In the Manx Wildlife Trust articles for this year we are recognising that small stuff counts! This month we are taking a look at flies.

Most people think of flies as annoying and dirty but they do play an important role in our ecosystems.

Flies are excellent pollinators, the hairier the fly the more efficient a pollinator it is.

A common blow fly can actually carry more pollen on its body than a honeybee!

They are an important part of food chains, without flies frogs, lizards and birds would struggle to find food.

Flies also do the jobs we would find repulsive like eating poop, dead animals and rotting plant matter. Parasitic flies help to control garden pests such as caterpillars.

They even help in medicine - fly maggots can be used to clean up wounds and ulcers which are infected but we recommend that you don’t try this at home!

Flies are crime fighters too and their presence at a crime scene can be used by forensic entomologists to determine such things as the time and place of death of a body.

So what is a true fly? It is an insect with one set of wings, their hind pair of wings are reduced to drum stick-shaped structures called halteres which act as gyroscopes to maintain balance in flight.

They have sucking or piercing mouthparts and have a life cycle with eggs and maggots before becoming an adult fly.

Globally there over 100,000 species of flies, over 7,000 of these species have been recorded from the British Isles.

With so many to choose from rejoicing in such names as robber flies, bee flies, midges, horse flies, flat-footed flies, and soldier flies we can only look at a few in this article.

Flesh flies sound disgusting but you have probably seen these smart looking black and white fly before.

They are called this because they lay their eggs on carrion as well as dung and rotting matter.

They have large red eyes and bristly abdomens with a silver-grey and black checker-board pattern.

With the brilliant name of robber flies these flies are impressive hunters catching grasshoppers, wasps and even other flies.

They have sharp piercing mouthparts with which to kill their prey and a ‘moustache’ of bristles on their face to protect them when attacking prey.

They stab and inject victims with saliva containing enzymes which paralyse and digest the inside of their victims. The fly then sucks the liquefied meal through the proboscis.

There is a species of this fly called the Manx robber fly which was first discovered on the Isle of Man in the 1940s in the Curraghs and was recorded there again in the mid-1990s, when a pair was caught in a pan trap by Steve Crellin, a local entomologist.

It may be seen at the MWT reserve Cronk y Bing.

The soldier flies are a family of families with many of the species being brilliantly marked and coloured just the soldiers’ uniforms of yesteryears. Some species can be observed on flowers or basking on sunlit foliage.

The commoner garden species may be breeding in your compost heap while other species, especially some of the larger and brightly-coloured species have aquatic larvae.

A fine example of these aquatic species is the three-lined soldier (Oxycera trilineata) which is a recent discovery on the Isle of Man after it was found on a site in the south of the island during 2022.

Blow flies are commonly shiny with metallic colouring, often blue, green, or black.

Many species lay eggs on meat or carrion and they get their old English name from meat being ‘blown’ with maggots.

Their life cycle is very quick with eggs hatching to larva anywhere between eight hours to a day.

These are the species that are used for maggot medicine and forensics.

For those who would like to learn more about flies, the Dipterists Forum is a great place to start.

Dipterists Forum - the society for the study of flies (Diptera) | Dipterists forum.

Or why not come along to one of the Invertebrate group’s meetings to find out more. The group is island based and meets on a monthly basis.

Check on the MWT website for dates and details.