The Fly in Your Eye
July 1, 2005 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Why do Australians hang corks around their hats? - Jim Heath tells you All About the Australian Bush Fly
posted by TimothyMason (20 comments total)
Oh bugger. Now look what's happened.
posted by TimothyMason at 8:06 AM on July 1, 2005

Well, I enjoyed the site. So thanks.
posted by shoepal at 8:12 AM on July 1, 2005

Australia, Australia, Australia, Australia, we love you, amen.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:12 AM on July 1, 2005

Oh bugger. Now look what's happened.


Just read the whole thing - good find! I was especially revolted by the part about the maggots.

I always thought that the corks on the hat were to shoo the flies away by their movement, so it was pretty interesting finding out that the that don't fly past the line of corks because they think that they're going "inside" of something, which goes against their nature. I can also see now that I am a house fly married to a bush fly, which explains a lot.
posted by iconomy at 8:16 AM on July 1, 2005

eGad! That article reminded me why I chose not to pursue the sciences beyond university...

1. Note the time, weather conditions, the temperature and what bait you are using.
2. Keep the females alive in tubes until you can dissect them. If it will be more than a day, put the flies in a fridge -- or pickle them in alcohol, glycerine and water (proportions: 7:1:2).
3. Kill any live flies in alcohol, then dissect all flies under 0.8 saline.
4. Pin flies ventral side upwards. Measure the width across their eyes. Open abdomen of females and remove ovaries. Note if pregnant or not.
5. Remove spermathecae and squash under the coverslip on the microscope slide. Check contents for mass of sperm tails.
6. Keep the following records for each fly: sex, headwidth, and (if female) whether pregnant or not, fertilised or not.
Repeat 'n' thousand times...

What a ball-ache! :-o

Oh - and I've decided that I don't really want to visit Australia after all. Ick.
posted by Chunder at 8:42 AM on July 1, 2005

And I always that was just some weird Monty Python non sequitur visual gag.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:21 AM on July 1, 2005

Odd, I always thought that the U.S. was a complete fucking joke too.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:49 AM on July 1, 2005

Where did that come from?
posted by iconomy at 10:18 AM on July 1, 2005

Are you doubting it?
posted by Jenga at 10:59 AM on July 1, 2005

Jesus, here's the only section of that enormous page that has anything to do with cork hats (it's about halfway through):

So if a fly is pestering you, it's probably a bush fly. And once a bush fly finds you, it will hang around you for hours... unless -- as I hinted -- you go inside a building, or into some other dark place. They don't like shady places like forests. One easy way to shake off a cloud of bush flies is to retreat into some shrubbery.

This might also give a clue about why the old-fashioned cork hats work. To get at your face, the bush flies have to go inside something (the line of corks). Their genes rebel at this. They're programmed to stay outside, in pastures, and zero in on animals.

I mean, the rest is interesting if you really really want to know about Australian bush flies, but if you just want an explanation about the cork hats, there it is.
posted by rkent at 11:54 AM on July 1, 2005

I do apologize for misleading you so dreadfully. I must have been overcome by the sad news of the Australian cork's impending demise.
posted by TimothyMason at 12:57 PM on July 1, 2005

You know, I was watching "The Wiggles" with my daughter this morning, and this very question popped into my head. Now you've saved me from wasting my AskMeFi Question Of The Week.

Beauty, mate!
posted by briank at 1:52 PM on July 1, 2005

Go Dung Beetles!

That's the best article I've read lately about any sort of insect. And now I really like dung beetles.
posted by redsparkler at 3:20 PM on July 1, 2005

People will pay any price for beef, as long as they don't pay it at the cash register.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:51 PM on July 1, 2005

I've never seen an Australian wearing corks on a hat. Having to brush the corks out of your vision would be nearly as annoying as the flies. Maybe it's one of Barry Humphries' japes.

One sees tourists with these hats, and if it keeps them happy, that's fine. We bushies just smile our closed-mouth smiles and get on with the work.

To differ with the article, I've read accounts of early explorers battling with flies, and this was before widespread grazing with introduced animals.
posted by emf at 11:50 PM on July 1, 2005

I think the "flies don't like to go inside" explanation is bunk.
Nothing deters blowies - not insect repellent, not even a mesh screen covered hat. They actually got inside the mesh covered hat somehow, and that's way worse.

Like emf, I've never seen anyone actually wearing these.

If I were to hazard a guess as to how they (the hats, not the flies) work (if they do), I'd go for something along the lines of "flies home in on large shapes, the bobbing and swaying corks breaks up the shape of the head and makes it less visible to flies".

But anyway, blowies are only a problem for as long as the sun is up. They disappear at sunset.

That's when the mozzies come out.
posted by spazzm at 12:14 AM on July 2, 2005

Apparently bushies have got tougher with time; the corks were not just Humphries' invention, but natural selection must have taken care of those who needed them. spazzm, he's not talking about blowflies, but bush-flies.

emf, he says the bush-flies were already there before the settlers came - he suggests they arrived with the dingo - but not in such great numbers. As for the 'blowies', they are sheep-flies, so they *are* a recent arrival.

I found this page about three years ago, and have been able to find neither confirmation nor disconfirmation of what he says. I'd really like to know the truth of the matter.
posted by TimothyMason at 2:01 AM on July 2, 2005

Personally, I like our March flies which can bite through a 4mm wetsuit while you're sitting 200m out in the ocean!
posted by Onanist at 2:57 AM on July 2, 2005

They're all a bloody nuisance, whatever breed they are.

Some places use fly traps with a proprietary fly mix. The best personal defence, IMHO, is freshly brushed teeth and a handkerchief to use as a whisk.
posted by emf at 5:15 AM on July 2, 2005

OK, but where do the flies go when it rains?
posted by dg at 6:58 PM on July 3, 2005

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