What do insects do all day? We casually glance at them but never actually observe them outside a scientific setting. I decided to observe a bug from a distance and see what it's up to!
I decided to follow a bug around for 2 hours.
To find out what they’re up to. They’re everywhere, but I realised that I never really paid attention to what they’re doing for the whole day.
This is in NO WAY a scientific observation. Those are less fun. This is just following a bug around, quietly without interfering, except for clicking pictures - and this is how it went.
Failed attempt #1
This bug did NOT MOVE or do anything, just sat on the ground for such a long time that I thought it was dead. It even had some dust on it. This is a brown marmorated stink bug, and these guys always hang around my house. I’ve never smelt the stink, but it’s rumoured to smell like cilantro - and I hate cilantro so I don’t know why I chose this bug to observe. This bug, in fact, was not dead, it moved around a little but did nothing else. It was probably old, so I decided to leave it be and find a new bug.
Failed attempt #2
A few days later, I chanced upon one of my favourite insects: the White-Winged Red Costa Tiger moth. Here it is, hanging out on the marble next to the lift in my building.
The lighting was just right, and I got some lovely pictures. These little guys are called tiger moths due to the orange and black pattern of their bodies underneath their wings. I was waiting to see that pattern, but this LITTLE BUGGER didn’t move or do anything as well! I have a no interference rule, but as I said, I really like these moths and I love seeing the starkly different pattern underneath the white and red. Here’s a picture I got from Wikipedia of the pattern since my observational moth decided to be asleep.
At this point, I asked myself if it's worth it. Then I realised, wait a minute, I’m in India; there are bugs in every corner, I’m just not looking hard enough!
Introduction to the Subject:
Then, lo-and-behold, the miracles of being in a tropical country - a housefly fell into my orange juice later that afternoon. I saw it happen, right in front of me, and I picked the fly out. I thought to myself, "I’ve decided to rescue this fly," so I should probably wash the orange juice off it, right? Otherwise, it’ll get sticky and that would probably be a worse, slower death than drowning in my orange juice. So I placed a drop of water on the fly and watched with awe as the fly scrubbed the water and orange juice off its body for ten minuted straight, all while sitting on my finger. As you must know, flies barely get close enough to swat away, so to have one on my finger was strangely special! I took a long video of the whole process. Here are some grainy screenshots of the process (I was taking a very shaky, one-handed video).
It kept systematically rubbing the substance off its wings with both back legs, then cleaning the back legs with its mouth. This went on for a while, following which it walked off my hand and onto the microwave.
That’s when I decided that my little rescue fly was my observational bug for the next two hours. I decided to call him Dr House. Here is a detailed account:
An Account of Every Major Update:
2:45 - Dr House has left my finger and is just chilling on the microwave, doing some last-minute wing touch-ups. Flies seem surprisingly clean and meticulous.
2:53 - Dr House flew onto the kitchen counter and is walking around and rubbing his hands. He seems evil, right now, rubbing his palms together. He’s making sure his food-tasting hands are clean. So he’s prepping to go look for food. I hope he doesn’t take too long.
3:02 - Dr House went straight to the fruit basket! I thought he’d fool around on the counter a bit longer, but he seemed to know where the fruits were. Went straight for the banana stem.
3:03-3:45 - Dr House is probably overeating at this point. I don’t know what he’s eating on the banana stems, but he’s been there for a long time. He’s not moving around from his original spot. I went and made some ramen and came, and he’s still sitting there.
3:52 - He flew and went to the ketchup bottle. Banana and ketchup seem like a gross combination.
Note to self: Flies may be clean, but they’re horrible judges of good cuisine.
4:10 - He has flown from the ketchup bottle and flew for quite a bit; it was really hard to track him.
4:10-4:30 - He kept stopping from place to place but he did nothing special, really. What do flies do all day? Where are his fly buddies? Are they excluding him because he’s a clumsy orange-juice-skinny-dipping fly?
4:32 - He’s gone to the cat litter where one of my three cats has just pooped. Officially retract my flies-are-clean comment, I don’t know what I was thinking — it was a moment of weakness.
4:31-4:55 - My 2 hours of allotted observation time are up, and Dr House is still sitting on the litter tray. I’m pretty sure he’s eating bits of poo. I’m upset our goodbye had to be that way. Bye Dr House.
In conclusion, insects are weird. So weird. Flies just sit around and fly around and eat nice things as well as poo?
I’m sure 2 hours was too little to observe a housefly. They can live from 7 to 10 days or up to 2 months. And after they are born, are sexually mature in 16-24 hours. With females laying up to 500 eggs in a lifetime. All those things considered, they’re probably busy eating and mating — at least that’s what I thought. However, Dr House was quite solitary and spent a lot of time idling about. Maybe he was old, or maybe the near-death orange juice experience taught him there was more to life than eating and mating.
This was an interesting experience, but I will most definitely not choose a housefly again.