Many people consider flies nuisances, but these insects are quite complex and are found all over the world. They belong to the order Diptera, which they share with other insects, including mosquitoes.
Here are seven other facts about flies that you might not have known.
Some species of flies are genetically similar to people.
According to researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the genes of fruit flies match about 77 percent of the discovered human disease genes. With a short life cycle – in most fruit fly species it takes only a week to go from egg to adult – it is possible for scientists to study genetic mutations in a much shorter amount of time than with other insects or animals. Because of this, fruit flies are often used in medical research labs.
Flies can see behind them.
It’s a fly fact that there are thousands of tiny lenses, called ommatidia, which make up the eyes of a fly. These compound eyes allow flies to see 360 degrees at once.
There are fruit flies in space.
NASA sent fruit flies to the International Space Station in 2014. The flies, located in the “Fruit Fly Lab,” are being used to study the long-term effects of microgravity, space flight and space radiation. The results will help inform decisions made about space travel for humans. For more information, visit nasa.gov.
Flies are good at math.
Despite having tiny brains, flies are excellent at calculating the angle of a swatting hand, newspaper or swatter and creating a flight plan to avoid it. When they see a threat coming, they are able to leap backward using their hind legs to avoid the hit, according to research done by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech). Their data on this fly fact showed that flies make these decisions within 100 milliseconds of spotting the threat.
There is a right way to swat a fly.
According to the CalTech team, there is actually a better way to swat a fly. Instead of aiming directly for the fly, you should try to aim ahead of it and anticipate where it is going to jump when it sees you coming.
Some flies are imposters.
It’s a fly fact that there are species of this pest that mimic other insects. Hover flies, for example, often look like bees or wasps, enabling them to avoid predators. These flies get their name from their behavior – they are often seen hovering in midair like small, living helicopters. While their buzzing can be annoying, hover flies are considered beneficial as their larvae prey on aphids, caterpillars, thrips and scales. Adult hover flies are pollinators of flowering plants.
Not all flies are “true flies.”
Some insects are called flies, but are not actually included in Diptera. To tell them apart, look at the insect’s name: a “true fly” will have its name in two parts, like the house fly, whereas a dragonfly is all one word.
While these facts about flies are interesting, they don’t mean you want to keep these pests around. If you have a fly problem in your home, call a pest management professional to tell these insects to buzz off.