Monday, June 02, 2008

The Beauty Of A Common Fly...

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007-2008 jim otterstrom
This fly posed patiently for me on the porch railing last July---with my lens only a few millmeters away---and I came across the photo again today when I was organizing some files.
It's difficult for me to kill these strangely beautiful creatures when I've taken such a close look at them.
We all have a place among the diversity of our ecosystem, so a better solution would be to keep flies outside where they belong, not in the house.
Still, if one does get in and I can't catch it, or shoo it out, the trusty old fly-swatter does come into play sometimes.
It's sad how we humans can kill billions of the numerous little insect "pests" all around us without considering the miracle of their existence, or our mutual interdependence on the continuing complexity of life on earth.
A complexity that diminishes with each lost species, and we're currently losing an estimated 50,000 species per year, 137 per day, or appoximately 6 a minute.
The common housefly is probably less threatened with oblivion than we are, but the callous disregard which enables us to define other species as contemptable, or simply expendable, is clearly reflected in those great numbers we are driving to extinction through our monumental arrogance and thoughtlessness.
I try to be relatively conscientious about co-existing harmoniously with the species around me, so it's disturbing when I realize that I'm sometimes just as culturally conditioned to knee-jerk reactionary behavior as everyone else.
One day, not long ago, I was walking along a sidewalk with my daughter, pre-occupied with conversation, when she pointed toward the concrete and asked, "Is that a cockroach?". I instinctively stepped on it, without a thought, and my daughter exclaimed, "Why did you do that, I feel awful now?".
Well, I still feel bad! The little creature was simply minding its own business when a human came along to stomp it out of existence. And I'm the guy who, for decades, has carefully captured spiders who found their way into the house and taken them outdoors.
A few years ago, Peggy and I went on a day-long desert road trip with my sister-in-law, Penny. There was an irruption of Painted Lady Butterflies that year and they were everywhere, by the millions. We obliterated several thousand with the grille & windshield of Penny's car, and ours was only one of countless other vehicles wreaking the same havoc.
Thoughts of the once common Passenger Pigeon came to my mind, and the stories of how they once darkened the daylight sky with their great numbers before we hunted them to extinction in the early part of the 20th Century.
Photographed July 27th 2007
Canon S5IS - Manual mode, supermacro setting, ISO 80, f 2.7, 1/500th second.

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Blogger Emily said...

Well put. Every time the pest-control salesman knocks on the door of my suburban home and asks if I need his "one time spray service guaranteed to completely rid the home of crickets, cockroaches, ants, black widows, and scorpions," I'm tempted to ask him what makes his proposed genocide palatable, and explain that the bugs wouldn't be as much of a nuisance if his company hadn't taken care of the HOA’s "toad and lizard problem" a few years back.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


Yup! Pest problems? "Just Call Terminix!"

10:49 AM  
Blogger arcolaura said...

I've been having similar thoughts lately as I capture and fling away wood ticks. I'm doing "range and riparian health assessments," basically tramping through farmland and associated wetlands and bush, checking for indicators of ecological health. Out on the land, I can fling the ticks away and walk on. Trouble is, when I don't find them on me until I'm back in the midst of crowded human occupancy, I can't quite justify tossing them aside for some other, less suspecting human to acquire them. So (in my better moments) I mentally explain to the ticks that perhaps a quick death is better than the alternative.

At one point in my tramping, becoming exasperated by the great numbers of ticks that kept coming crawling up my clothing, both outside and in, I tried mentally explaining to all the ticks in the area that I was a really dangerous target, and they'd be better off to wait for a deer to come along. I didn't notice any more ticks on me for the next little while. Then I lost my focus, and there they were again.

2:07 PM  
Blogger arcolaura said...

Oh, and one tick actually evaded my thorough search of my clothing after I took it off, and appeared again on my pants when I was folding the laundry. What are the chances that it fell off the pants onto the floor (very unlikely, if you know wood ticks), and crawled into the laundry after I washed it (possible), and chose to appear again on the same pair of pants I had been wearing out in the field? I suspect it stayed on the pants all along, and survived the washing machine. Even with the irritation and the Lyme disease risk, I have to admire their resilience!

2:14 PM  

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