Enter a hidden world of snail killers, silly names and crazy sex in The Secret Life of Flies. Entomolologist Erica McAlister dispels many common misconceptions and reveals how truly amazing, exotic and important these creatures really are. From hungry herbivores and precocious pollinators to robberflies, danceflies and the much maligned mosquito, McAlister describes the different types of fly, their unique and often unusual characteristics, and the unpredictable nature of their daily life.
She travels from the drawers of wonder at the Natural History Museum, to piles of poo in Ethiopia, via underground caves, smelly latrines and the English country garden. She discovers flies without wings, rotating genitalia and the terrible hairy fly, while pausing along the way to consider today's key issues of conservation, taxonomy, forensic entomology and climate change.
Combining her deep knowledge and love of flies with a wonderful knack for storytelling, Erica McAlister allows us to peer – amazed and captivated – into the secret life of flies.
1. The immature ones 23
2. The pollinators 43
3. The detritivores 63
4. The coprophages 85
5. The necrophages 105
6. The vegetarians 123
7. The fungivores 143
8. The predators 163
9. The parasites 185
10. The sanguivores 213
The end 237
Further reading 242
Picture credits 248
Erica McAlister is Curator of Diptera at the Natural History Museum, London. All through her life Erica has been interested in the little things – as a child she kept dead mammals to watch the maggots emerging from them and picked fleas off cats to watch them jumping under a microscope. Erica has studied in France, Australia and Costa Rica and her work with diptera has taken her all around the world. She recently presented the popular BBC Radio 4 series Who's the Pest?.
"A short, rich book by turns informative and humorous [...] a hymn of praise to her favourite creatures and a gleeful attempt to give readers the willies."
– The New York Times
"What really makes the book so engrossing is the weird and let's be frank occasionally horrifying behaviours that flies exhibit. The most compelling parts of McAlister's book are gruesome tales [...] after reading her book it is obvious: flies rock."
– The Spectator
"I would love to find antler flies sparring; or a bat fly 'swimming' through the fur of its host; or a giant Texan robberfly feeding on a hummingbird. Instead, if I can keep up with Erica's infectious verve, I will vicariously drink down her rich enthusiasm."
– Book of the Month – BBC Wildlife