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The Life of the fly; with which are interspersed s

We may protect ourselves against the Bluebottle


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time to time, the bluebottle and the flesh fly perch on the trellis-work, make a short investigation and then decamp. Throughout the summer season, for three whole months, the apparatus remains where it is, without the least result: never a worm. What is the reason? Does the stench of the meat not spread, coming from that depth? Certainly it spreads: it is unmistakable to my dulled nostrils and still more so to the nostrils of my children, whom I call to bear witness. Then why does the flesh fly, who but now was dropping her grubs from a goodly height, refuse to let them fall from the top of a column twice as high? Does she fear lest her worms should be bruised by an excessive drop? There is nothing about her to point to anxiety aroused by the length of the shaft. I never see her explore the tube or take its size. She stands on the trellised orifice; and there the matter ends. Can she be apprised of the depth of the chasm by the comparative faintness of the offensive odors that arise from it? Can the sense of smell measure the distance and judge whether it be acceptable or not? Perhaps.

The fact remains that, despite the attraction of the scent, the flesh fly does not expose her worms to disproportionate falls. Can she know beforehand that, when the chrysalides break, her winged family, knocking with a sudden flight against the sides of a tall chimney, will be unable to get out? This foresight would be in agreement with the rules which order

maternal instinct according to future needs.

But when the fall does not exceed a certain depth, the budding worms of the flesh fly are dropped without a qualm, as all our experiments show. This principle has a practical application which is not without its value in matters of domestic economy. It is as well that the wonders of entomology should sometimes give us a hint of commonplace utility.

The usual meat safe is a sort of large cage with a top and bottom of wood and four wire gauze sides. Hooks fixed into the top are used whereby to hang pieces which we wish to protect from the flies. Often, so as to employ the space to the best advantage, these pieces are simply laid on the floor on the cage. With these arrangements, are we sure of warding off the fly and her vermin?

Not at all. We may protect ourselves against the Bluebottle, who is not much inclined to lay her eggs at a distance from the meat; but there is still the flesh fly, who is more venturesome and goes more briskly to work and who will slip the grubs through a hole in the meshes and drop them inside the safe. Agile as they are and well able to crawl, the worms will easily reach anything on the floor; the only things secure from their attacks will be the pieces hanging from the ceiling. It is not in the nature of maggots to explore the heights, especially if this implies climbing down a string in addition.

People also use wire gauze dish covers. The trellised dome protects the contents even less than does the meat safe. The flesh fly takes no heed of it. She can drop her worms through the meshes on the covered joint.

Then what are we to do? Nothing could be simpler. We need only wrap the birds which we wish to preserve--thrushes, partridges, snipe and so on--in separate paper envelopes; and the same with our beef and mutton. This defensive armor alone, while leaving ample room for the air to circulate, makes any invasion by the worms impossible, even without a cover or a meat safe: not that paper possesses any special preservative virtues, but solely because it forms an impenetrable barrier. The Bluebottle carefully refrains from laying her eggs upon it and the flesh fly from bringing forth her offspring, both of them knowing that their newborn young are incapable of piercing the obstacle.


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