ERIC’S TECH TALK – Kids and social media: What to know

by Eric W. Austin

Probably the most invasive aspect of the technological revolution in the last two decades is the ubiquity of social media in our daily lives. From entire articles in the New York Times devoted to the 280 characters tweeted by the president during his morning absolution, to the fact that Facebook is the most popular source of news for millions of Americans, it’s impossible to escape the influence of social media.

Children born after the new millennium have grown up with a daily digest of this bite-sized brain spill. How is it affecting them, and how has their use of it changed over time?

A new study released this year tries to answer some of those questions. This survey of teen social media use was sponsored by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit which describes itself as “the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.”

The survey of 1,141 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 is a follow-up to an earlier study the organization did of 1,000 teens back in 2012. Each survey was conducted on a separate and random cross-section of teens of different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and geographic locations, proportional to their representation in the U.S. population.

Common Sense Media aims to “empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.”

Their website is very well organized, and I highly recommend it to parents and teachers trying to navigate the increasingly complex web of social media services available online.

According to the new study, although the number of teens who use social media, about 81 percent, hasn’t changed from the survey done six years ago, other factors, such as frequency of use, have changed significantly.

In 2012, only 34 percent of teens surveyed said they use social media more than once daily. Today that number has more than doubled, with 70 percent now saying they access social media multiple times per day. In fact, 34 percent of teens report using social media several times an hour, and 16 percent admitted to using it “almost constantly.”

Some of this increase, according to the researchers, may have to do with a substantial increase in teens’ access to mobile devices. Teens with smartphones has more than doubled in the last six years, from 41 to 89 percent and – if you include those who access social media from a non-phone device, such as an iPad or Android tablet – that number rises to 93 percent.

Facebook as the dominant social media site has also declined dramatically in the six years since the last survey was taken. In 2012, 68 percent of teens listed Facebook as their primary social media site. In the latest study from 2018, that number has dropped to only 15 percent, with Snapchat rising to the top with 41 percent, and Instagram at 22 percent.

One 16-year old respondent, when asked who she still talks to on Facebook, responded, “My grandparents.”

Along with organizing teen respondents according to household income, ethnicity, age and gender, the survey administrators also rated each teen on something called a social-emotional well-being (SEWB) scale. This “11-item scale measures attributes related to SEWB in adolescents as identified by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (such as happiness, depression, loneliness, confidence, self-esteem, and parental relations).”

Teens were presented with a series of statements regarding these topics, and asked whether they thought the statements were “a lot,” “somewhat,” “not too much,” or “not at all” like them. Then, each teen was assigned to one of three groups depending on their responses: the high end of the scale (19 percent of respondents), the medium group (63 percent), or the low end of the SEWB scale (17 percent).

There were significant differences between groups organized on this SEWB scale. For example, nearly half of those surveyed on the low end of this scale, 46 percent, said social media is “extremely” or “very” important to their lives, compared to just 32 percent of those rated at the high end of the scale.

While an overwhelming majority of teens surveyed indicate social media has had a positive impact on how they feel about themselves, those on the lower end of the SEWB scale were more likely to report a negative experience. For instance, nearly 70 percent of those on the low end report feeling left out or excluded on social media, compared with just 29 percent at the high end. In addition, 43 percent on the low end reported an experience of cyberbullying online, while only 5 percent in the upper group related similar experiences.

By a high majority, however, even those on the lower end of the SEWB scale report that social media has had a greater positive effect than a negative one on their lives. In fact, according to the survey, those at the lower end are actually more likely to say social media has a generally positive effect on them.

There have been some other important changes over the last six years as well. Whereas in 2012 “face-to-face” was still the preferred method of interacting with their peers, the most recent study has seen the number of teens preferring face-to-face contact drop from 49 percent to 32 percent. Texting is now the most popular method of communicating, with 35 percent of teens listing it as their number one way to connect with friends.

And teens seem ahead of the curve when looking at the dangers of social media addiction. Fifty-four percent of respondents concede that social media “often distracts me when I should be paying attention to the people I’m with,” up from 44 percent in 2012. As well, nearly half (44 percent) admit to being frustrated with friends for using their devices when they are hanging out together.

