They are the unsung heroes of pollinating believe it or not, as according to a study by the University of New England, the common blowfly can carry more pollen stuck to its body than a honeybee. My husband hates them and will stalk them around the house, armed with a swat in one hand and a can of insecticide in the other. For a man who is compassionate enough to rescue bees from drowning, he’s pretty aggressive about flies.
But anyone who happens to live near farmland will know what flies are like, and most wouldn’t save one because of its pollinating prowess.
Turn your back, and there is a family hanging onto your flyscreen trying to get in, with all eyes feasting on your sticky knife. And talking of eyes - did you know that flies look at the world in quite a different way than we do? Their eyes are made up of thousands of individual visual receptors, each of which is a functioning eye in itself. No wonder they don’t miss much.
Flies are scavengers, consuming rotting organic matter, which is a very important role in the environment. If it wasn’t for flies, there would be more rubbish and dead animal carcasses everywhere. The black soldier fly, for example, can have up to 600 larvae, and with each of these quickly consuming half a gram of organic matter per day, this small family can eat an entire household’s organic waste each year – in theory at any rate. And then flies unwittingly turn themselves into food for live birds, spiders, frogs and lizards. Pretty cool if you think about it.
Their typical lifespan is 15 to 25 days, and they are mostly active during the day, but they can be a nuisance at night too while they’re looking for somewhere to sleep (with such a short lifespan, you wonder why they bother to sleep – but apparently their brains need sleep as much as ours do).
People ask if houseflies spread diseases, and yes, they most certainly do. Houseflies can carry over 100 pathogens that they spread when they land on your food or when they lay eggs on, say, your dog’s waste. Plus, these filthy flies constantly poo themselves —wherever they happen to land, including your kitchen table. Another disgusting habit, they will eat something, chuck it back up, and then eat it again in liquefied form. When flies go through this eating process everywhere, they’re spreading bacteria.
The flies that irritate me the most are those ones that don’t seem to land. These common little flies resemble houseflies, but they annoyingly and silently fly in erratic circles in the middle of a room or on a porch. They can lay their eggs in any organic material, including compost piles, pet faeces, dead leaves, etc., so don’t be fooled into thinking they are harmless just because they don’t seem to land!
I found a recipe for a flytrap, which was to use a small bottle and add ½ cup water, ½ cup apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar, topped off with 1 tablespoon of dishwashing soap, which breaks the surface tension of the mix and stops them getting out. It said almost all flies, no matter their normal food preference, will enter the trap.
So I made one. Hmm. I am still waiting. I think word has got around the fly world to avoid this, as they still seem to find my coffee cup far more interesting!