When it comes to the natural world, people tend to be most familiar with only the largest creatures — mammals. Other animals, like birds, reptiles and amphibians are more of a mystery. Smaller organisms, like insects, are even less known.
This is due in part to the sheer number of insects: in the U.S., there are approximately 91,000 different described insect species, with an estimated 73,000 more that have yet to be named or described. And bear in mind this is insects alone, not other arthropods like spiders and millipedes. So there's a bunch of different bugs.
Some of them we see daily, even if we'd rather not. Flies, for example, are common but not particularly popular. The most abundant ones are known as House Flies (Musca domestica) and are the small flies that are most frequently found both indoors and outdoors alike.
There are other flies that make their way inside, including the large metallic greenish ones called Blow Flies (Calliphoridae). These often make a noisier buzzing sound, seem to be more drawn to windows in search of escape, and are attracted to food waste, dead animals and poop.
The other type of fly typically encountered around Tehachapi homes, both inside and out, are a slightly larger species known as Flesh Flies (Sarcophagidae). These are not as fast moving and agile as the smaller House Flies, and are more likely to fall prey to a well-wielded fly swatter.
Flesh Flies are recognizable by their alternating black and gray striped thorax and checkered abdomen. They also have red or russet colored eyes and abdomens that are bristled. "The bigger, slower ones" was how my uncle used to distinguish them from typical House Flies, and that's an accurate description.
Although they don't bite at all, Flesh Flies get their slightly creepy name because they will lay their larvae in animals' open wounds, though this is uncommon and they typically use garbage, carrion, and dung.
Unlike most similar flies, Flesh Flies retain their eggs within the body of the adult female until they are ready to hatch, then she deposits the tiny larvae on a food source, rather than depositing eggs like Blow Flies or other species.
Flesh Flies are one of the species whose larvae are collected by forensic entomologists from the site where a murder victim is found to help pinpoint the time of death. When feeding on an animal carcass or other food source, Flesh Fly larvae will even eat the larvae of other fly species if they get in their way. Adult Flesh Flies feed on a variety of liquids, including nectar from ripe fruit.
Despite their name, Flesh Flies aren't really interested in your flesh as long as you are still using it. They don't come inside houses nearly as often as the smaller House Flies, and if you do suddenly notice several of them, it might mean that a mouse has expired somewhere on the premises and is being reduced to dried-out shell thanks to fly larvae.
Flesh Flies are preyed upon by a variety of small predators, like lizards, birds and spiders, who appreciate the Flesh Flies converting things like garbage and dog excrement into something more edible — the Flesh Flies themselves.
Insects are incredibly diverse and numerous, and their world is one that we humans are still exploring. There is much that remains to be learned. . .
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.