It should also be noted that 33 percent of teens expressed a desire that their parents spend less time on their own devices, a 12-point increase from 2012.

And with all the controversy about the power big tech companies have to sway public opinion, kids have already figured this out, with 72 percent of teens thinking tech companies manipulate users to get them to spend more time on their platforms.

Teens also expressed a mixed record on self-regulation when it comes to putting down their devices at important times, with 56 percent saying they do so: for meals (42 percent), visiting with family (31 percent), or doing homework (31 percent).

The teens surveyed were also asked about cyberbullying. 13 percent admitted to having “ever” experienced bullying online. Nine percent said they had been bullied online “many” or “a few times”, with the rest saying “once or twice”. Twenty-three percent of teens surveyed claim to have tried to help a classmate who was cyberbullied, either by talking to the individual, reporting the situation to an adult, or posting positive comments online to counter negative content.

According to the study, the most important aspect of social media for teens is the ability it gives them to express themselves creatively. More than one in four, 27 percent, of respondents said social media was an “extremely” or “very” important avenue for creative self-expression.

In an open-ended comment section on the survey, one 17-year old girl wrote that “[s]ocial media allows me to have a creative outlet to express myself,” while a 14-year old African-American girl said, “I get to share things I make.”

Several conclusions were highlighted by the researchers in their report. Overall, teens seem to find social media a generally positive addition to their lives, and there doesn’t seem to be any clear link between increases in depression rates and social media use.

Also, teens seem extremely savvy when it comes to the addictive nature of social media, and the attempts by tech companies to rope them into using it, more so perhaps than their parents. However, as with drug use, those on the lower end of the social-emotional well-being scale are more vulnerable to its negative effects.

Social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or something else that has yet to come along, is here to stay, a permanent remodeling of our social context, like television in the 1960s or radio before that. It has its negative and positive effects, like everything else, and it’s up to parents to guide their kids in using it wisely, and developing healthy habits that will carry them into adulthood.

Eric W. Austin writes about technology and community issues. He can be reached by email at ericwaustin@gmail.com.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: More T-shirt messages

by Debbie Walker

I couldn’t resist doing it again!! I got new catalogs with message t-shirts and felt the need to share! Hope they give you a chuckle or two:

People who wonder if the glass is half empty or half full miss the point. The glass is refillable!

If you think I’m crazy you should meet my sister! (Couldn’t resist that one!)

I’m not short. I’m built low to the ground for speed and accuracy. (Believe me it has to be easier in a fall!) can’t believe how old people my age are! (OOPS!)

I meant to behave but there were too many options. (ask the teacher I work with, she’d say that is me!)

I call my fashion style “Clothes that still fit!” (How True!)

When I get tired of shopping I sit down and try on shoes! (I have better luck trying on the boxes!)

Sometimes I wonder what happened to people who have asked me for directions. (I’d have to know where “I” am!!)

Being cremated is my last hope for a Smoking Hot Body!! (Now my secret is out)

When you’re happy and you know it Thank Your Meds!

I acted my age once. It was boring! (Haven’t done it since!)

I run like a girl, try to keep up. (Not a problem here!)

Forget the glass slipper, this princess wears running shoes!

Sawdust is Man Glitter.

I am a happy-go-lucky ray of friggin’ sunshine!

Wooden Spoon Survivor (We didn’t have one when I was growing up,Yardstick!)

I have a daughter. I also have a gun, a shovel and an alibi.

Stress balls really work when you shove them down someone’s throat!

Someday I’m going to eye roll myself into another dimension!

In order to insult me I must first value your opinion. Nice try though!

I should be given an award for keeping my mouth shut when there is much left to be said!

When women get to a certain age they start accumulating cats, this is known as the many paws! (What do you think of that one Laurie!)

A little gray hair is a small price to pay for all this wisdom!

Patience is a virtue. It’s just not one of mine!

I don’t have gray hair. I have wisdom highlights!

Don’t grow up! It’s a trap!

Life is short – smile while you still have teeth!

