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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Weather

I was advised something big might be coming, but disregarded the message: flies were gathered in remarkably large slow-moving clusters on the shrubbery, ground and fences under the overcast sky. Instead of making the connection between this phenomenon and the weather forecast (a slight chance of showers), I silently cursed whoever it was that neglected to clean up after the dog.

Then, just a few hours later that evening an astonishing thunderstorm arrived.

Here in OC we don't get thunder and lightning very often, so a storm that lasts all night and most of the next day becomes the stuff of legend.

But what about those flies? A quick search for references to rain-predicting folklore informs me that "flies fly low and/or gather in numbers before rain and severe storms". Huh, how about that? Come to think of it, I've noticed that about flies before but hadn't taken them seriously as weather predictors. So if folklore is accurate, is it science? Oxford defines science: "a branch of knowledge involving the systematized observation of and experimentation with phenomena." And folklore: "traditional beliefs and stories of a people." I'm a people; I observed flies predicting weather; and now I'm telling a story about it. To move my new-found fly lore more firmly into the domain of science, a series of controlled observations of fly behavior relative to weather would be easy to set up but tedious to perform: noting the numbers of flies, their flight speed and types of other activities, the barometric pressure, humidity, temperature and of course the incidence of rain. Maybe it's already been done; Vincent G. Dethier would be a prime suspect for such a study. Check out his interesting little book, To Know A Fly.

If science was less work, perhaps we would have no folklore. For now, I'll file the flies' predilection to prediction somewhere between science and lore; right next to the TV meteorologists.

A few bugs that got wet in our welcome bit of rain:
some green lynx spiderlings

a katydid,

and of couse, a fly.














9/22 note: The flies under investigation as signs of rain are our ubiquitous green bottle flies, phaenicia sericata. I wonder if these widespread species adapt to local conditions, and so exhibit behaviors specific to a region; for instance if they are reacting to either humidity or barometric pressure, could the range that bottle flies react to in my area be lower (for humidity) or higher (for pressure) due to the prevailing norms. Kind of like how southern Californians (humans) put jackets on when it's 60 degrees F. Just wondering.

33 comments:

Pandora and Doc said...

There is probably a lot more to folklore than is generally recognised. We are all so "smart" these days. I must admit I have never heard of this one before!
Interesting post.
Cheers
D

starbender said...

To add a little on the fly's predicting weather--Here in Ohio (and perhaps where you live, too) right before a rain--The Flies BITE!!! (which is something they never do, except RIGHT BEFORE A RAIN!)

falken110 said...

very cool pic!!

Martini said...

Grandma's ankles swell up like balloons right before a rain storm.
I've never seen a fly do anything strange before a storm, but that's probably because I wasn't paying any attention to it. I will now!

FreeThinker said...

Nice macro photography!

Outdoors said...

I hate flys they are so dirty

bookworm said...

Fascinating. So much for the scientific communities attempts to bah-humbug the attempts of Chinese scientists to prove that animal's can sense earthquakes before hand. If flies can foretell storms, it is quite conceivable that other animals may have similar capabilities. Good stuff here. Great photos too. Keep posting!

bookworm said...

Oops. *Community's

lifeisso said...

You live in the O.C? Like the oRange County like the SHOW? LUCKY YOu!!

BUDDESS said...

I found your site by accident, but what a lovely read. Your pics are beautiful and I recongnized some of your bugs - stinkbug - we get it here in SA too!! I will drop in again to see what the bugs will tell you next.

Crystal said...

That was really interesting to read about bugs, I didn't know that! You have a real talent in writing! I'm not a huge fan of bugs, but then again, not everyone likes what I like so there's the fun in people!

Sunny`s Corner said...

great pictures! may i ask which camera and lens you use?

Shtupid Smornxnax said...

O.o it helped me with my science while i was studying!!
Please visit my blog.

vanessa cardui said...

Not sure I would say the flies have a "capability to predict": more like a reaction to environmental conditions that we can interpret/use as a forecasting tool. If the reaction is a behavioral trait that aids the flies' survival of storms, that could be considered a capability. Now, if they start biting, that would be considered bad manners.

Uh, the so-called OC is not what it appears on television. That is, I think it isn't . . . I've never watched that show.

My camera is a clunky Sony cybershot 4.1. It still has all those stickers on it including: Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar! on the lens. I guess it's OK.

R2K said...

For the longest I didnt know, but I think these are also called bot flies? From bottle? Or are those two different things.

R2000

eM said...

How about mosquitos? Are they indicators too?

Stray Angel said...

whoa..a whole blog abt bugs!! awesome work.

...Kat said...

I am going to ENJOY bookmarking you...visiting you!
StayAtHomeKat, another Bug Lady!

Michelle said...

I absolutely detest bugs! But I once e-mailed an entomologist (did I spell that right?)from the U. of Kentucky about bugs in my home and she e-mailed me back with advice and even a picture! Imagine my surprise when I found out "Pat" was a woman! And now you too! To each her own I guess! Fun blog.

{c} said...

What an intersting blog:)

Mike and Maylene said...


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Mike and May - Our website is www.MIKEandMAYLENE.com and it is a photo journal of Mike and Maylene traveling the United States and Philippines. We have hundreds of photo galleries for you to enjoy on our website. There are pictures of our road trips through the United States, Texas, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, DC, and the Philippines, we have been all over the Philippines Islands at beaches and other tourist destinations mostly just eating, drinking and having fun. It is one of the most peaceful and affordable places to travel so check out our pics and sign the guestbook on our WEBSITE, not the blog...thanks, party naked!!!

Anonymous said...

theres a book from illiam golding
which talk about majesty and flies
also , observing flies, you can only admit that they are great magnetisers...m

Murtaza Chang said...

Like Outdoors said I hate Flies too :D but nice photography and very fascinating post indeed.

R2K said...

I love images on all scales, macro is great as much as any. One of the best parts of nature is that you find detail, and complexity, and order, and beauty, at every scale. Macro, large scale, micro, and so on.

R2000

~The Glamour Girl~ said...

wow. you are so lucky to live in California. Orange County especially! you have a great blog, too! I only just started mine and if you have some time I'd love it if you stopped by at my blog and told me what you thought! that goes for anyone!

strident said...

These are all really beautiful photos! Could you take larger photos? I wanna see close ups of the bugs, can't really see the detail..

Ash said...

hey that's creepy but u never bugged me till now ....the photographs are simply great.......

Myrtle Beach Stuff said...

I know how the flys know! there is always one hovering around myTV screen and if you watch weather channel like me then the fly sees the forecast and buzzes it to his friends. Next thing you know that have packed up and gone to Murdle Beach to get a tan! So the moral of the story is - keep your tv tuned to the weather channel so the flys will go away!

Michele's Mumblings said...

I'm keeping an eye on my flys!

Heather said...

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<---IgniteMe---> said...

I'll be watching flies now... Thanks alot! - Like I don't get distracted enough...! :)

A very cool - very free animation from a creative photographer...

Regards... -
IgniteMe!

Anonymous said...

checkit!

Jean said...

september ,26
Very beautifull photo !!!