What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear AH,
A couple of years ago I think Jerry Seinfeld did a monologue about baby pigeons. “Why don’t you ever see them?” Well I took it as a kind of challenge; similar to when I was a kid my grandfather said he’d give any of us 5 bucks if we spotted an Idaho license plate. Years later I finally saw an Idaho license plate, but my grandaddy had died by then. But I digress. I have seen baby pigeons. In fact, I now see them all the time. I also seem to see Idaho license plates all the time now too. Now I’m not sure if it’s because I know empirically that they exist that I see them all the time, or maybe I previously suffered from a blind spot; like when you’re looking for the orange juice in the fridge but you can’t fucking find it cause it’s right in front of your nose. But what I’ve been wondering for years and never verbalized until now (because you have this great forum about bugs) is: Where do those fully grown, huge flys come from? I woke up the other morning, I hadn’t opened the doors or windows, I had no trash in my garbage, no turds on the floor, but I had a dozen HUGE houseflys buzzing all around my windows trying to get out. Inga (my dog) and I went crazy–me with the New York Times, her with her deadly snapping jaws–hunting them down and squarshing them until they were dead. It took a while. We were both hot and panting. Now I’m thinking I have house hygene issues. Maybe a blind spot. I just thoroughly cleaned my house the day before the “hatching” because a writer was coming to interview me for the magazine Dwell so I’d better have a tight-assed, spotless abode. So my question is, am I missing something? I know maggots are small, so are tadpoles, but at some point they’re little frogs. So wouldn’t those fuckers be little flys before they were the huge, unhygenic, buzzing bastards? Can you explain?
—David M
Brooklyn, New York

Dear Sir,
Flies are generally thought of as one of the great scourges to afflict mankind. Though certain species deserve that reputation, many others are beneficial insects, like flower flies. I doubt that those buzzing around your windows belong to the latter group, but I am unable to make a positive I.D. on their actual species based on your description. Are they black, green or blue? My grandmother always claimed that cooking cabbage caused flies to enter the house. Have you been cooking cabbage? Not wanting to diverge from your immediate questions, I can safely tell you that all flies undergo complete metamorphosis. While they are maggots at one point in their lives, they pupate and emerge as fully grown flies, attaining whatever size is particular to their species. They often go undetected until they reach that adult buzzing phase. I once had an invasion, and a closer inspection of my rather messy cottage revealed some potatoes under the sink that had gone bad. The culprets in your house could also be carrion eating flies that as maggots had been feasting on a dead rat in the walls or perhaps your next door neighbor. When was the last time you saw your neighbor? Often after feasting on their food source, the maggots will migrate some distance to find a safe and dry refuge for pupation. The filth you seek might be a considerable distance from your infestation. The duration of the metamorphosis varies with the heat. If you didn’t succeed in dispatching all the buzzing Muscidae (hopefully they were not Sarcophagidae, the flesh flies) before a few mated and laid eggs, and the weather is warm, you can expect a reinfestation within a week or two. Be forewarned that Hogue writes in in groundbreaking book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, that “flies are known to accumulate around natural gas leaks. They are probably attracted by ethyl mercaptan, a smelly substance added to gas to make leaks detectable to the human nose. The odor of ethyl mercaptan is similar to that of volatile substances released during the decomposition of carrion, upon which many domestic flies oviposit and their larvae feed.” Don’t light any matches until you have sufficiently inspected your entire home.

Signed,
Daniel Marlos

Dear What’s That Bug (or should I say What’s That Maggot?!)
It’s true! The worst homebody kitchen nightmare is occurring in the UK. Maggot-y larvae-like creatures that sloth their way onto my kitchen floor late at night when no one is around. Seven the other night!
Before casting dispersions on the quality of home-maintenance at my flatshare, I must assert that despite my previous track record, cleanliness is next to both god and the queen mum here in my house now, and there are no bits on the floor or on any cabinet surfaces to attrack the offputting vermin. High standards have been maintained. And though I have visited the countryside in the last two weeks, there seems to be no sign of foot and mouth infection either. We have conducted a cursory sniff test and have no evidence of dead rotting flesh behind the cupboards, though they seem to gather in the floor corner and appear to be coming from behind the floor cabinets. What are the possible causes? and cures, short of yanking out all the cupboards and seeing what may lurk behind door number one. help!
Staying out of the kitchen at night in London,
Kate

Dear Kate,
Once again pestilence rears its ugly head. The house fly and its larval form, the maggot, is a truly domestic insect, so closely adapted to life in manmade environments that it is rarely found away from human habitations. The species, Musca domestica, is found throughout the world and is our worst pest among the flies. All kinds of decaying and fermenting organic material — commonly decomposing lawn clippings, gargage, and feces of dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and poultry — provide breeding places for the larvae. The larvae migrate to drier places for pupation to occur, and it is possible that your clean flat is on their migration route. Maggots are also commonly found on dead and decaying animals. Due to the meat embargo, there are probably huge caches of decaying livestock scattered about the country. Is it possible that your flat is in close proximity to one of these toxic dumps? My other thought is that though you called the creepy-crawlies "maggot-y larvae-like creatures," you never gave me any other description regarding size and coloration. Most insect larvae are generic in form, hence the lumping of many species under the umbrella term. More specifics could be helpful. A caterpillar is a larva, but with true and pseudolegs to aid in locomotion. Beetle grubs are also "maggot-y" and many beetles bore into wood. Certain kinds of moths and beetles have larvae that are fond of flour products and often infest sacks of flour or oatmeal, or even spices that are stored away in dark cupboards. The last time I tried to use my imported Hungarian paprika, I discovered it to be ground zero for the meal moths that have been fluttering about my incandescent lamps at night, and promptly disposed of the tainted (and expensive) spice lest the infestation spread.
Good luck.

Daniel Marlos
What’s That Bug?

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>