Does running late count as Exercise?

Instead of a sign that says, “Do Not Disturb,” I need one that says, “Already Disturbed, Proceed with Caution.”

My patience dies faster than my phone battery.

You’re never too old for Nappy Time, (Right, Mom!)

Some days the supply of curse words is insufficient to meet my demands!

Not to brag but I can forget what I’m doing while I am doing it!

I’m returning your nose dear! I found it in my business,

I’m everything you dreamt of but with a belly!

Yes, I’m a nurse. NO I don’t want to look at it!

Life is too short to waste time matching socks!

I’m just curious if any of these make you laugh at yourself! I know I did. Questions and comments please send to dwdaffy@yahoo.com. Don’t forget we are on line also. Thanks for reading!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Bizet: Carmen excerpts

A couple of Remington Records colorful album jackets

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Georges Bizet

Bizet

Carmen excerpts
Remington RLP-199-15, mono LP, recorded in 1950.

Remington records was started in 1950 and stayed in business until 1957. The records themselves often had noisy surfaces; they also had very beautiful and colorful album covers, which makes them often collectible and also very expensive on different Internet sites. Finally, they had a catalog featuring both standard and unusual repertoire, artists familiar to classical record connoisseurs, and its share of pseudonyms or phony names.

The opera excerpts are beautifully sung, so many of the melodies – examples such as the Toreador Song, Habanera, etc. – appearing in everything from TV shows to ads. The names of the singers and conductor are unfortunately nowhere to be found, even on the Sound Fountain website, which otherwise contains so much fascinating info on the label and lots of photos of its album covers, including this release. Just type in the following on Google: Remington records, Jean Allain – Bizet Carmen and/or soundfountain.com, which is listed under Remington records on the Google site!

Musically, every Remington record on my shelves has something interesting, despite its faults otherwise.

SOLON & BEYOND: Selectmen explain South Solon and Meeting House roads construction

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
grams29@tds.net
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

The South Solon Road and Meeting House Road have had an additional substance put on these two roads, I thought perhaps those of you who live on either of these roads might be wondering, (as I was) what this was all about….and so I went to the selectmen. This is the message from your Board of Selectmen: In an effort to allocate our budget dollars most effectively, the town of Solon will be utilizing alternative pavement preservation methods on the South Solon and Meeting House roads this year. The Pavement Preservation Treatment will be applied as a part of our overall road maintenance strategy.

By utilizing Pavement Preservation Treatments the town is able to : Preserve and extend the service life of existing pavements. Prevent deterioration of our good roads, “Keeping good roads good!” Decrease the construction time and traffic delays due to road work. Stretch our budget dollars, allowing for the treatment of more roads per year.

The information in this flyer is intended to provide more details on the treatments, benefits, and commonly asked questions. If you have any questions regarding any of the information, please contact the Board of Selectmen at 643-2541.

Another bit of news from the Selectmen is Volunteer Opportunities: planning board member, appeals board member, Coolidge Library Board of Trustees, Community Recreation Department Director, Community Recreation Department Youth Sport and Coaches. Please see the Municipal Clerk or Selectmen for more information.

Received the Solon School News recently and this is the Principal’s Message: The Solon staff and I wish to welcome our new students in grades PreK-5 and their families to our school and to welcome back those who have been with us before. I hope all of you enjoyed a wonderful summer.

I am the principal of both Solon Elementary School and Garret Schenck Elementary School so I split my time between the schools. I am here for half of each day. Our school secretary Mrs. Lisa Weese can help parents with any issues they may have and can help you make contact with me if you wish to.

Mrs. Debby Haynie continues to serve as our lead teacher and will help me to handle discipline issues.

We are pleased to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students again this year under the district’s community eligibility program. Students can buy milk or juice for snack or to go with a cold lunch if they wish to for 30 cents.

Again this year our students will have healthy snacks provided through a Fresh Fruits and Vegtables Grant Program on Mondays, Wednesdays , and Fridays.

Please contact them if you have any questions. thank you for your cooperation. We look forward to a great new year.

