Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
-- John Donne, 17th century
-- Illustration by Robert Hooke, 1665

Kudos to whoever invented the flea. Its tiny mouth parts are specially designed to pierce skin and suck blood from innocent mammals (including humans) and birds.
Its legs are long and well adapted for jumping. A flea can jump vertically up to seven inches and horizontally up to thirteen inches. That's about 200 times its own body length, making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size). And speaking of bodies, theirs are laterally compressed, extremely hard and polished, and able to withstand great pressure, allowing for easy movement through their hosts' fur or feathers, and making it virtually impossible to crush them. The only way I know to kill them is by drowning, or of course highly toxic chemicals.

We have fleas. We haven't had fleas for many, many years, but they're here now, with a vengeance. I hate them. Zoe hates them. Xander hates them. Frankie hates them. But we are determined to prevail over them, and KILL, KILL, KILL every last one of them. My lovely landlord is now treating all of the outside areas (where there are tons of plants, grasses, and roving cats and dogs), and will do so regularly throughout the summer. I naively bought a knock-off version of Advantage which didn't do SQUAT, but I've now been advised by two vets to wait a couple weeks before applying the real deal. So we're stuck in a horrible limbo. I know the Advantage will solve most (if not all) of our problems -- it's a wonder drug, even though it's highly toxic, and I do have some reservations about rubbing toxic chemicals on my little pets. I'm just itching to use it (literally)! In the meantime, I'm spraying OFF on my legs, and putting the cats through a rigorous daily grooming routine in which many bastardly fleas are combed out and drowned in soapy water, struggling for survival in their own tiny bloodbath. I've also ordered some special cedar oil spray which is supposed to be an effective, non-toxic, repellent (See William Blake's "Ghost of a Flea" at upper left.)

I feel so low being infested with fleas like this: sub-human. But really, haven't humans always had an intimate relationship with fleas, and not just because of the pets and livestock that we keep? I'm sure my beloved Jondalar from "Clan of the Cave Bear" had fleas. And I'm sure all the Pellucidarians at the center of the earth have fleas. And haven't most people had fleas (and worse) throughout most of our history (especially in Europe)? Fleas are just one more little piece of nature, right? That doesn't mean I have to like them though, and I will not succumb to them the way the bulk of Europe did in the fourteenth century. I won't!


  1. I've got them too, I usually just try and hang until I can't take it anymore, then I whip out the pesticides too...

  2. I feel especially bad because both Peter and Mr. G are covered in bites, yet I have none! FYI, the cedar oil treatment works well :)