How come you never see a baby housefly?

Because baby houseflies don’t exist. A little backgrounder on the flies’ reproductive cycle can clear up this seeming conundrum. Within a week of mating, a doggie-style activity lasting from a few seconds to several minutes (not unlike humans), a female fly will lay an average of 120 eggs. She prefers to deposit her potential offspring in nice warm manure. Then in roughly 12 days the eggs develop into larvae, then into maggots, and then into pupae from which flies emerge fully grown. That’s why you will never see a baby fly!

The adult fly is then ready to flap its wings roughly 300 times a second and begin its career annoying humans in its continuous search for food, landing on our corn flakes, our steak and most disturbingly, on our skin. And the fly has some pretty disgusting dining habits. When it finds a source of nutrition, it regurgitates some previously digested food to help liquefy the fresh meal before sucking it up through its probiscus. But a little something is always left behind. And this can contain remnants of the places the fly previously visited, like a less than appetizing pile of horse dung. Since a fly can harbour some 33 million bacteria internally and have another half billion swarming all over its body, it isn’t surprising that it can transmit diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, salmonella and even polio. So it is little wonder that President Obama took issue with one of these little disease-carriers alighting on his arm.

Rae Thurston, on the other hand, had much more patience, but that arose out of necessity. Rae was married to Howard Thurston, one of America’s greatest magicians, who during the early part of the twentieth century thrilled audiences with his “Wonder Show of the Universe.” As a publicity stunt for a show in Florida, Thurston came up with an act that involved “hypnotizing” his wife and placing her in a sealed glass casket which was then lowered into a glass tank filled with water in the lobby of the theater. She was to remain there for six hours as the public wandered by, amazed at her survival without a source of oxygen. Surely this was true magic!

Actually the demonstration was entirely legitimate with no trickery involved. Rae Thurston had learned to regulate her breathing carefully while remaining absolutely immobile. In this way the air supply would hold out for hours. As a precaution, though, it was agreed that if something was going wrong, Mrs Thurston was to wiggle her toe and some excuse would be found to lift her out without dispelling the illusion that she was hypnotized. And about two hours after the stunt had begun, an attendant noticed the toe signal and the casket was raised, with the public being told that a Hindu gentleman had protested that a Western person was using Yogi methods. A pretty lame excuse, but apparently the public bought it.

When the glass casket was taken backstage, no problem could be noted. But when it was opened, a fly flew out! The creature had been inadvertently locked in with Mrs. Thurston and had been tormenting the lady by walking all over her. She, of course not wanting to destroy the illusion, could not move to swat the intruder. The gallant lady lay there for over two hours, putting up with the torture in order to preserve her husband’s reputation as a miracle worker. The organization known as PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, would have been proud of her. After all, the fly escaped unharmed. They might have sent Mrs. Thurston a letter of commendation. President Obama, on the other hand, received a letter of reprimand for having dispensed with an innocent fly. I kid you not.

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