Justice for the House Fly

I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University.

After carefully assembling my foldscope, I went out in search of the perfect specimen to analyze with the foldscope. I knew that I wanted to observe an animal that was present in my daily life, especially one that was too small to normally be able to study its morphology. So when I saw a dead house fly on the grassy grounds right outside my classroom, I knew that that was it. For ages, house flies have been ostracized as the filthy insects that no one wants in their house. Once seen, everyone scatters to try and kill them. I think that they face unfair condemnation.

While there is some truth to their association with dirt, there are so many other cool things that we can study in house flies. From an ecological point of view, the role of house flies in seed dispersal is underrated. Because of their strictly liquid diet, house flies also tend to quickly defecate whatever they take in. This means that they can consume and quickly transfer small seeds to the dung they land on next, which would provide very fertile conditions for the seeds to grow.

In my foldscope experiment, I attached the foldscope to my phone camera to be able to observe the wing of the fly. It was very cool to see how vascularized the wings were, as well as the lines that gave the wing its structure. I found it most fascinating that the wing was thin and light enough to allow light to go through, yet still maintains a very strong structural integrity. I started wondering whether the slight patterns on the wings were responsible for its strength and whether each fly had its own unique pattern. I would like to hear what you think as we start to think more positively about house flies and potentially recreate the structure of their wings for human applications in the architecture field like cheaper translucent roofs.

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