Fly season is a time for appreciation for the diverse and essential insects we share our world with. With almost a million species worldwide and 30,000 in Australia, the warm weather offers an opportunity to appreciate these creatures. Bush flies, the iconic Australian fly, are found nationwide and are known for their persistence in finding refreshing drinks. They are harmless and pose no serious threat to health or home.
House flies, similar in appearance, frequent homes but are more interested in scraps of food and waste left unprotected. They regurgitate digestive juices to break solids into a mush more amenable to their straw-like mouths, posing a minor hygiene concern. Despite their presence, we are likely to encounter only a select few flies daily.
Blowflies, known for their large, shiny bodies, are known for their role as scavengers and effective pollinators. Horseflies, due to their size, are powerful fliers and can be heard and seen at a distance. Females demand blood meals, which can be a nuisance to livestock but also aid in pollination for some orchids. Mosquitoes, a type of fly, are famous for their role as vectors for diseases like malaria, Ross River Virus, chikungunya, zika, and dengue.
To deter flies, the primary goal is to use topical repellents containing DEET or Picaridin, wear loose-fitting clothing when outside, install flyscreens in the house, keep food covered, and empty bins regularly. These methods help to maintain a healthy environment and reduce the spread of diseases, particularly in the Global South. Addressing these issues can lead to a more sustainable future.
Flies are essential for the health of our ecosystems and are among the most diverse animals on the planet. They are important pollinators, supporting agricultural production and plant life, and decomposers, providing a pathway to sustainable waste management and a rich source of protein for livestock and humans. Some flies, like hover flies, are pests, but many serve as biological controls, such as the 10,000-odd species of tachinid, which lay their eggs inside and eventually kill the developing young of other insects.
Flies have proven invaluable in forensics, medicine, scientific research, and environmental monitoring, underscoring how deeply our lives are intertwined with theirs. As the warm weather rolls around, it is important to consider the diversity and vital roles they play in our lives. It is crucial to avoid using bug-bombs and sprays, which have devastating impacts on beneficial insects, and to avoid noise-emitting, electrified, or smelly gadgets that promise a fly-free existence.