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On Kit Hill this morning, I gallumphed among the heather and the golden stems of dried grass under deep blue skies, surrounded by clouds of tiny fluttering white moths.

For much of my walk. I was tormented by a particularly persistent and malignant horsefly which seemed bent on following me wherever I went, despite my feeble attempts to out-run it, my random irritated flailing and the rich selection of curses that I rained upon it and all its ilk .

It has been suggested that the more clothes you have on, the more savage the bugs.   If this is true, I dread to think what this one would have been like if I had encountered it while wearing a coat.  Possibly I would have had to fight it off with a spear.

Anyway, in between the flailing, thwacking, etc,  I considered this problem and came up with MANY THEORIES:

1)  Insects identify their victims using infra red  (Go with me on this, I read it on a website.  Or possibly it was on the radio.  Are you saying the BBC lies? It was probably on Radio 4.  RADIO 4).  Possibly, when you have bare legs and arms, your body is closer to the ambient temperature of the surroundings, whereas if it's cold enough for tights and coats, legs stand out in brillant crimson against the surrounding chill

2)  You are more likely to feel the minute tickle of the landing fly on bare skin, and brush it away without realising, before it has time to bite deep.  Clothing obfusticates your natural senses and defenses, giving the fly the advantage of stealth.   If this one is correct the best costume for dog-walking would be nudity, but I am loath to try the practical experiment.

3) Perhaps flies have an attraction to darker colours?  In evidence of this I cite Rosie Roo, whose bare pink chest and tummy should surely be a magnet for pests but never seems to get bitten, and Brythen, who is covered in dark patches and has to gallumph about at a steady 20mph minimum to avoid the attentions of flies.

4) Flies, which evolved primarily to feast on hairy things such as horses, cows, etc,  find bare flesh weird and creepy and avoid it.  Like sharks, which apparently never eat people, or not on purpose anyway (see note above about I probably read this on a website).

5) Flies are traditionalists.  Over thousands of years, they have learned that bare skin signals the presence of a horny-handed son of toil, whereas delicately covered flesh conceals the more delicately tended flesh of the aristocrat. Even in fly terms, evolution is a slow process, so they have not yet caught up with the changes resulting from the sudden proliferation of cheap nylon, lycra, etc.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
18th Aug, 2015 19:54 (UTC)
I have heard a theory that zebras have black and white stripes to help keep the flies away, but I don't know how it is meant to work.
19th Aug, 2015 04:32 (UTC)
I don't know if you have these things in the UK, but there is a thing that is like a tennis racket, but with battery-powered electrified strings. It electrocutes any reasonably small insect with which it comes into contact (I wouldn't try it on a rhinoceros beetle), and you can practice tennis strokes with it as well, so it multi-tasks. It is known as an electric mosquito swatter or mosquito bat. It should work on other biting flies as well.
19th Aug, 2015 07:56 (UTC)
We have one! My husband is a big fan of it and goes wildly swiping around the house with it. The branding of them is hilarious: ours is called THE EXECUTIONER PRO. I think this sounds more like a terrifying justice-robot from a dystopian future than a flyswat.

Perhaps a little cumbersome to carry on walks on the offchance of being attacked by a fly of unusual savagery though.
19th Aug, 2015 10:47 (UTC)
My goodness. I agree that is a little excessive. I suppose if you don't have a lot of biting flies normally it's not really necessary.
19th Aug, 2015 05:59 (UTC)
...I would have had to fight it off with a spear...

heh! When I used to ride Charm along the sunken lane in July, just after the horseflies hatched out, a spear and a shield would have been very handy.

19th Aug, 2015 08:00 (UTC)
horseflies are basically the reason that I have never succumbed to the temptation of horses. (well, OK, cost, space etc. but mostly flies)
19th Aug, 2015 08:07 (UTC)
I wrote a long comment full of many Theories and musings, inspired by my experiences of ferocious fly bites through thick tights, but as soon as I clicked "post," the internet disappeared. After much prodding, it reappeared, so I pasted the comment in, pressed "post," and the same thing happened... and then again, a third time. This time it never came back, and I'm having to write this from work, without the original comment to hand. From this I have concluded that I stumbled too close to The Truth, and have had to be silenced. Confirmation of the existence of secret insect overlords?
19th Aug, 2015 08:18 (UTC)
19th Aug, 2015 12:54 (UTC)
Indeed. Although my brain has now become convinced that the true version of this song is "Human slaves in a lurcher nation," and suspects that the insect version is just some derivative filk.

My theory was derived from considering the features of thick shiny black tights. Bare legs give the fly no camouflage, and the victim often feels the bite. Crawling up inside the trousers is complicated and risky - they can't see the approach of swatting hands, and they can't easily escape.

So they want to eat through a layer of clothing. But baggy clothing is no good: it flaps around and trying to feed through it is like drinking tea on a storm-tossed boat. Figure-hugging dark clothes are the best, allowing them to be unseen and unfelt while they enjoy their food while sitting on a nice shiny tablecloth.

I now need to conduct some research with cyclists to see if they get more bites on their lyrca-covered bits than their bare bits.

But that doesn't explain your horsefly. I suspect it was trying to be helpful, and was desperately chasing you to tell you you'd dropped something in the car park.

And if my work internet goes down the moment I press "post," then I'll know that there really IS cause to worry.
20th Aug, 2015 09:05 (UTC)
Hah! if it was trying to be helpful, it needs a swift exercise in 'not biting the undersides of arms'. (I was not, in case you were wondering, wearing lycra on the undersides of my arms. )
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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