In spite of the importance and diversity of flies, there are not many books, especially popular books, devoted to them. Perhaps the reasons are obvious: they are are small, often inconspicuous, and sometimes annoying (or worse). Often, when I tell people I work on flies, they skeptically and sometimes disgustedly repeat the word “flies?” as if that is the most unthinkable group of insects to which one could devote their attention.
Certain people, the hardcore dipterists, however, truly love flies, and some few can convey that affection to the public. It takes a mixture of delight, quirkiness, and sometimes downright dark humor to unlock the secrets of this hidden world and make it available to the non-scientist. Few have tried, but one of the most successful to date is the British dipterist Erica McAlister, whose recent book “The Secret Lives of Flies” is required reading for all fly aficionados.
I am just returning home from the Entomological Society of America meetings, where I had the great pleasure of hanging out with some of the members of the “Diptera tribe” who came to deliver talks, exchange ideas, meet the newest crop of students, and discuss future plans. I got to spend some time with Erica, as well as Vladimir Blagoderov, Brian Wiegmann, David Yeates, and Riley Nelson, and many of the upcoming students. All are accomplished dipterists, yet only Erica has written a book that will be of wide interest to non-dipterists. Buy a copy- you won’t regret it!