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An interview with a housefly

April 14, 2018


I had just sat down on my comfortable sofa when I heard an irritating sound, “Buzz, buzz. Buzzzz ….”

I looked around, twisting my head frantically from left to right in order to locate the source of this constant buzzing. Suddenly, a large housefly came in my field of vision.

It seemed to stare at me for a while and then zoomed towards the chocolate cake that I had just taken out of the fridge.

“Oh no! You don’t!”

I waved my hand to make it fly away, but it persisted and evaded all my attempts to strike it. I hurriedly went to another room so that I could eat my cake in peace, but somehow it found me again as I was just stuffing the last crumbs in my mouth.

but somehow it found me again as I was just stuffing the last crumbs in my mouth. With extreme determination, it sat down on my plate savouring the thin coating of chocolate left on my spoon. I stared at it in horror and revulsion.

“Hello. It’s very rude to stare, you know!” it suddenly said, looking quite smug.

I could only stare more.

“Mmmm. You are sitting on my spoon, eating my cake,” I answered in a cross tone.

“Yes, it was quite tasty. To show my thanks, I will let you interview me.”

“Interview you?” I exclaimed. “Why would I want to interview a pest like you?”

“You are a writer, aren’t you? And I am quite famous.”

“Famous, you better say infamous!” I said in a cross tone.

“Of course I am, in fact all species of flies are. No science book is complete without us. Scientists conduct experiments on us and World Health Organisation regularly issues out warnings regarding our activities. There are proverbs about us in your Urdu book. Your national poet Allama Iqbal even wrote a famous poem about a spider and a fly.

“Although, in recent times our mosquito cousins have been in news more frequently, don’t forget we are equally dangerous and persistent in causing diseases. It is a good thing that you people have not been paying any attention to us in recent times, but we have been very busy creating health problems wherever we are allowed to breed freely.”

My interest was piqued, so I assumed a very professional demeanour.

“Okay. Tell me a little bit about yourself which I don’t already know.’” I asked my first question.

“We have been around for almost 65 million years. We can survive in almost any habitat and we love to be with human beings. We like living wherever there is human settlement, and we feed and grow in filthy areas. We especially love garbage, rotten fruits, rotten meat, animal dung, sewage, human excrement and any kind of filth which you hate, but are still kind enough to provide us with.”

“Ewww!” I thought mentally, feeling a little sick.

“What type of diseases can you cause?” I hurriedly asked my next question.

“We are expert in causing at least 65 types of diseases,” it replied proudly. “Our taste buds are in our feet and when we land on something, we thoroughly enjoy ourselves by exploring it. If the food is solid, we spit digestive juices on the food to decompose it before swallowing as we don’t have teeth. At the same time, we are also busy laying our eggs. We pick up bacteria, fungi and viruses and then spread these pathogens by sitting on foods and drinks which you leave uncovered.

“Think of us as aeroplanes with all sorts of disease causing agents as our passengers. Some of the diseases we spread are gastroenteritis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, leprosy, conjunctivitis, salmonella, different types of food poisoning and many more. You can say we are specialist in skin, eye and all kinds of stomach infections.”

Feeling a little disgruntled by the fly’s boasts, I bent my head rapidly scribbling down the notes.

“So what particularly you like and dislike?” I asked next.

“Oh, I as I told you, there are a variety of things we love to be on, but we are equally fond of human sweat, milk, sugar, juices, syrup, blood, meat broth and any meal that you eat. We enjoy living in bins full of garbage, horse manure, cow dung and all things gross. We have an acute sense of smell and can detect food from far away.”

“We detest cleanliness and hate it when you cover your food properly. There are also a few insect repelling plants that we really dislike … basil, lavender, lemongrass and citronella.

“However, we do have enemies like spiders, frogs, lizards, sparrows, wasps and even some plants like Venus flytrap. We try to avoid them at all costs.”

“How do you escape your predators?” I asked curiously.

“We are quite proud of our eyes, you know. You will be amazed to know that our eyes are comprised of thousands of individual lenses. We can see colour spectrums that humans cannot see. Our eyes help us detect the slightest of movements in a wide field so we react to any danger at a quicker pace than species with simple eyes. That is why it is extremely difficult to swat us or catch us.”

“Is there any way to get rid of you?” I asked fuming.

“Well, cleanliness and sanitation would be great starting points, but, thank God, you people don’t pay much attention to these. Even if you clean your own house, you throw garbage out in the streets and your neighbourhood provide us with great breeding and feeding areas. Even if you are listening to me now you will still remain the same, as humans pay no attention to what causes diseases that make them sick. By the way, don’t you have any sandwiches and juice? You didn’t leave much cake for me.”

By this time, I was feeling quite ready to get rid of my unwelcome guest. I tried to thwack it with rolled up newspaper but it immediately took flight out of my reach.

“Ha ha! You have to be quicker than that!” the fly taunted as it merrily went out of the open window. I slid the net across the window and closed it properly. Then I took the contaminated utensils to the kitchen to wash them with hot water. I also checked the bin to see if it was properly fitted with the lid and looked around the room to see if any food was left uncovered.

Some housefly facts:

• Houseflies are particular about keeping their eyes clean. They use their forelegs to remove any material that has come into contact with their eyes.

• Their wings are very delicate. Even a speck of substance can alter their flight patterns.

• The common housefly has no mouth. Instead, it has an eating tube through which it vomits a drop of fluid from its stomach and deposits it on its intended meal. The solid food gets dissolved and is sucked by leaving behind a gazillion germs.

• A female housefly lays about 100-130 eggs at a time. Eggs hatch into worm-like creatures called maggots.

• Presence of houseflies is a sign of unhygienic conditions so avoid restaurants and roadside food sellers where there are clusters of flies.

Tips to keep flies out:

• The main weapon in the war against houseflies is simply keeping your home and neighbourhood clean as well. Don’t throw trash in public places. If you are out on a picnic, keep disposable bags with you to bring home uneaten stuff, empty drink bottles and fruit peels etc.

• Don’t leave uncovered food out. Clean up food crumbs and any liquid spillages immediately, and wash and wipe surfaces with clean cloth after meals.

• Keep a lid on garbage bins.

• Prevent houseflies from entering your homes by keeping doors, windows and vents closed. Use nets and screens if you want fresh air.

• It is better not to use pesticides too much inside the house. If you spray pesticides, make sure you stay away from the room for some time.

• Grow insect repellent plants in pots around the house. They are easily available from plant nurseries.

• If you have pets or animals around, make sure their waste material is disposed off sanitarily.

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 14th, 2018