Our K-5 students will visit Lakewood Theater on September 21 to attend their fall production of “Little Bo Peep’s Wacky, Wonderful Road Trip” performed by the Lakewood Jesters. This is the nineteenth year that Lakewood has produced a show specially customized for elementary students.

The play lasts about an hour, and students get to interact with the performers during the show and meet them after the show. We are fortunate to have this historic theater so close to home. Parents are welcome to join us on this trip. Permission slips have already gone home. Thanks to the PTO for funding the admission fees for our students.

The following news is very important to the Anson Academy class of 1968. They are planning a 50th reunion for October 12, 2018. The group needs contact information for Deidre Nile, Roseann Spaulding, Lois Witham and Sarah Costello. Anyone with information please contact Beth Bown 474-6609 or Karen Piper: piper.karen2282@gmail.com. There is also a Facebook page for the reunion. Thank you. This e-mail was sent by Emily Quint

And so for Percy’s memoir: May your days be filled with…An abundance of happiness, Blessings that warm your life and make you smile. Friends and loved ones by your side… people who are going to treasure every memory they get to make with you. Wonderful swurprises in your life. Beautiful sunrises in your days, Opportunities that come along. Chances you’ve hoped for. Goals you’ve been striving to reach. Changes you’ve wanted to make. A song in your heart. A wish that comes true. And reminders of how much nicer this world is… all because of you. (words by Douglas Pagels)

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Release, Refresh, Reset

(NAPSI)—You don’t have to let a busy schedule break your healthy stride or keep you from crushing your goals. You can regroup on your approach instead. By incorporating these three ways to release, refresh and reset, you can still make health a priority.

  1. Release Your Mind by Escaping into Nature. Getting out into nature gives you the space and peace to release the things that bog you down. Escape the rush. Try camping in the wilderness or taking a scenic hike. Studies show that surrounding yourself with nature can have positive effects on mental health. Ditch the office and try working outdoors at a picnic table or on a blanket in the grass. Wherever you go, whatever you do, sit back and breathe in the fresh air.
  2. Refresh Your Exercise Routine with New Moves. Inspiration derives from new experiences, which is why exercise physiologist and Bowflex fitness advisor Tom Holland recommends mixing up your daily workout routine. “Give yourself the opportunity to explore and challenge yourself in new ways,” suggests Holland. Try a new workout program, or an exercise machine that moves you in new ways, such as the breakthrough Bowflex LateralX (www.bowflex.com/lateralx) cardio machine. It strengthens and activates muscles with side-to-side, push-and-pull and stand-and-squat motions that target the arms, back, hips and core, as well as common trouble spots including glutes, hamstrings and quads. By moving in all directions, you mimic everyday activities such as yard work, housecleaning or chasing after your kids. It’s a new and exciting workout that can keep you motivated.
  3. Reset Your Soul with Time for Yourself. In addition to carving out time for fitness, you need to make time for yourself. Creating positive energy in a chaotic world can be challenging but it’s important for overall health and well-being. You don’t have to be a yogi to meditate. Experts say to start small—try focusing for 10 minutes a day in a quiet place and don’t get frustrated if your mind wanders. It takes practice but the benefits are worth the investment. You may find you’re more calm and productive and you sleep better. Whatever helps you reset, create time in your schedule and act on it. You owe it to yourself.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Two different stink bugs; one good, one not so good

Left, brown marmorated stink bug, and right, the rough stink bug on my deck.

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

There it was. On the deck in front of the barbecue grill. I’d seen something similar before, but that one was brown. This one was a bluish color.

A little wracking of the brain produced no results. It was time to ask my contacts at the state level.

Allison Kanoti, acting state entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, told me it was a Rough Stink Bug, Brochymena arborea. That jogged my memory. What I had seen before, which looked exactly alike, instead of the color, was a Marmorated stink but, which I wrote about in the November 15, 2017, column. They are similar, but different.

The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species and considered a serious crop pest. They were accidentally introduced in the United States from Asia. It is believed to have hitched a ride as a stow-away in packing crates or on various types of machinery, first appearing in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1996. Following its arrival, the brown marmorated stink bug spread quickly from state to state, and is now listed as a top invasive special of interest by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 2013. It is readily found in the eastern half of the U.S., as well as several western and southwestern states.

