Big headline in the BBC Science section:
Researchers in the US say they have solved the mystery of why flies are so hard to swat.
Be still, my heart! lol!!
If you'll read the brief article, you'll be amazed to learn that scientists at the world renowned California Institute of Technology have discovered- finally- that - who could have ever imagined- flies are AWARE of fly swatters!
Flies actually- hard as it is to believe!- SEE them, and plan how to jump out of their way!!
Crikey. Another huge international headline I could have had for myself- but failed to- because it's just so totally freaking obvious.
Anybody who has actually spent time trying to swat a pesky problem fly learns this- unequivocally- in the first 2 minutes of human-fly warfare.
There is a REAL problem here, and this is a perfect illustration of it. There is a class of scientist out there who claim, and believe, that we know nothing - if it has not been brought into a laboratory, and been proven in careful controlled experiments.
Thereby discarding tens of thousands of years of totally accurate and intelligent observations.
And - setting us back, in fact making us dumber than we were. This is a growing trend in academia - find something really obvious and prove it. Then publish. Instant acclaim!
The upshot of this article is:
"We've found that when the fly makes planning movements prior to take-off, it takes into account its body position at the time it first sees the threat," he explained.
"Our experiments showed that the fly somehow 'knows' whether it needs to make large or small postural changes.
"This means the fly must integrate visual information from its eyes which tell it where the threat is approaching from, with mechano-sensory information from its legs, which tells it how to move to reach the proper pre-flight pose."
So can this data make us more efficient swatters? Possibly. It is best to creep up on a fly with stealth, as they are unable to register slow movements.
When it comes to striking the blow, Professor Dickinson said it was a good idea not to aim at the fly's starting position.
"It's best to aim a bit forward of its location and try and anticipate where the fly will jump when it first sees your swatter," he explained.
If you can stop laughing- (gosh! a fly is a functioning integrated organism?? no!!) - Professor Dickinson's advice shows that he actually has NOT experimented with fly swatting techniques.
My own advice on swatting flies? Simple. And based on years of vast swatting experience and experimentation. And no, they are NOT "unable" to register small movement- they just see it as not imminently threatening. Watch the flies- it's obvious.
A fly "on the alert" for a potential swat is basically - frozen. It's not moving- it's watching. You move the swatter a millimeter- and it moves its body a millimeter- but it can't keep doing that forever, can it? Hard to find food if you're always on alert.
A really scared fly may stay on alert for a very long time (from the human perspective) - up to 30 seconds, or even longer. That's too long for most fly-hunting humans' attention span- but it's not too long for the fly- whose life and entire existence depend on making the right response here.
Move your swatter slowly into a good position, without spooking the fly into flying. Hold it there, without moving it. Wait.
At some point-always- the frozen fly will start to walk- or clean its face. Whack it instantly, with no backswing. Because just at that point- it is NOT on guard; it has decided that hovering threat is not a threat, and cannot - cannot- jump quickly out of the way. The instant of change from "on high alert" to "not" - is a vulnerable point. As the professor notes- later, while the fly is walking, grooming, etc, it is again more difficult to catch.
Earthshaking information! Aren't you thrilled! The apocalypse has been averted!