63. Pollenidae – a time of gifts

Among the greetings cards that turned up on Christmas Eve was a bulkier envelope with the latest copy of Dipterists Digest (Vol 26. No 2), this being the more scholarly of the two publications produced by the Dipterists Forum. Too my delight, under the heading “Corrections and changes to the Diptera Checklist (42)” by the Editor, Peter Chandler, there was the announcement of, appropriately for the time of year, that a new family had been added to the British list. A paper in Systematic Entomology – and hard though it may be to believe, they mean something more systematic that what I have been doing all year – with the punning title “Reclustering the cluster flies (Diptera: Oestroidea, Pollenidae)” had moved the genus Pollenia out of the family Calliphoridae and into its own family.

What a gift! I knew that I had collected some already, one in March that was attracted to a bottle trap baited with half a mouse, being one of the first bulky flies to be out and about. Then in October as things were tailing off, I caught several more sunning on the stonework of the house. These flies are cute in that they have wavy golden hairs on their thorax, an extravagantly sparkly coat that probably doesn’t do much to keep them warm as they cluster together over the winter in your attic. They are less cute in that they develop as parasites of earthworms, of which there are plenty in the garden despite the resident mole and robin.

Another Christmas gift was “A Dipterists Handbook” (also Edited by Peter Chandler) with an exotically-legged dolichopid marching across the cover. Inside, five hundred pages devoted to the history, collection, identification and study of flies. Glancing through I noticed sections on “Wetting dry flies” and “Drying wet flies” and chapters with evocative titles such as “Dung”, “Mud” and “Carrion” – I can hardly wait for Spring sunshine and for all those lovely flies to come back into my life. From flies basking in the garden with me to flower-filled meadows humming with activity to seemingly barren mountaintops there are always flies to be found; they are amongst the tumbled wrack on the seashore and they flit around rotting carcasses and collapsing mushroom caps, they are resting on tree trunks or hiding in culverts and caves, they come and find you (and bite you), they arrive, inadvertently on chips and in moth traps, they are hiding in the herbage or are flying past on their busy way elsewhere. They have led me on a merry dance – this year has been a gift of flies.

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