COVID-19 Questions?

Learn more about UW’s COVID response; email or call (608) 262-7777.

During this time, please contact us at

Stop the spiny water flea – Audio

Stop the spiny water flea - Audio

Bret Shaw, Extension Environmental Communications Specialist
(Music by Ella Shaw)
Department of Life Sciences Communication
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
brshaw@wisc.eduSpiny water flea newspaper


2:56 – Total Time

0:15 – Spiny water flea invasion
0:32 – Screws up native fisheries & water
1:05 – One tough egg
1:34 – Catchy tune to remember by
2:30 – More information
2:47 – Lead out


 Sevie Kenyon: Preventing the spread of the spiny water flea. We’re visiting today with Bret Shaw Department of Life Science Communication University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Bret, introduce us to the spiny water flea.

Bret Shaw: Spiny water fleas came to the United States in the 1980s in the bilge water from freight ships coming over from Europe and within a decade or two had spread throughout all of the Great Lakes and now they are moving into the inland lakes.

Sevie Kenyon: And Bret, what do these spiny water fleas do?

Bret Shaw: The thing that people will notice most is they make the water more green and that is because they eat the animals that that eat the algae. The animals that eat the algae are also food for smaller native fish and so when you take away them in the food supply you have less food for native fish, which are in turn food for large game fish, so you can see how this creates problems in terms of greener water and degraded fisheries.

Sevie Kenyon: Bret, how are people going about preventing the spread of this invader?

Bret Shaw: Spiny water fleas will tend to move in the water, the bilge water, the mud on your anchor that can be many many many eggs on your muddy anchor that can last a whole winter out of water and then when you put that anchor back in the lake those eggs can still hatch. So tremendously robust eggs, so we think not moving water and especially not moving mud between lakes is the way to prevent their spread.

Sevie Kenyon: Bret is there a good way to remember the steps for preventing this spread of the spiny water flea?

Bret Shaw: Well my eleven-year-old daughter wrote a song that we thought would help communicate the threat of spiny water fleas and guidance on what steps to follow and that might be one thing people can listen to, to learn the basically easy to understand steps to prevent spiny water fleas.

“So clean your bilge, live well, and motors

            this is good advice to all you boaters

            try this time

            cause if you don’t know how we’ll tell you

            if you don’t know where it’s in our local lakes

use our tools to conquer the spiny water flea”

Sevie Kenyon: Bret, where can people get more information?

Bret Shaw: We’ve set up a website that you can find online at and this has action steps that you can take to prevent the spread of spiny water fleas. Also, some of the the science that explains the issue and a fun video that people can share on social media to get the word out.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Bret Shaw Department of Life Science Communication University of Wisconsin-Madison/ Extension in the College of Agricultural Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.