Friday, October 11, 2013

Flies, flies and more flies. The curse of the Aussie bush fly or: More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Flies.

Here they are up inside the fly net.
Sometimes you just have to laugh at the rash claims of advertisements. Not that I would have wanted to be without a fly net, but as for the statement that the flies won't want to go inside the fly net, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA who do they think they're kidding! "...bush flies sit happily on fine mesh fly veils ... but steer well clear of the demarcation line ..." they won't go inside the fly net.

This year's bush flies obviously hadn't read the ad!

My fetching fly net, purchased in desperation after unladylike curses became the norm rather than the exception, came complete with a draw cord around the neck (best not to think too much about what would happen if it got caught on a branch) and the little buggers found some tiny spots where they could sneak up inside the mesh, then saunter up to see what the world looked like from inside the lenses of my prescription sunglasses. You'd think with the way their eyes are arranged they wouldn't be interested, but there they were, balancing on my eyelashes, pirouetting on the arms of my glasses, queueing up to get a turn to see what all the excitement was about.

And of course, now they're inside the flynet, and the drawstring is closed around my neck, I can't get at them can I? They're completely free to wander where they will, inside my ears, up my nose, explore the edges of my tightly shut mouth and worst of all between my eyes and glasses so that I can't even attempt to brush them away.
Immediately after brushing them off, they're back.
Do you remember Samantha from Bewitched? She'd wiggle her nose and magic would happen. These guys didn't even notice my frantically twitching nose let alone move. They do a little exploratory foray up into a nostril ... maybe there's something interesting up there? I do a deliberate outwards snort and the fly just clings on tighter, "Wheeeeeeeeee" it seems to call to its mates, "this is fun, come on in and have a go!" Some of them are far more curious about the corners of my eyes, but I suspect they're communicating with each other "Hurry up, surely it's my turn now?"

Bush flies are extremely excitable, it's like they've been guzzling caffein since breakfast. Actually, some of them had, and had managed to drown themselves in the hot brew. I'm not sure how many others had just wandered down into the mug, had a bit of a slurp, then shimmied up and flown off again in that hyperactive way they have. It's not worth making a second mug after fishing out the tiny carcasses. You'd never get to enjoy a cuppa at all. Suicidal flies. Who would have realised!

My barely damp tee-shirt is being sucked dry.
Australian bush flies just looooooooove the moisture around your eyes, mouth, ears and nose as well as any sweat anywhere on your body or clothing. They are the most irritating, sticky, persistent, bloody minded insects known to man and they seem to be able to detect you with unerring precision even before you've stepped outside the tent, pub, house or car. They wait. They hover. They buzz persistently. Then they pounce. Not just one or two, but billions upon billions of them. Simultaneously. I reckon if you were weighed before going outside then after, you'd have gained a kilo or more in weight. Honestly.

You can see them kicking each other aside to get at any hint of delectable moisture. They stand on top of each other and kick and shove. It's amazing to watch. Which I did. Quite a lot. You tend to get a bit fixated when they're this bad. Even the locals were commenting "Me and my ten thousand new best friends went for a walk." Yep, the flies were bad.

A billionth of a second after pointlessly
trying to shoo them away.
And the irritating sods tickle with their tiny little feet and wings giving you very unwelcome fairy kisses. Sometimes they land, pause, stand around singly or in groups then appear to look around and assess which are the prime locations. Toes? Between the fingers? Under the watch? Variety is the spice of life! They rub their front legs together like a used car salesman who has seen a potential customer enter the car-yard. Bwahahahahaaa.

Then of course there's the danger of breathing. With any sharp intake of breath through nose or mouth, such as the intake of breath with exercise or laughter, there is the danger of breathing in dozens of wriggling little bodies. Learning to be a ventriloquist has never been easier! But it's not so easy to prevent a cough or sneeze. Were you aware that the intake of breath is quite substantial with those perfectly normal functions? Guess how many flies it's possible to kill with the inhalation prior to a sneeze? Naturally this results in more coughing as your body tries to expel the now rather worse for wear intruders. And when you cough you breathe in again. UGH.

As for smiling, such as when telling a joke or sharing news, the rule of thumb is DON'T. It's not that Aussies are taciturn or lacking in humour, but the risk of ingesting unwanted protein is never far from the mind. A couple of blokes we met failed to heed this advice. I doubt I'll ever forget watching flies land on the teeth of a really friendly, smiling bloke, or another spitting little carcasses out of his mouth with monotonous regularity - it was a long and interesting story he was sharing, but I couldn't help but be distracted.  ICK.
Naturally one needs to brush ones teeth when on holiday. Regular dental hygiene is undoubtedly important ... except ... flies.
One day I learnt a new lesson about flies.

When it's a glorious Spring day in the Flinders Ranges and the cicadas are chirruping contentedly, the birds are cheeping and calling with joyous abandon, when flowers are carpeting the ground in ones and two's or hundreds upon thousands, when the sky is blue and flocks of cloud-sheep are being buffeted across the sky by the gentle breeze, and when it's fly season, that brushing your teeth outdoors is, not to put too fine a point on it, positively gross.

Because with all those spring delights of the impossible greens after good rains, the fabulous reds of the soil and amazing blues of the sky, come the little black bush flies. Squadrons of them appear just when you thought there was a break in the barrage and that it was safe to brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth produces froth. Flies like dampness. Froth is damp. Froth escapes from the corners of your mouth. Flies burrow in with glee. Gag, gag, gag.
And last but not least: Did you know that after a cool night, that flies do exercises? They do, honestly! When the gentle rays of the morning sun hit them, say at 6:30 am, they kind of stretch one wing this way and that, then they stretch the other one, then one leg and so on. It's all quite elegant in a controlled tai chi kind of way! They they give a little experimental buzz, have a bit of a rest, then they're ready for another day of searching out a feast. Nom, nom, nom!

My son on seeing the photos asks "What's the attraction of going bush mum?" and I don't have an answer.
A useless attempt to protect my mug of tea from curious invaders.
For more detailed information about the Australian bush fly you can't go past this well written, amusing and helpful booklet:
Comfortingly I'm reminded that these little irritating bush flies aren't like the common house fly. In comparison they're positively hygienic and unlikely to spread illnesses. Just as well really.


Liza said...

My sister lives out in country in Victoria. I remember this. Horrifying really. I did notice while I was busy twitching and waving my hands and scratching and jumping, that the Aussies pretty much let the flies go where they would, with the exception of mouth and eyes. I supposed you can get used to anything...

Sue Travers said...

Liza, they're really bad this year, but only in some areas. Parts of QLD and NSW are completely (relatively) free of flies so far, and we have none to speak of in southern Victoria. But it's still quite cool here and they'll probably appear with the warmer weather. Darn :(

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. how horrid - not something I'd like to experience .. but if I want to visit Oz .. then I'll be back to find the best time to visit and avoid those little ticklers. Glad to hear they're not disease spreaders ..

But how unpleasant ... and after my posting about the Flinders Petrie Museum in London .. Flinders sprang out and now I know where the range is - called after Matthew Flinders, Flinders Petrie's father-in-law ... live and learn!!

Cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Hilary, there's not a day I don't learn something new. I learnt a lot about flies writing this post!
Please feel free to put a link in to your comment, that museum sounds interesting.