Monday, 11 May 2009

Musca domestica


Let me here introduce an anecdote of a fly communicated to me by a friend to whom I am indebted for some other remarks. Many years since, I believe about forty, Slingsby, the celebrated opera dancer, with whom I was acquainted, resided in the large house in cross-deep, Twickenham, next to Sir Wathen Waller's, looking down the river. He was, like the author of the 'Gleanings', fond of the study of Natural History, and particularly of insects, and he told me that he once tried to tame some house-flies and preserve them in a state of activity through the winter. For this purpose, quite at the latter end of Autumn, and when they were becoming almost helpless, he selected four from off his breakfast table, put them upon a large handful of cotton, and placed it in one corner of the window nearest the fire-place. Not long afterwards the weather became so cold that all flies disappeared except these four, which constantly left their bed of cotton at his breakfast time, came and fed at the table, and then returned to their home. This continued for a short time, when three of them became lifeless in their shelter and only one came down. This, Slingsby said, he had trained to feed upon his thumb-nail, by placing on it some moist sugar mixed with a little butter. Although there had been at intervals several days of sharp frost, the fly never missed taking his daily meal in this way till after Christmas, when his kind preserver having invited a friend to dine and sleep at his house, the fly the next morning perched upon the thumb of the visitor, who being ignorant that it was a pet of his host's, clapped his hand upon it, and thus put an end to Mr Slingsby's experiment.
Edward Jesse, 1834, Gleanings in Natural History

8 comments:

Duncan said...

Good one!!!!! :-)

Snail said...

It's a good story! Reminds me of a taxonomic paper I read about spiders that also contained some comments on captive behaviour. The text ran well until the line "... and then someone jolted the container".

Boobook said...

Our extended family gathered for Christmas holiday at the farmhouse and over several days enjoyed sitting on the front verandah watching a mud wasp building a nest on the verandah post(and populating it with food for its young). And then one day my husband, who had been busy on farm activities hence missing out on the cuppas, joined us, noticed the wasp at the nest and gave it an almighty whack. He's still reminded regularly by various family members:)

Gouldiae said...

G'day Snail,
A lovely story. I'm tempted to say, "Why bother taming a fly", but thinking about it, that's some achievement.
Gouldiae.

Snail said...

Oh, Boobook, that poor wasp! Easily done, though :)

Gouldiae, I'm almost tempted to give it a go. Almost

Denis Wilson said...

Lovely story, Snail. All the better with your re-telling.
Cheers
Denis

Dave Coulter said...

That's a cool story :)

Snail said...

The things you can find on the internet!