Diary of a Hills Backyard: Flies and the spinach plant (November 2020)

It’s the first really nice day we’ve had in a while. It’s a La Nina year and the weather’s been pretty cool and wet for some months now. Normally it’s warmer and drier this late in the year, but everything needs respite and an opportunity to grow and thrive after the hot dry few years we’ve had.

I’m sitting outside by the spinach plant, who’s tiny green flowers are just starting to crack open revealing yellow pollen clad anthers. The air is thick with moisture and a fragrant botanical smell wafts through the air. Among the sun and shade of the foliage, sitting on leaves and stems, or zipping about, are flies. The flies are incredibly variable, perhaps spanning 100 orders of magnitude in mass. The largest, a bulky and clumsy fly maybe a centimeter long with a dark bronzed abdomen and black hairs. Slightly smaller are the iridescent dark green flies with deep red eyes (from the right angle), which are meticulously checking the tiny flowers. Inspecting one of these beauties up close, so close my eyes can only just focus, I see tiny pollen grains stuck to the hairs on its body. Next down the line are the hoverflies, who’s wings, when grounded, sit out like a fighter jet’s, while their yellow and black stripped abdomen bobs up and down. There are smaller hoverflies too, much the same. A brightly coloured lady beetle catches my attention for a moment. Further down the size scale is the darkly iridescent gold fly whose apparent role is to bother the bigger flies by zipping about then landing on them. Its abdomen is a slightly stubby bullet shape which I can’t quite comprehend. I shift my legs to shade myself from the sun to find a much larger fly than any I have seen yet resting on my foot. After a moment’s hesitation, it flees at the disturbance. This fly’s wings sit in a triangular shape above the gunmetal blue abdomen. I focus back on the spinach plant. There are numerous tiny flies as varied as the big ones which include some fruit flies and flies that are as big as two dots made by the pen I am writing with. I can barely see their form, let alone colour, though a fruit fly lands close in view revealing its cream body and racing stripes running down its length.

Some may want to rid the world of flies, and sometimes I do too. Well at least the ones that get into my eyes. However, these flies on the spinach plant are not the ones I have qualms with. These flies give me joy at their antics, wonder at their fine details and beautiful colours, and make me ponder the diversity of life. If half a dozen species of fly can exist in this microcosm of a spinach plant in this one moment of time, the number of other species that exist in the world now and throughout history is incomprehensible. These flies shine a tiny light on the interconnectedness of the world. They sip the nectar from the flowers and plant that has sucked energy from the sun. They transport the pollen to fertilise another flower, and then, if unlucky enough, might get snapped into the bill of a fairy-wren, which then feeds the fly to its nestling who may one day grow old and snap flies of their own.

1 Comment

  1. A great eye for details. Another article which will make me look more closely

    On Sat, 26 Dec 2020 at 13:57, The Adventures of K. Jones & other encounters with nature wrote:

    > Karl Jones posted: ” It’s the first really nice day we’ve had in a while. > It’s a La Nina year and the weather’s been pretty cool and wet for some > months now. Normally it’s warmer and drier this late in the year, but > everything needs respite and an opportunity to grow and thr” >

    Like

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