Fly Season, Beetle Season

Biological controls for the win.

The fly season is on us again.

Way back before Europeans screwed things up, Australia didn’t really have a problem with flies. Water being scarce down here, animals didn’t waste it on excrement – kangaroos and other native animals generally produce small, dry pellets unsuitable for flies’ purposes. The only place flies could breed was in animal carcases and while there were enough of these to keep the flies in business, there were never enough to let them breed up to plague proportions.

Then the Europeans turned up and brought with them all those water squandering northern hemisphere animals like cows and horses and sheep – which wandered around the continent dropping big steaming pats everywhere. The flies thought that they’d died and gone to fly heaven and Australia became a place where you couldn’t open your mouth in summer without three or four dozen of the damn things plunging in and trying to claim your lungs in the name of all flykind.

After decades of this kind of thing the government finally decided to do something about it. They engaged in years of trials and careful testing (we at least learnt a lesson from the cane toad fiasco) and eventually a species of small, inoffensive dung beetle was imported from Africa and distributed across the country. Confronted with massive piles of excrement that the ecosystem was totally failing to deal with the beetles thought they’d died and gone to beetle heaven and got on with what they do best – rolling it up into balls and burying it.

Result? Fly numbers plummeted and summer became bearable again.

Except for October.

You see the flies start breeding in late September. The dung beetles don’t start breeding until late October. This means that for one month of the year the flies are back in force and we all suffer.

But hey, at least we can comfort ourselves remembering that all of summer used to be like that.

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