They may be the most commonly recognized, omnipresent pest there is, but also the most misunderstood.
The fly. They’ve inspired movies, songs, children’s verses and “swatters” – but what do we really know about them? As a service to Pest Management Professional readers, I sat down at an outdoor cafe recently to interview one outspoken fly. I arrive at our table to find my interview subject is already there, looking impatient. He speaks before I even sit down.
Fly: At the outset I’d like to explain that I am not here
to represent all flies. There are about 300,000 species
of us, so if we could keep things in fairly general
terms, I’d appreciate it.
Pest Management Professional (Pmp): Absolutely! Thanks for agreeing to meet with me. I didn’t expect you to beat me here.
Fly: See these wings? I can flap’em 200 times a second.
I’d also like to mention that’s faster than a hummingbird. Impressive right?
Pmp: Very! How many wings do you have? Most insects have four.
Fly: Not me. Just the two … and they get me where I need to go at a max speed of about 5 miles per hour. I’m the only insect that can say that by the way.
Pmp: Wow. I confess, most everything I know about the fly I learned from the movies- [I’m cut off by a dramatic sigh.] What’s wrong?
Fly: Those movies are terrible PR for my kind.
Pmp: Point taken. But I saw the 1986 remake of the ‘The Fly” when I was a kid and one scene stands out; do you really vomit on your food before you eat it like Jeff Goldblum did in that movie?
Fly: It’s not something I like talking about, but yes. We don’t have teeth and most of us don’t own blenders so we use our saliva to break down solids for us. Think of it as biological smoothie making.
Pmp: I’d rather not. [I stop our waiter at this point, cancel our lunch orders and order two coffees.]
Fly: We lay our eggs on food too. Even yours; especially if it’s sweet. We’re 10 million times more sensitive to the taste of sugar than humans.
Pmp: Moving on from your eating habits … How old are you?
Fly: Not the most polite question, but if you must know, I’m 15.
Pmp: Fifteen years?
Fly: Fifteen days. That’s middle aged for us, bub. My life span is about 20 to 30 days – which reminds me, can we wrap this up soon? I’ve got a lot to do today.
Pmp: Are you dangerous?
Fly: Well, I won’t bite or sting you if that’s what you mean.
Pmp: That’s not what I asked.
Fly: Well. .. [voice cracks] Sorry. This isn’t easy for me. It’s been estimated that I carry no less than 1,940,000 bacteria on my body, and some of my brethren in other countries spread disease like it’s their job. [Our bill arrives. He pulls it out of reach with the sticky, glue producing footpads that enable him to walk on walls.] I’ve got the bill, but you’ll have to read it to me.
Pmp: Really? Don’t you have-?
Fly: Four thousand lenses in each eye? Yes. For all the good they do me. Surprisingly, I have very poor vision.
Pmp: One last question; if an old lady swallowed a fly, could she really die?
Fly: Probably not if it were a common housefly like me. I’d be more concerned with the spider she swallows to catch the fly.
By: Will Nepper, Senior Editor, Pest Management Professional Magazine