Lucy Cooke explores weird and wonderful flies at the Museum | Natural History Museum
Erica, hello! Nice to meet you. This is part of our insect collection. There must be millions. Approximately 34 million, to be kind of precise,
if we can be. Yes, it’s one of the largest collections
in the world. These are some of my babies. So I work on the best animals on the planet. I work with flies. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Do you know what, I’m going to be really
honest with you Erica. Go on, say it. I’ve never been that big on flies. Wait. In this drawer here, you can see some of the
early dedication that a lot of the experts working on these flies put into these collections. Do you think it’s a prerequisite of being
a geeky animal collector that you can do teeny-tiny writing? Yes. Because we all have to do it in the end.
And you know that somebody like me, in a hundred years’ time, is going to have to decipher what
we’ve written. If you look, this one says, ‘caught with
knife’. I have this image of this Indiana Jones-style dipterist like ‘whoosh’ – flying this knife across. It’s just a floating head and thorax. It is, but this was caught in 1905. Oh my word, and it’s still here – its
little story and everything. These, their larvae, are what we call the ‘rat-tailed maggots’. So, the thing that everyone hates. I hate maggots. If these maggots weren’t around eating all
that decomposing matter. No, I do understand. We’d be swimming in dead bodies. We’d
be swimming in excretia. Disease. So their larvae are cleaning
up after us and the adults are pollinating for us. This is why you’ve got to love a fly. Oh my word, there really is an insect on the
end of that. That’s what we call or the Americans call
‘no-see-ums’. Oh! Those things are… And everyone hates these? I hate these. Because the females are all blood suckers,
they’re biters. The scourge of Scotland. These – there are about 15 species – are some
of the only pollinators of chocolate on the planet. Exactly! So you get rid of flies, you get
rid of chocolate. It’s up to you. Now hang on a second, Erica, have you snuck some spiders into your fly collection? Well, no. Count the legs. They’ve got
three pairs of legs, so they’re definitely an insect. Their common name is the terrible
hairy fly. That’s so great. I know. Yes, they do look like spiders and
they do run around like spiders. Really? But these have got tiny wings.
Tiny little sticks poking up. But useless. Useless. Absolutely not functional at all.
And these are arguably, maybe, the rarest creature on the entire planet. So, Erica, you’ve won me over with flies. You’ve basically won me over because of the diversity, because I just had no idea. And I think people think that they know flies but actually they’ve got all these different
roles, survival modes, and the diversity is just extraordinary isn’t it? It is, just the bodies: one group of animals
has just run with their basic body plan and gone berserk. You don’t have to go to the
tropics to find this. This can be anywhere. This can be in your garden. There are more
species of fly in the UK than there are mammals on the planet.