At first glance, the two stink bugs are easily confused. If you find large numbers of stink bugs in or around your residence, chances are it is the invader, not our natives.

So, how do you go about telling them apart. First, look at their antennae. The brown marmorated stink bug has white bands on the last two antennal segments. Rough stink bugs have no such contrasting markings on the antennae. Second, look at the leading edge of the top of the thorax, right behind the head. There are fine teeth along that edge in the rough stink bug, so it is not the brown marmorated.

Again, they are called stink bugs because they produce teeming amounts of foul-smelling fluid that is discharged if disturbed.

Rough stink bugs are very well camouflaged and closely resemble the color and texture of tree bark on which it lives.

The rough stink bugs are beneficial insects that control caterpillars and other insect pests. Before randomly destroying an insect, always attempt to identify it first, or at least determine whether it’s a beneficial or pest. No one wants to kill a perfectly good bug. However, since little is known about these insects of non-economic importance, they are suspected of feeding on the sap of host trees and shrubs Though there are persistent rumors they are occasionally predatory, and many true bugs are opportunistic predators or scavengers on other insects, this may not be a stretch.

Eggs are laid in small clusters, resembling a honeycomb, on twigs of trees, and the nymphs that hatch progress through four instars (an instar is the interval between molts) before reaching adulthood. Their development from egg to adult is surprisingly long, so there is but one generation produced annually.

Rough stink bugs have an ability to withstand the cold. BugEric, Eric R. Eaton, an expert in the field, said he once attempted to kill rough stink bugs by putting them in a container in the freezer. He thinks he left them there for about a week or so. When he took them, he found them coming back to life in a relatively short period of time.

Rough stink bugs are the prey of the sand wasp. The female stings the stink but into paralysis, and then flies it back to her nest burrow where she deposits it as food for her larval offspring. Birds are also recorded as predators of the stink bugs. It amazes me that any other creature could find them and make a meal out of them, but they do have enemies.

You can look for the rough stink bugs in spring and fall when they are emerging from, and entering, hibernation. You’ll have to look closely, though, given their camouflage.

I don’t know what that rough stink bug was doing that day on my deck, in broad daylight, but it is contrary of what is known about them, that they camouflage well, and are difficult to find because they are fewer in number than the brown marmorated stink bug. I just got lucky, I guess.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

The Red Sox ownership ventured in NASCAR racing in 2007. What was the name of the race team?

Answer can be found here.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: The World’s Greatest Cellists

Janos Starker

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The World’s Greatest Cellists

Sine Qua Non-SQN-112X, three LPs, released 1973.

Pablo Casals

The set contains an assortment of truly great masterworks performed by three of the greatest practitioners of the cello. Each individual and his offering(s) will be considered:

Pablo Casals (1876-1973) did more than any previous player to expand appreciation of the cello and its musical depths. A live performance of Beethoven’s very beautiful Archduke Trio, with his very dear friends and phenomenal players in their own right- pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993) and violinist Sandor Vegh (1912-1997), is moderately paced but phrased with some of the most soulful detail I have ever heard!

Pierre Fournier

Cellist Pierre Fournier (1906-1986) developed a more suave, elegant style that became his endearing trademark for more than 40 years, as opposed to Casals’ soulful depths. The 1955 record of the Brahms’ 2 Cello Sonatas, with pianist Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969), captures the wonderful wide-ranging beauty of dignity, passion, joy and reserve in both works.

At an early performance of the 1st Sonata, Brahms played so loud that the cellist , himself an amateur, complained about not hearing his own instrument. “Lucky for you, too,” roared Brahms as he pounded away at the keyboard.

I met Janos Starker (1924-2014) in 1983 when he performed the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Houston Symphony under Sir Alexander Gibson. He exuded a most compelling aura of confidence and performed the work with ease and eloquence. Afterwards in the green room, he was the embodiment of cordiality and good humor when sharing a story of his days as principal cellist in the Chicago Symphony under the legendary Fritz Reiner.

