I have to confess that my interest in flies buys me no spousal brownie points. This is despite her mother being an avid Dipterist, albeit with an unconventional, Dyson-sized pooter and a simplified, but functional taxonomy (“Dirty fly”). I probably didn’t brag about my entomological weakness when we were first becoming an item, distracting her successfully with lavish dinners and romantic holidays. Twenty something years on, becoming somewhat bolder, I have been introducing fly collecting as a normal household activity and flies as an unremarkable topic of dinnertime conversation. I have to report that so far I have found very few weaknesses in her general distaste for their insect charms.
One of the problems has been the bees at the bottom of the garden which were not always as gentle as they are now, and when my first clumsy beekeeping activities coincided with shrieks from elsewhere in the garden, I knew that my cause was set even further back. They don’t help by peppering the whites on the washing line with tell-tale yellow polka-dot droppings when they stream out of the hive on the first warm day of spring. More entomological rancour comes from the clothes moths (Endrosis sarcitrella, since you ask) which I am blamed for having introduced on two ragged dolls, mementos of my pre-marital travels in Peru. Even travel has insect-related difficulties since, however heroic my counter measures, each mosquito bite she receives blossoms into in angry red and itchy blotch.
However, not willing to give up, and knowing her love of cooking and a good feed, I wondered if the way to endear me and my six-legged friends to her might be through food. So since it is the Year of the Fly I cooked her the most delicious fly pie, replacing the usual apple leaf decorations with something much more interesting. Well, I thought it looked delicious ….
Maybe now I have the answer. Our gardening duties are split between us, with mowing, fruit and potatoes being my responsibility, while she does the vegetables. Every spring her greenhouse becomes home to hundreds of pampered seedlings. Then, as delicate adolescents they are allowed outside on sunny days to toughen up, but there is a strict evening curfew and they are back under their glass duvet before a sneaky frost can nip them. Eventually they come of age and are planted out in a carefully prepared, weed-free plot, fending for themselves with just a yoghurt pot slug collar for protection. Then the carnage begins. Leaf by leaf, plant by plant, a nightly toll is taken by slugs and snails streaming across the lawn from cracks in the walls, from hiding places under boards or piles of mulch. When a row of carrot infants disappears overnight, my attention is brought to mollusc-sheltering patches of long grass that have been missed by imperfect mowing.
The fly that will charm her is this perky fly with its eager antennae and business-like spotted wings. It’s a member of the family Sciomyzidae, whose larvae eat snails and slugs. This particular one was swept from the edge of a large pond, and its larvae only eat aquatic snails. But there must be others who could help protect her seedlings. I feel sure that, if I can find the right way to bring up the subject, this is the family that will bring about matrimonial harmony. Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments …