German flea circus hit by freeze

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File photo of a flea pulling a circus cart, September 2005
Image caption,
The circus fleas are made to perform tricks such as pulling miniature carts

A flea circus in Germany has been scrambling to replace its performers after the entire troupe was wiped out by this spring's freezing weather.

Circus director Robert Birk told the BBC he found some 300 fleas dead inside their transport box last week.

It was the first time the cold had killed a whole troupe in one go.

A university insect expert, Professor Heinz Mehlhorn, managed to provide 60 replacement fleas in time for a performance at an open-air fair.

Mr Birk said it had been a "very difficult moment" when he discovered that the tiny circus stars had died.

"It's hard to know when minus temperatures will be fatal for them," he told the BBC.

"But the show must go on."

Training began immediately for the new recruits. "I worked solidly for two days," Mr Birk earlier told the Online Focus website, noting that the replacement team lacked a little pizzazz.

Museum director Michael Faber, who organises the fair in the western town of Mechernich-Kommern, said he hoped the new fleas would get through the show without suffering further casualties.

"This is no April Fool's. We saved the situation, otherwise there would have been no performance," he said.

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