bassist on Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know (Jagged Little Pill) and his frequent collaborations with artists such as Tricky and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony demonstrating the extraordinary breadth of his influence.

Myrigth has also written an excellent review of Flea's bass instructional video, entitled Flea: Adventures in Spontaneous Jamming and Techniques.


Flea favours Fender basses, particular the Fender Jazz Bass model. His current bass, the Flea-Bass is a signature model by Modulus Guitars that resembles a Fender bass. BloodSugarSexMagik was recorded with a Wal bass, while on One Hot Minute he used an Alembic Epic.

His amp set-up incorporates Gallien Krueger heads and Mesa/Boogie cabs.


Flea has always been a keen actor, making his debut appearance in 1983's The Wild Side (directed by Penelope Spheeris). He was also very good friends with child star, River Phoenix, who tragically went the same way as Hillel Slovak in 1993 at the age of 23. He is reported to have become very unwell due to grief following the loss.

After many small support roles in films, he finally picked up a lead role in 1999 with the part of Freddie in Jeff Santo's Liar's Poker. He also provides voiceover on the animated children's series, The Wild Thornberrys.

Films appearances include:


Flea (?), v. t. [See Flay.]

To flay.


He will be fleaced first And horse collars made of's skin. J. Fletcher.


© Webster 1913.

Flea, n. [OE. fle, flee, AS. fle�xa0;, fle�xa0;h; akin to D. , OHG. flh, G. floh, Icel. fl, Russ. blocha; prob. from the root of E. flee. 84. See Flee.] Zool.

An insect belonging to the genus Pulex, of the order Aphaniptera. Fleas are destitute of wings, but have the power of leaping energetically. The bite is poisonous to most persons. The human flea (Pulex irritans), abundant in Europe, is rare in America, where the dog flea (P. canis) takes its place. See Aphaniptera, and Dog flea. See Illustration in Appendix.

A flea in the ear, an unwelcome hint or unexpected reply, annoying like a flea; an irritating repulse; as, to put a flea in one's ear; to go away with a flea in one's ear. -- Beach flea, Black flea, etc. See under Beach, etc.


© Webster 1913.

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