Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Jottings from the Tropics: 26 September 2012

The bad news is that it's March fly season. The good news is that these are the most laconic March flies in Australia.

I am not very fond of tabanids or, as I like to call them, those ***ing bitey b*******s. I react badly to their bites, so I try to avoid giving them a free meal. This is not so easy in temperate and coastal areas, where they will follow you around for hours, sometimes going as far as looking you up in the telephone book so they can visit you at home. The move to online directories hasn't helped. They all have iPhones. Fortunately, they use Apple maps, so we're all safe for a while. But I digress.

The March flies here just can't be bothered. Oh, if you walk past them, they'll buzz a bit and try to settle. But f you walk another couple of metres, they'll give up. I've seen pademelons shrug them off. Really. Just a flick of the ears and maybe a twitch or two and the fly thinks, 'bugger this for a lark' and moseys off. I like that attitude in a fly.

Years ago, one of our honours students started a project on tabanid behaviour. She had problems, she said, because she couldn't catch any flies. Being the public-spirited biting insect magnet that I am, I volunteered to act as bait. The trick was to catch the fly after it settled, but before it bit. (My goodwill only extends so far.) But the fly wrangler was just a tad too slow. By the end of the session, we had lots of swatted tabanids, but no live ones. I think the project changed soon after that. Perhaps we should have relocated the study to the Tablelands.


Denis Wilson said...

Strange how the have the seasons wrong in their naming.
Something to do with European colonialist taxonomists?
September Flies?

Snail said...

It's one of those problems with common names. Easier to use a widely-known name that create a new one for the regions. They're also called horse flies and I'd be really happy if they'd confine themselves to biting equines.