I never really liked flies. They were always the most annoying of insects, yes…… even more than mosquitos. Growing up I would always be pestered by houseflies, Musca domestica, or common green bottle flies, Luciliasericata, flying around the kitchen and living room. They were hard to catch (probably should have invested in a flyswatter) and made the most god-awful of noises: BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!! Ugh, such a horrendous sound. Also, they were really ugly things, especially the green bottle flies, with those oily-green bodies and bulging red eyes. Yuck.
(Picture from Pxleyes.com)
At a camp I once created a book of flies. At this particular camp we had outside teaching lessons and as the students were sitting we would constantly be pestered by all types and sizes of fly. Since I wasn’t learning anything in the course anyway—blame it on the flies—I decided to use my journal to kill the flies. Like a Venus flytrap, I would leave my book wide open and patiently wait for a fly to decide it was a safe place to land. Wait..Wait..Wait… SNAP!! Over the course of the week I ended up with a total of more than 30 flies splattered across the pages of my journal. Although, when the teacher asked to see my work at the end of the week I was a tad embarrassed to show her.
(Image from Bioethics.com)
These, in addition to my experiences with pesky biting flies (a North American vector for diseases among livestock) during my time in Canada, experiences made it seem unlikely that I would willingly spend any prolonged period of time with the little buggers. So when I realized that I had unwittingly joined a lab (yes, I should have done a little more research) whose model organism was the fruit fly, Drosophila Melanogaster, initially I wasn’t thrilled to begin lab work. However, I soon discovered that these small fruit flies didn’t have an audible buzz or annoyingly follow me. Instead I came to appreciate the species for its helpful genetic markers and other characteristics that make it valuable to genetic research. It is with this species of fruit fly that Nobel Laureate Thomas Hunt Morgan first made the conceptual link between chromosomes (previously thought to be functionless “colored bodies” because they could be dyed) and the theoretical, discrete functional units known as ‘genes’. Incredible discoveries in the fields of genetics and embryology were only possible in the 20th century because of how perfect the fruit fly was for early genetics research. So while I am still sometimes annoyed when I tip over a bottle and all those little buggers disperse randomly through the air, I can say I appreciate the many characteristics of flies that have allowed humans to make such progress in understanding the very fundamentals of our being.
Mukherjee, S. (2010). The emperor of all maladies: A biography of cancer. New York: Scribner.
http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbitingflies.htm (Biting Flies Disease Vector)