Jul 12 2010
House flies inevitably show up when the loading dock door stays open for a long delivery. I don’t know why we have such enormous flies but they wander in, get lost in the dark hallways and fly up to the light. Eventually they make it to my office.
I try to swat them and fail. I miss them nearly every time. Am I uncoordinated?
Actually flies are masters at avoiding swats.
Back in 2008 researchers at Caltech used high speed, high definition video to record the movements of fruit flies to see how they avoided a swat threat. Amazingly, the flies positioned themselves for escape within 100 milliseconds of noticing the approaching swatter. It didn’t matter if they were eating, resting or walking, they shifted their weight and were ready to escape with a mere flex of their legs.
The researchers concluded that fruit flies have fast-acting brains and the ability to plan ahead. I can’t say this is true of house flies, but it seems so.
So how do you successfully swat a fly? According to Michael Dickson of Caltech, you should creep up on it slowly because it doesn’t register slow movement, then “aim a bit forward of its location and try and anticipate where the fly will jump when it first sees your swatter.”
It seems a waste of my brain power to do this, but I’ll try it on the next one.
(photo of a house fly by Alvesgaspar from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original.)