Jul 11 2008

editor-hat super-geek

Published by at 9:17 pm under don't play with Diptera,Editing,Life

It was all very simple, really. I was sitting here, reading this story from someone wanting to join our writer’s group (clever story, literate, not quite ready for publication but easily able to be made so, good style overall, can’t see why we wouldn’t let said applicant in). Five minutes after finishing, something was still tickling the back of my editor brain, and I went searching the crevasses of the internet. (Ok, I found most of what I needed on Wikipedia, but moving on…) (Reader Beware Warning: Thar be discussion of arthropoda and bodily fluids in the words ahead.)

Dark secret revelation time (no not THAT one): In another life, I was an entomologist. Or perhaps even in this life, if I ever decide to go back to school. Yes, I really am that weird. I used to collect roly-polys (in a jar at first, and later outside under the bricks in vast colonies). I wore cicada shells in my hair and on my clothes as a child–I had a jar where I collected each season’s found shells. (Looking back, I bet my mom liked that habit about as much as she liked my inability to quietly burp, but that’s too much tangenting for now. But wait, check out this cool cicada-molting animated gif!) Though I’ve not taken many formal entomology classes, they were very memorable for me, and pieces of what I learned there were reinforced in some of the other animal science classes I took when we got to the pests and parasites lesson sections.

To paraphrase and completely take out of its context the bit of the story that was poking me (and get back somewhere near my point), at one point in passing “horse flies” are equated to “stable flies”. My fidgety mind finally bursts out with “Hey, I think I remember learning that a stable fly was a different species from a horse fly. And aren’t horse flies those really huge fuckers that bite worse than a fire ant, and the stable flies are the ones that suck blood?” Quick, to the Wikimobile!

And I found that there was rightness on both sides (or wrongness, depending on your viewing lens). According to the Demi-gods of Wikery, it is a true statement to say a stable fly is also known as a horse fly, but not true to say that a horse-fly is the same as a stable fly. Or even more nerdily explained: both flies in question are of the order Diptera, also known as “true flies”. However the stable fly (sometimes called a horse fly) is of the Family Muscidae, and are bloodsuckers with mouth-parts similar to mosquito construction. The horse fly (which is similar to a deer fly, but is not a stable fly) is of the Family Tabanidae, where the adult female (but not the male) fly has mandibles that are serrated and designed to tear a piece of flesh off and drink the blood that oozes forth. So it all depends on your perspective (or which fly-borne transmissible disease you prefer), and mine is I’ll stay away from both the muscidae piercers and the tabanid masticators, thanks.

I think I crossed the line from geek far into nerd with this admission. Why yes, that was fifteen minutes of my life spent seriously contemplating fly mouths, why do you ask?

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “editor-hat super-geek”

  1. Kikion 11 Jul 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I remember losing pieces of myself to horseflies when I was a kid. Never heard of stable flies but they sound extremely scary!

    To encourage your nerdiness (which I always like to do when I can), are blackflies related to horseflies? They always seemed to take large bits of flesh, though they are much tinier…

    (That cicada is beautiful, btw.)

  2. Reesaon 12 Jul 2008 at 12:35 am

    The black fly is yet another Diptera denizen, Family Simuliidae, more closely related to the mosquito than the other two. However, their method of getting the blood is more closely related to the horse fly, cutting into the skin and then feeding on the resulting pool of blood. And of course, you don’t really encounter just one black fly, at least horse flies are usually a bit more solitary…

  3. Megan M.on 13 Jul 2008 at 9:02 am

    What a freaking awesome post!

  4. Megan M.on 14 Jul 2008 at 10:27 am

    I saw this not long after I read your post, and couldn’t help sharing:
    http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/1136-nature-is-amazing-gordian-worms