Jul 12 2010

How to Swat a Fly

Published by at 7:21 am under Insects, Fish, Frogs

July 12, 2010:

The other day a Buick-sized fly buzzed around the room and banged against my office window.  They always show up when the loading dock door stays open for a long delivery.

I don’t know why we get such enormous house flies but after they wander indoors they get lost in the dark hallways and fly up to the light.  Eventually they make it to my office.

I try to swat them and fail.  Am I uncoordinated?

No. Flies are masters at avoiding swats.

Back in 2008 researchers at Caltech used high speed, high definition video to record the movements of fruit flies to see how they avoided a swat threat.  Amazingly, the flies positioned themselves for escape within 100 milliseconds of noticing the approaching swatter.  It didn’t matter if they were eating, resting or walking, they shifted their weight and were ready to escape with a mere flex of their legs.

The researchers concluded that fruit flies have fast-acting brains and the ability to plan ahead.  Who knew! Flies plan ahead!

So how to swat one?  According to Michael Dickson of Caltech, we should creep up on it slowly because it doesn’t register slow movement, then “aim a bit forward of its location and try and anticipate where the fly will jump when it first sees your swatter.”

In other words, we’re supposed to plan ahead of the fly.  😉


(photo of a house fly by Alvesgaspar from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original.)

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “How to Swat a Fly”

  1. Marianneon 12 Jul 2010 at 8:23 am

    I saw a show on PBS last year about this. It was amazing!

    I have actually tried to anticipate which way the fly will go before swatting and have had some success!

  2. Rachelon 12 Jul 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I believe on take off flies jump backward.

    Still in general it seems like flies have to age a bit before we’re really capable of swatting them. Those electric tennis rackets help a little, but the insect really has to be big enough.

  3. Mary DeVon 12 Jul 2010 at 5:23 pm

    It’s those @#$%^ compound eyes, I tell ya! They can see in every direction and you can’t sneak up on ’em!

  4. Kate St. Johnon 12 Jul 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Tonight we had a house fly buzzing around the house. My cat loves to catch bugs so she watched it and waited. Then she ran across the room, jumped on the windowsill and caught the fly with her paws. Wow!
    So much for creeping up on it slowly so it doesn’t escape.

  5. Jon 13 Jul 2010 at 2:50 pm

    When I was in college I had a trick for catching flies in my room at night. I would turn off all the lights except for my computer monitor and wait for the fly to land on the screen then I would smash it with a kleenex or napkin.

    My chocolate lab used to love to catch flies when she was younger. She would just spit them out after she caught them though.

  6. Shannonon 13 Jul 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I used to live next to a dairy and cows really attract the flies!!! My house became a lab for efficient killing of flies. My best weapon was a wet rag snap. I now use the light method to lure them to a bathroom and, ‘SMACK’– I give them a wet towel snap. Works every time!!!!

  7. Deeon 21 Jul 2016 at 8:42 am

    Agh, they are horrible little creatures. I found the only way I have been able to get them is by catching them.

    I have a clear drinking glass and slowly put it directly over them, for some reason they cannot see or figure out the glass.

    I then slide a piece of paper between the window/wall and the glass. I then take them outside and release them. Although I would prefer to swat them, I have never been able too hit them.

  8. Sherylon 21 Jul 2016 at 9:33 am

    I have no luck with flies however, my pit bull Wiggles is a master! I have seen her leap through the air and catch a fly in her mouth mid flight. She will usually spit them out and then stomp on them afterwards though.

  9. Kathy Bramanon 21 Jul 2016 at 11:22 am

    About 60 years ago, when I was a child, there was a column in the newspaper called “Ask Andy”. Someone wrote in and asked how to swat a fly. “Andy” agreed with Rachel above, and said that the fly will ever so quickly move backwards before going forwards. Since then, I attack from that angle and swat with the newspaper. I have had very few misses. Have a great day everyone!

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