What’s In My Backyard?
Explore and Learn: Flies
For the introduction to this series, see here.
Today we are going to talk about flies! I can already hear the response: “YUCK! Why would I want to learn about flies? The only thing I need to know about flies is how to slam them with a fly swatter!” This is an understandable response because when most people think about flies, they are thinking about flies in the Muscidae family which includes house and stable flies. Or they are thinking about the biting disease-carrying flies. The proper response to these flies is a fly swatter. (Interestingly, mosquitoes are flies!) It is true that these flies are bad, gross, and disease-carrying. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the good guy flies.
There are many beautiful, harmless flies that most people do not know anything about. Many of these are actually helpful to humans because they eat garden pests or pollinate our plants. Let’s look at several different types today.
Here are some pictures of Drone Flies. These bee-like creatures cannot bite or sting and are great pollinators.
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Another group of flies that pollinate plants are the hoverflies. The Calligrapher Fly belongs to this group. You may look at the pictures and say “Those are bees.”
How can you tell bees and flies apart? You look at their eyes. If you look at the pictures of the bees below, you can see that they have eyes on the sides of their heads. Flies, on the other hand, have eyes that cover most of the top of their head. Flies have short antennas but bees have long antennas.
Other Flies attack and eat pests that damage our plants. One species of beneficial pest-eating fly that lives near me is the Swift Feather-legged Fly. This fly eats stink bugs and squash bugs that are pests in our gardens.
Other flies are not necessarily good for us but are not bad either. The Tiger Crane Flies are in this group. They look like huge mosquitoes but do not bite. There are literally thousands of species that do not have any interactions with us. There are more than 60,000 species of flies in North America! Most of these, we don’t even notice. So here is my advice to you, swat bad flies that spoil your food or bring disease but learn to know and appreciate all the others.