Flies are the best insect, here's why!

Are flies adapting to the different tube lines of the London underground?
26 October 2021

Interview with 

Eleanor Drinkwater


A fly


Now the submissions for this year’s National Wildlife Photographer are up for all to see, and it jogged my memory about an old submission that got a special mention last year. You may have seen it,  a rather grizzly picture of a parasite circulating on the internet. Here we go panel, what do you make of that?

Andrew - Oh dear, that doesn't look idea does it?

Eleanor - It's so cute. Look at it's little face

Harry - Eleanor, can you describe to us what we can see? What is the picture of?

Eleanor - So essentially you can see the world's most adorable bat fly, which is kind of clinging onto the face. Yeah, it's, it's a really amazing photo. Like it's, it's an incredible photo.

Harry - So it's this bright orange kind of insect that's literally covering where the eyes would be on a bat.

Andrew - Because to me, and I'm not an entomologist by any stretch, obviously it's got six legs so isn't, but to me it looks like a cross between like a scorpion and a spider.

Eleanor - I think this just really highlights just how incredible flies are. I think that when we think about flies, we think about a blue bottle buzzing around, but actually, that is only really the tip of the iceberg with the immense diversity of flies really. And so taking this one, as an example of the bat fly, there are many species of bat fly, some of which are generalists and so will feed on different bats, whereas other ones are kind of specialists and so you get a certain species of bat fly that will, parasitize a particular bat and they'll live pretty much most of their lives attached onto the bat, usually on their lower back. So they have a perhaps surprising life of a fly, but I absolutely love them because they really fill every single niche in which it's possible to exist and then there will be a species of fly that live that, for example, you may not know this, but there is actually a sub-species of mosquito, which lives on the London underground. It's developed to be able to live underground on the London underground. And the fascinating thing is that different lines on the tube in London will have slightly different kinds of genetic variation between them, which really highlights this amazing ability of this group to really change and adapt, and to kind of fill all these amazing, different niches, which is why I think they're great.


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