|Unfairly Hated Creatures - the Flies
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|If you've read my first article on cracked.com, you may have gained a newfound respect
for roaches, rats, mosquitoes, wasps or bacteria, but a fair amount of additional content
was ultimately scrapped by the editors for length. As an accessory to the article, enjoy my
un-used writeup on everyone's favorite buzzing poomongers, the Diptera...
If it's dead and it stinks, it's going to attract flies, and if it attracts flies, they're going to
vomit all over it and have sex on it. In only days, the rotting refuse can come alive with the
writhing, seething bodies of thousands, even millions of ravenous baby maggots, almost
universally considered one of the most repugnant visuals in nature.
Even your deeply-buried granny isn't safe, as the aptly-named coffin flies have no trouble
sniffing out her decomposing hide and worming their way into her $7,000 casket. It's no
myth that adult houseflies positively swim with potentially infectious microorganisms, and
some species don't even wait for us to die before gorging on our blood or planting eggs in
our flesh. In ancient Rome, maggots were believed to grow spontaneously from rancid
flesh, and in Western religion, flies have been associated with the forces of hell.
Flies, however, are a family with some of the most extreme variation in the insect world,
surpassed only by the beetles in distribution, diversity and musical talent. Some are
scavengers, some are parasites, some lay their eggs in seawater and some can be found
in the frozen tundra. Some are even ironically flightless. Most species, however, are
nectar drinkers, and play a greater role in pollination (allowing flowering plants to
reproduce at all) than even the esteemed bees and butterflies. We even have flies to thank
for chocolate; the flowers of the cocoa tree are perfectly sized, shaped and scented to be
pollinated by tiny fungus-gnats. Other flies are major predators of more destructive
insects, such as one species that decapitates fire ants.
Even some of our least favorite flies play a big role in keeping our planet hospitable; think
for a moment how easily they get into your foulest garbage at the first opportunity, and think
about how many other creatures are making nasty messes every second of every day
wherever life resides.
While birds, beetles, ants and woodland critters of all sorts will take to gnawing on a
carcass, it's maggots that are chowing down on more than half the world's land-animal
waste at any given time, and it's maggots that will pick the last tiny scrap from each
glistening bone. That acid they spit up is even a natural antiseptic, possibly hindering all
manner of nasty pox that builds up in the dead.
Those of us who prefer only recently deceased flesh find this all a might ghastly, but it's
hard to overestimate just how much filthier, funkier and sicklier our world might be if
nature's buzzing housekeepers spontaneously vanished. It's a dirty cliché, but somebody's
gotta do it.