Saturday, May 19, 2012

Flesh flies breed on living or dead organic material

Flesh flies, as their name implies, breed on living or dead organic material, mainly flesh. Their maggots live in dead animals, dung or decaying vegetable matter and sometimes in open wounds of mammalian species. 

Some species are internal parasites especially of beetles and grasshoppers while others live in bees and wasps’ nests.

About 30 species are found in the Maltese islands. Most are dark with light stripes but in many cases it is difficult to tell species apart unless they are studied microscopically. 

In many species the female is larger than the male. The most common species, known in Maltese as dubbiena tal-la─žam, is larger than the common house fly. It can be found on decomposing organic material as well as on flowers.

These insects which are found throughout most of the world are not only a nuisance but can also be important vectors of diseases including leprosy. Sometimes they are also important as pest control agents and can be beneficial in fruit tree orchards and in forestry plantations.

Flesh flies have been extensively studied especially because of their importance in forensic science. Flesh flies do not lay eggs. The eggs hatch inside the female fly which then ‘gives birth’ to the maggots. 

Different species place their young in animals that are at different stages of decomposition ranging from freshly dead to bloated or decaying. This makes it possible for entomologist to accurately give the date or sometimes even the time of death of a corpse.

There is a tendency to classify insects as being either good or bad. Flies are automatically deemed as bad and therefore to be annihilated. But the living world is not that simple. 

Many species of flies can cause problems but at the same time they also help to break down organic matter and help to recycle it. 

Flies reduce the time required for a corpse to decompose and without them we would see more dead animals lying around. 

This article was written in The Times on 28.09.11

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