Monday, 28 July 2014

"The small gilded fly doth lecher in my sight" (King Lear, nature lover)

Nature is famously good for us, with talk of “green gyms” (marketing speke for a walk in the countryside) and mental health.  The verdant green of a spring time woodland or flower strewn verge are a delight. I am less sure about the darkened woods of late summer as the leaves strip out all light or the wilder moors: Wuthering Heights, The Hound of the Baskervilles and Lorna Doon are not set high on the moors by accident. Nonetheless Druridge Bay has that overwhelming calm of sea and sky that King Lear could have done with instead of contemplating flies out in the storm. I have always assumed the “small gilded fly” he observed were Long-legged Flies, Dolichopodidae, perky, iridescent inhabitants of damp vegetation and exposed mud. They do a lot of letchering in sight (green bottles do not, so I’m ruling them out). The sun has brought out the more conspicuous Dolichopodiae in skipping, fizzing mobs. Most are very tricky to identify but one is not, Poecilobothrus nobilitatus, on account of the white wing tips of the males. These frantic suitors whirr and fan their wings to females, then hop and skip back and forth over the object of their amorous attention. However since they all tend to crowd together in the drying puddles and rims of the ponds the mob is a constant agitation of distracted flirting and collisions. As each fly shifts and twitches new neighbours jump into view so within seconds they seem to have lost sight of their intended.  They are also easily distracted trying to yank midge larvae out of the mud which they chew up with macerating mouth parts.  If you approach to abruptly the whole mess of flies scatters but lie down to watch and they will soon return to their choice patch of mud for another round of dancing.  They are flies of high summer’s hot days as the ponds dry down to squirming mud and a delight to watch.

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