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Fly Facts

Flies have been pursuing mankind throughout all of recorded history, and probably from the time man emerged from his caves and began to walk erect.

They are depicted in the oldest writings from the ancient world. Hieroglyphics from Egypt (pictured here) chronicle these tormentors along the nile. Flies are referenced in the Bible as one of the plagues Moses brought down upon the house of Pharaoh. They have even been taken aboard the space shuttle into outer space.

In all there are over 120,000 species of flies ranging in size from 1/20th of an inch to well over three inches. Can you imagine what an engine a three inch fly would make!

One of the things that separate Flies ( Diptera) from other flying insects are their wings. Flies are the only insects that have only two. All other insects have four wings.

The flies reputation for uncleanliness is also well deserved. Many of man's primary diseases are transmitted by flies, including the deadlyYellow Fever. Entomologists Dr. Yao and Dr. Yuan of China studied more than 378,046 common house flies and estimated that each carried no less than 1,941,000 bacteria on their bodies. Indeed Flies are probably responsible for more deaths among humans then any perceived atrocities we may have misguidedly thrust upon them.

Also, flies don't bite or sting. They have neither teeth nor a stinger. Flies thrust a needle like spike into their victims and injects a digestive juice that breaks down the victims cell tissue. They then suck the liquid in to injest it. Very poor manners to say the least.

But don't think that flies are helpless and otherwise benign to their larger neighbors. In 1923, Black flies in swarms were reportedly responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 sheep, horses and cattle in Rumania and Bulgaria. Of course I would suppose one would expect this sort of behavior from an area of the world that also brought us the Carpathinan warlord, Dracula.

A few more misc. facts to round things out. Did you know.........

  • The average house fly lives on average 21 days.
  • A flies wings beat 200 times per second.
  • Flies don't grow. They are born full size.
  • Flies have 4000 lenses in each eye.
  • Flies jump up and backwards when taking off.
  • Average speed of a fly in flight is 4.5 m.p.h..
  • Flies smell with their antennae

Finally, one last fact. As you will see on the Historical Flypower page, many designs for fly powered aircraft have been presented to the unwary public. Most depict flies being glued to some form of fuselage by their feet. This is a sure way to disaster.

Fact: Flies will only continue to beat their wings so long as their feet are free. As soon as the feet become stationary, the will stop flying. Remember this as the fundamental rule of FlyPower.

If you have any other interesting information you would like to pass along on our hairy little friends, send us an e-mail and we'll include it here.

Here are a few articles about flies you may find interesting. If not, don't read them.

Below is a letter we just received along with an attached article. I think it came from the government, but I can't swear to it. We are withholding the name of the submitter to protect his/her anonymity.

"You should know about this research. Do not tell anyone I sent you this. I don't want my friends to know I access your site. HW "

Posted at 6:27 a.m. PDT Friday, April 10, 1998
Why are flies such good flyers?
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Anyone who has ever spent a summer day furiously swatting pesky flies knows it can be a frustrating experience. Now researchers have discovered why the aerial insects are so elusive.

It has to do with an interactive control system so simple yet intricate that they could teach aeronautical engineers a thing or two, said Michael Dickinson of the University of California, Berkeley. ``Flies are the most accomplished fliers on the planet in terms of aerodynamics,'' Dickinson said in a study released Thursday. ``They can do things no other animal can, like land on ceilings or inclined surfaces,'' he added. ``And they are especially deft at takeoffs and landings -- their skill far exceeds that of any other insect or bird.''

To understand how they work, Dickinson and his colleagues at Berkeley's department of integrative biology built the world's fanciest virtual reality videogame for flies: Fruit and blow flies were glued to sticks and partly dissected so electrodes could be attached to individual muscles. The flies were allowed to move their wings as if flying while responding to rapidly shifting patterns of light simulating motion in various directions.

The scientists found that the tiny wing stubs called halteres are actually wired to the flies' eyes. In the virtual reality system, there was an obvious and immediate connection between those muscles and the eyes. ``Lo and behold, the first time we did it -- boom -- it is attached,'' Dickinson said. ``Totally unexpected.''

The results, researchers said, could help engineers design miniature flying robots to help in space missions or, on Earth, sniff out gas leaks or snoop behind enemy lines during battles.

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