Would you like flies with that?

Some things are just made for each other, or at the very least they compliment each other. They dance the dance together in a weird and at times with a dysfunctional symbiosis. At best these separate entities can compliment each other’s weaknesses or strengths. Like caviar and champagne, or chocolate and strawberries, a shot of whisky with a beer chaser. On a sensual level they seem like the proverbial “No brainer”. Sweet and salty, sour and bitter these are basic elementary components.

There are combinations that seem intuitive, sometimes they compliment or negate each other’s essential qualities. Man and woman, fire and water, summer and spring, these are the very components of the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang.

As usual you’re more than likely thinking “Ok what is he yammering about this time?” Honestly I really am trying to go somewhere with these analogies, but as I always do I’m taking my usual circuitous path.

Humans and the and impact they create among the natural world here on Earth and with the inhabitants of the plant and animal kingdom, and with very few exceptions, most don’t benefit by sharing this planet with us. There is a few no doubt that do. Cats and dogs are the obvious ones that come to mind. In fact for all the suffering that some cats and dogs endure at the hands of humans and nature alike, some actually get treated better by humans than humans treat some of their own. Even following the idea and concept of the “Covenant of the wild” and that animals have over the centuries chosen life (domestication) and death (getting eaten) at the hands of humans as opposed to dying on mother natures terms and by her methods, very few living entities have directly benefited from the advent of mankind. There does seem to be one however.

Readers let me present to you the definitively annoying bane of man throughout the ages, from time immemorial the humble yet none too insignificant fly. Yep very few organisms have so flourished because of the presence of man than the fly. Yeah yeah I hear the voices of derision already muttering under their breath and maybe even a bit more vehemently saying “Yeah what about the rat? Or the cockroach or the mosquito?” And to that I’d offer yes it’s true these pests have benefited from mans presence. On the other hand almost to a one, each one of those creatures has had some sort of significant human guided campaign to either control it’s presence and population or to eliminate it completely. I do plan somewhere down the line to more closely examine each of those pests a bit more individually and generally. But for now it’s the fly I’m interested in.

I know one of you smart people are already saying (and if you didn’t know this fact already you will now) “Well mosquitoes are flies!” and you would be correct. Volumes could be (and have been) written on the mosquito and how it and the diseases it carries have ravaged (and continue to do so) man over the eons. Malaria of course is the main scourge the mosquito is known for spreading, and probably the single major reasons humans have wanted to not only control, but also as a species eradicate them. I’m quite sure there is some statistic out there floating around that will state something to the effect that “Malaria has been responsible for more human deaths than motor vehicle accidents and old age combined!” and it’s probably closer to the truth than we might imagine.

Since mosquitoes, Malaria, and how this disease may have an impact on you as a world traveler are well documented I’ll get into a few brand new aspects and innovations that have recently hit the scene a in another entry. For now I’d like to run over a few basic and maybe lesser known aspects and diseases in relations to flies and trouble that clings onto their hairy little bodies like the malevolent hitchhikers they are.

I’m somewhat stunned (and repeatedly so I might add) that every three to six months or so a news story hits the wire usually coming out of central or South America or even North America about some innocent and unwitting tourist, more often than not, from Canada, the United States or Great Britain being cruelly mistreated and brutalized by the mouthparts and segmented eyes of the most graphically known of these little winged monsters, fit to terrify even the steeliest reader of the “Weekly world news”, I present to you the Bot fly! This little guy gets more press at times than all the snake bites and crocodile or shark attacks combined. While there is no denying the primal fear of being eaten alive, there is also some degree of intrinsic safety that staying out of the water in areas populated by these creatures also affords. On the surface it seems pretty easy to avoid, simply put “Stay out of the water!” On the other hand, take the notion of just being outside amidst all the other airborne critters that abound around you, birds and bees and such, and this bugger not only lands on you but he isn’t even sublime enough to inject a microbe into you. No, he proposes to use you for a growing medium of sorts for his kids. Not only as living space but you also become daycare until they’re ready to pupate and then leave home as it were.

