Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Buzzin' Cousins

The other day I tried imagining I was a fly, and I was reasonably successful, but that was because I didn't read up on them first. They have some admirable qualities but the whole package is kind of a deal-breaker. There are lots of kinds of flies, but I was thinking of the house fly, as distinguished from the, um, field fly. They seem sort of tidy and delicate. They have that reputation of being dirty because they land in stuff we don't approve of and track it in on their feet, but their feet are so little. It hardly seems they could bring in enough of a bacterial quorum to whomp up a good disease.  I guess they do, though, from time to time.

And they have that cute little mouth doodad. No nasty teeth or anything. It's just a little wand with a sponge on the end of it, and they dab it into their food. How bad could that be? Well, turns out they can't eat solid food, so if they want to get anything down, they have to soften it up by spitting or vomiting on it first.  I do not know if poop is soft enough that they don't need to throw up on it, but I certainly would.

Each female house fly shoots out about five hundred eggs in a lifetime, which is pretty good considering they only live two to four weeks. They lay them in batches of seventy-five or so. They only mate one time and then they store the sperm, because they don't really have a concept of "funky." Female house flies, it is interesting to note, can be told from male house flies because there's a lot more space between their eyes. The males' eyes are practically touching. Which invites, it seems to me, speculation about their intellect.

The eggs are laid somewhere moist where the ensuing maggots will have plenty to eat. Mud or poop does nicely, and so does a recently deceased animal, or a living sheep butt. I know about the sheep butt because that's where I once saw one of my most memorable patches of maggots. Our friend Scott's sheep, Einstein, presented one day with a thoroughly revolting condition in the uh-oh region, and it required a regimen of care that would turn any rancher into a tomato farmer. I couldn't even wear wool for a long time.

An article I read said the main problems with house flies are that they spread disease on their tiny feet and they're annoying. I find the second complaint a little precious. After all, the reason house flies have been associated with people for so long is that we are an excellent source of poop and garbage, so who's judging? But it is true: for something that does not bite us, they're pretty annoying. Even the winter ones (some do hibernate in lieu of dropping dead), which are so slow and logy you could swat them with an on-line newspaper, are annoying. And all they do is buzz dully and fly hither and yon to no purpose and aspire to light while pointlessly banging around on the windowsill.

I think they remind us of us.

31 comments:

  1. Your last line said what I was thinking as I was reading the last paragraph. I used to think of humanity as a whole like sheep -- docile and easily led. Houseflies seems more apt, as I find sheep cute rather than annoying -- something I rarely say about people.

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    1. Violent sheep, though. Now there's a vision.

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  2. Anything that buzzes around aiming its feet or spongy tongue at my food gets despatched toot sweet! I don't like flies, especially the bigger buzzy ones who lay much larger eggs that become much larger maggots. Let them all live outside.

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    1. But then you have to go outside. Have you seen those fly guns? You shoot a swatter at them.

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  3. Just last week I saw TWO flies (or maybe one very fast fly?) in the supermarket. My brain interpreted this to mean either a) the supermarket had eased up on the chemical cleaning or b) the flies were adapting to the chemicals...

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    1. Eww, supermarkets use chemicals for flies? Bleah.

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    2. Well they must use something;you don't usually see flies, dead or alive, there.

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  4. They leave little, tiny poop spots, too. Mostly, they are just disgusting and annoying reminding me of people, too.

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    1. Poor flies. Only get to poop for three weeks.

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  5. Having sex once & then continuing to make babies? That seems a little turned around to me!!

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  6. This will probably gross you out, but my most intimate experiences with maggots was in the forensic lab, looking for drugs because there wasn't any tissue left on a corpse. Blenders were involved.

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    1. Um, I also worked in a lab using blenders. No one wants to hear about it.

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    2. Ah! The legendary "lost" Marx Brothers movie!

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  7. You should investigate the way maggots help forensic people determine the length bodies have been dead. Different species like bodies dead for different lengths of time, I think. And I'm about to learn first hand, all about black flies, up here in Maine.

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    1. NOO! That's where I learned about black flies. Didn't even know they existed before. I mowed the lawn ONCE and came back looking like Jesus, post-Crown of Thorns.

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    2. Have a pint of blood ready for the transfusion.

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  8. The maggots on a live sheep thing is called "fly strike." At least that's what the sheep owner in Maine called it. Eew. A sheep side note: to sterilize the males their family jewels are "crunched" with a cruncher thingamabob. The poor things are stunned for a minute afterwards but then go on as if nothing had happened. My 2 weeks on a sheep farm 23 years ago left me with those two strange memories.

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    1. So, that wasn't just a one-time deal? It's a thing? (Crossing shepherd off my list of things to do when I grow up)

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    2. here in Australia sheep farming is a big thing, like your cattle ranches over there, we have 'sheep stations', thousands of acres, many sheep. Each year there is a time set aside for "crutching' which is the removal of wool around the tail area of sheep. This makes it less common for sheep to get fly-blown and if one does, it is easier seen and faster treated. Some people think crutching is cruel and shouldn't be done, but a fly-blown sheep, getting eaten alive by maggots and having the saleable wool ruined is far worse in my opinion. Added to that, he's a danger to the rest of the flock.

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    3. And also less attractive to the shepherd. Aww, that was rude. I'm sorry.

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  9. Someone's already mentioned the fact that black flies bite (might have been you, even) but there's also the wonderful horse fly - a big fella who will take a big hunk out of ya ... so much for flies not biting!

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    1. There are a LOT of flies. HOUSE flies don't bite.

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    2. True. Note to self: read more closely. :)

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  10. A couple of summers ago we had biting flies EVERYWHERE outside that were so small they qualified for the "no-see-um" title. Sneaky little buggers, they loved to attack people around the hairline and on the neck, you didn't know they were there until the large welts began to show. Saw plenty of vacationers that had been nailed while at the lakes in the area.

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    1. I am never moving from this place! Well, wait a minute...there was that tick...

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  11. Somehow, I immediately thought of the current nominees in the race for leader of the free world when I read: "..we are an excellent source of poop and garbage". Thought provoking post!

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    1. But the very finest poop and garbage.

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