31st December 2019
Well that kept me busy! The year of the Year of the Fly is almost over and what fun it has been – from sea caves to mountain tops and everywhere in between, I have inspected flowers, swept my net, sucked at my pooter and generally invited flies back into my life in every way that I could think of. I have baited traps with carrion and less pleasant items, headed for the woods with a fly in mind and come back with it, and been brave enough to meet some of the Titans of the fly world and found them to be, at worst, amiably eccentric, somewhat after my own bent.
Finding examples of 63 fly families was twenty or so more than I thought I would manage; writing that many blog posts was less of a slog and more amusing than I expected; an aggregate of more than 2000 views and almost 500 visitors over the year is something I don’t know what to make of; my assiduous readers from Portugal and Denmark – who are you?
I now have a tower of insect boxes each containing flies sorted into their families, arranged taxonomically and identified to species where I was able. Some groups require dissection of the genitalia which is a step too far for me just yet.
Each fly has its label recording the date and place and collector, and I have examined each one intently, scrutinising the pattern of its veins, the distribution of bristles on its legs, the jut of its face, the spread of its antennae and, when I had to, the baroque ornamentation of its privates. Where all that study resulted in a firm identification there is a second label underneath with the name of species and the day that I identified it. At first I was very cautious about committing myself in ink to such taxonomic decisions, but gradually it has dawned on me that these identifications can be corrected as I get to know each family better. Every once in a while the peculiar characters referred to in the keys excitingly materialise under the microscope and a new fly frontier opens. It is, like everything else, work in progress, hopefully largely accurate but no doubt imperfect, destined to be incomplete as a collection even as it gradually grows. It is a symbol of a year well spent, a late blossoming of my misspent youth. What, I wonder, did I do with myself before flies?