Marilyn Hagerty, Forum Communications, Published August 12 2012
Marilyn Hagerty: Phillip the Fly is back for a visit
What do we have here? I have told readers in this column before, and I tell you again — we have the beginning of possibly a quintillion flies in August.
Yep, that’s how many offspring two flies can produce if they aren’t checked by sprays or fly swatters.
Most of the year I forget about flies. I fret over pigeons flopping around and making messes in the North Washington Street underpass. I fret over crows that buzz bomb my little dog named Dot.Com. I twitch around about rabbits streaking through the gardens.
Once August rolls round, I forget everything except the flies. I have in the past looked up information about flies. They drive me crazy with their infernal twitching and buzzing. They get sticky.
If I have a fly in the car, I open the windows to let it out. Usually, three more fly in. If I brush one away from the brownie I am eating with coffee, two more light on my lunch.
Those who attend first-rate high schools where Latin is offered will learn that the housefly’s real name is Musca domestica.
Those who pay attention in biology class might pick up the fact that after houseflies mate, a terrible thing happens. The female releases a spray — sort of a reverse perfume — to drive the male away. But that doesn’t make much difference because as far as we are concerned the damage already is done.
One fertilized female housefly can deposit more than 100 eggs at a time on decomposing organic waste — such as horse manure or fermenting garbage. In temperatures between 75 and 95 degrees, the eggs hatch in about eight hours. The new flies rev up their engines and take off in 24 to 36 hours.
Then we have more of the disgusting creatures with protruding mouthparts to suck up food and six fidgety legs to carry millions of bacteria onto food.
Spray and swatters and stick ‘em stuff all help to cut down on the quintillions of houseflies. But it seems like a losing battle. In some cases, flies develop immunity to insecticides.
You have to look long and hard to find anything good to say about the fly. I know, because I once captured a fly and named him Phillip. He rode with us in our car from Brookings, S.D., to Bismarck. And he was pesky all the way.
Really pesky. That is, he would light somewhere and you would forget about him — just for a while. Then he was whirring around the dashboard. Then he would retreat to the backseat.
Phillip the fly reappears every year. Recently he was flitting on and off the side of a table in a restaurant where I was eating. Then he was in our rental car out in Colorado this past week. I know he will join us when I visit friends in Bemidji next week.
You do have to look long and hard to find anything good to say about Phillip or any other housefly. One thing in its favor is that it doesn’t bite. I read that it can’t because of its soft mouth parts. And 90 percent of the flies are houseflies. It’s stable flies — their cousins — that bite.
Flies can be fascinating to watch. Because of little pads on their twitchy feet, they defy gravity as they walk on window panes and ceilings.
If you really want to get the fly bothering you, just pick up the Herald. Roll it up to make a swatter. Take aim.
Just remember, flies take off backwards.
The fly you swat this week may be a great-great-great-great-great grandchild of the one you missed earlier this summer.