14. Calliphoridae – carmageddon

6th April 2019

When my boys were younger I spent a lot of time touring inconveniently-situated car showrooms so that they could paw the shiny bodywork of their favourite models and collect up glossy brochures for their bookshelves. Rather sheepishly, I should explain to the eager salespeople that there was no chance of my buying anything from them, and that the purpose of the visit was to satisfy their fetish. Despite my best efforts, the boys weren’t interested in looking at birds or flowers (or even flies, unbelievably), but they could tell you the make and model of a car just from the shape of the headlights or the radiator grill. When a motorist casually forced my bicycle and its boy-laden trailer off the road before yelling that I shouldn’t even be on the road in the first place, I was able to give the Police the registration number and colour of the offender’s vehicle. “And what make was the car, sir?” – I had no idea, but my two tiny passengers knew. I guess I was the same when I was their age, though of course the cars were more interesting then.

Cars were more benign then too – they gave freedom in comfort and style, and were the symbol of the hopeful future. Now of course they are evil personified. They pollute our cities with their effluent of nose-wrinkling fumes and lung-penetrating particles. Their casual engine and tyre noise is the backdrop to the soundscape even miles away from a road, with the blasting of horns and screeching of brakes adding intermittent annoyance. Their parked carcasses block what are supposed to be thoroughfares – and often enough their moving carcasses do the same thing. Their production is resource-intensive and their life-span barely that of a teenager. Every year they will excrete several times their own weight in carbon dioxide as a result of burning up irreplaceable fossil fuels whose extraction from the ground is a major source of international conflict. Cars isolate us from each other and the places we travel through, giving the illusion of independence

So what’s the connection between cars and this fly from the family Calliphoridae that was attracted to my half-vole trap (thanks to Bear the cat for letting me have his leftover meal)? Perhaps I am alluding to their noisy flight as they bumble about the kitchen looking for uncovered food and leaving fly-spots on any clean surfaces? Could it be because the family includes the omnipresent blue and green bottles that lay their eggs on carrion, enlivening it to a mass of squirming maggots? Is it that others are parasites of toads and frogs, the larvae entering through the eyes, or, mysteriously, eating their way through earthworms as they in turn tunnel through the earth? Is it because this family of flies are the epitome of death, decay and destruction? Of course not – it’s because of this particular fly’s beautiful metallic bodywork!

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