In a recent Twitter poll, an entomologist asked his more than thirty thousand followers to “choose wisely” and then gave them four options: wasps, beetles, flies, or moths. The lack of any context turned the poll into a popularity contest. And although no runaway winner emerged, there was a clear loser: flies.
The outcome isn’t surprising. We all learn to shoo flies from our food and off our bodies. Hardware stores sell long-handled instruments specifically designed to kill them. Flies have been portrayed—and not without cause—as carriers of disease, messengers of death, and enemies of babies.
But I’m here to present a counterargument. Because flies are also super cool. Here are a few flies you ought to know better:
This marvel of nature will blow your mind with its ability to—well, blow up its own head. With all the talk lately about inflation, this balloon animal of a fly deserves more attention.
No, they’re not wearing oversized shades, they’re just built that way. If you think toddlers in bike helmets are adorable, or if you’re still mourning the breakup of Daft Punk, then this is the fly for you.
These midges, who like the other insects on this list are “true flies” in the order Diptera, pollinate cacao trees. Without these flies, we couldn’t savor our mocha lattes or enjoy the occasional chocolate binge. Enough said.
Okay, so this is a decidedly different kind of fly. Released fifty years ago, Curtis Mayfield’s iconic album and eponymous song will get all six of your feet tapping while you’re thinking about other flies.
With their simple genetics and rapid lifecycle, these diminutive flies are research accelerators. I’m one of many biologists using Drosophila to explore physiology, pathology, genetics, and more. The next time one dives into your wineglass, give it a nod of thanks and know you’re looking at what’s arguably one of the best-understood organisms on the planet.
Stephanie Mohr is a biologist in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. She is also the author of First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discovery.