The visceral nature of this never fails to horrify and disgust even the most hardened traveler. I actually had some people I know say that they’d almost even preferred contracting malaria. It really kind of astounded me. Well maybe not really. Obviously those folks were acting more on an emotional level not a logical one. Spirochetes that are potentially fatal or subcutaneous maggots that want to eventually leave and see some of the world? I know what I’d prefer anyway. Surgically remove my maggots please.

On one level I always feel bad for the folks that end up getting maggots dug out of their bodies from various areas, on the other hand, and I know the odds are against you the longer you stay in an endemic area, that anyone with a lick of common sense knows that whether mosquitoes, gnats, black flies (and on and on) that proper clothing (a hat for instance) time release repellent containing DEET and pre-treatment of clothing with a commercially produced substance known a premethrine can go a very long way in preventing a multitude of fly-borne parasites and diseases carried by a wide variety of fly species over vast areas of the earth that are both heavily and sparsely populated with humans.

This is the one irrepressible quality of flies whether it’s the tundra of the far north or the trash dump of a tropical urban environment they will usually be there en masse. Flies are really pretty ingeniously simple in their design. They have only four stages in life, egg, larva, pupa and adult, they don’t actually grow they’re born full size. Humans have been complaining about them forever, ancient Egyptians carved them into hieroglyphs and they were one of the plagues of the Bible, and they’ve made journeys on the space shuttle. They are also incredibly varied in size from the 120,000 species they can range from anywhere from 1/20th an inch to up the three full inches! They also have flying abilities that far exceed that of any bird or other flying insect skills for instance like landing on ceiling or an inclined surface, yet rarely do they live longer than 20 days.

Not all flies have the same type of mechanism for mouths. Though most flies like those such as house or blow have mouths that function on suction, some flies like deer and horse actually have knife like mouth parts and will bite and like mosquitoes put a saliva like material into the wound preventing the blood from clotting, feeds, leaving a small welt like wound that itches like crazy but usually heals within in a day or two, providing it hasn’t been scratched profusely thus leading to what can an become an infected troublesome wound.

Flies are also pretty flexible when it comes to reproducing and feeding. Flesh flies don’t even need flesh to be rotting as a medium to feed or lay eggs, they can even lay eggs in fresh, freshly cooked meat or in even in wounds of still living animals. Apart from just contaminating food with eggs and maggots, they can carry bacteria on the sticky hairs and pads of their feet that can cause intestinal diseases, these commonly being from fecal matter.

While flies are primarily an annoyance for most of us in the developed world they are widespread and significant problem and a disease carrying vermin in the developing world, affecting millions of people with an astounding variety of diseases and afflictions.

Bacteria, viruses and parasites as common and well known as Malaria and Dysentery, (which unfortunately mutates all the time and constantly becomes resistant to many of the treatments developed) to the lesser-known diseases like Myiasis and Bartonellosis. Myiasis is carried by the Cheese skipper fly and though rare in humans it has no treatment (animals are treated with insecticide) except to let it leave of it’s own accord or to entice it and then remove it. Bartonellosis is primarily endemic to South America and carried by the bite of the Sand fly.

Among the others are Leprosy, West Nile, Yellow fever, Typhoid, Leishmaniasis, African Trypanosomiasis, Japanese Encephalitis and Onchocerciasis not to mention a number of others that vary in severity and commonality. The main ideas in the control of flies lie in four major concepts:

Sanitation: Minimize the factors in allowing flies to feed and reproduce. For Mosquitoes this would include all standing water sources.

Exclusion: Minimize access to buildings shelter and housing, exposure to humans and animals and mediums of food or reproduction.

Mechanical control: Tools such as doors with tightly fitted seals, screens, sticky traps and Ultra violet light traps which when properly positioned near doors or windows but away from food sources are very effective. Devices that utilize Ultra sound are not considered to be effective.

Insecticides: These are most effective as a control for sever adult fly problems in the forms of mists, baits, and aerosols. Directions for usage must be strictly followed and the utmost of caution should be followed when around animals, humans or food sources. As previously mentioned for individuals this can be applied with regards to repellants for skin and treatment of clothing.

Flies have been around since the dawn of time and it doesn’t look like they’ll be going away anytime soon, so do everybody a favor,

Don’t encourage them; if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.

Some source material used for this article:




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