His playing was characterized by a slashing, biting intensity that threw one into the heart of the music. Thus, his recordings of the charming 18th century Concerto in B-flat Major of Luigi Boccherini and the very exciting 1915 Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello further enrich this week’s set of historic recordings, all of which are posted from YouTube on my own Facebook page!

The Town Line’s photo contributors have been hard at work

To submit a photo for The Town Line’s “Give Us Your Best Shot!” section, please visit our contact page or email us at townline@fairpoint.net!

Jayne Winters, of South China, was surprised by this visitor one morning in June.

Marilyn Rogers-Bull, of Solon, photographed what she called, “acres & acres of beautiful blossoms,” on August 18, in “The County.”

Michael Bilinsky, of China Village, snapped this double rainbow outside his home at the head of China Lake.

Pat Clark, of Palermo, snapped this swallowtail butterfly in her backyard in June.

Laura Jones caught this bluebird with its next meal in its beak. This photo was taken in August.

Janet Soucy captured this duck, she named Peggy-Sue, because it is missing a foot. It has been returning for three years.

Karen Spehler, a summer resident on Sheepscot Lake, found this loon posing for her in August.

Emily Poulin, of South China, caught this female gold finch gathering what appears to be materials for a nest.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: What To Do When The ‘Lice Letter’ Comes Home

(NAPSI)—If any of America’s 56 million schoolchildren is yours, you are probably familiar with the “lice letter” alerting parents that a head lice outbreak has been identified at school. When the letter comes home, some parents panic while others delay action because “it wasn’t my child.” Fortunately, there are steps you can proactively take to control the exposure risk.

Be Proactive

Catching lice early is vital in halting the spread of these itchy pests. It can take four to six weeks after infestation begins for itching to start, and not everyone develops this telltale symptom. Help the entire family to avoid an outbreak by acting quickly after exposure.

Steps to Take

  • Check the child and ALL family members for lice using a nit comb. To check fine sections of hair with the comb, apply a 50/50 solution of conditioner/water to the hair to help facilitate combing. Work under bright light and watch for movement. Examine the comb after each stroke, wiping it on disposable towels or running it under water.
  • Nits and scurrying lice are so small that they can be easily missed. It’s likely other family members and friends have already been exposed to lice by the time an infestation is identified. If you don’t find lice but are still concerned, switch the whole family to a daily lice defense shampoo. How is a daily lice shampoo different from a lice treatment shampoo? For starters, shampoo is a form and treatments come in many forms. This topic really deserves its own article, but there is one key difference worth noting. A daily lice defense shampoo is pesticide-free and can be used like regular shampoo to defend your family against a head lice infestation or control against re-exposure to someone who has not been successfully treated. A lice treatment shampoo is used to treat an active lice infestation, and most OTC products contain pesticides so they aren’t ideal for a daily regimen. One gentle daily shampoo that offers ongoing control is Vamousse Lice Defense. It’s been found in laboratory studies to kill lice with each use and is recommended for 10 to 14 days following the risk to help reduce the potential growth of an infestation contracted but not yet identified.
  • Treat anyone who is infested. With lice increasingly resistant to traditional over-the-counter pesticides, look for a pesticide-free treatment that is proven effective against super lice. There are many new types of products, so read the instructions carefully. For example, Vamousse Lice Treatment comes in a convenient mousse format that kills lice and eggs before they hatch—in just one application. Lice eggs are rendered no longer viable with this treatment, so there’s no waiting for them to hatch to treat again a week later, thus decreasing hassle and the risk of spreading lice throughout your family.
  • If you are concerned about your home, vacuum, and then wash and dry any launderable items in high heat. For items that cannot be washed or soaked in 130° F soapy water, the company offers a powder that is the only one on the market proven to eliminate super lice in the environment.

Learn More

For more facts and tips, go to http://vamousselice.com.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Is there anything in this world more annoying than a house fly?

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

Is there anything in this world more annoying than a house fly? – well, maybe except for Fran Drescher.

We have seen an inordinate infestation of house flies this summer. At camp, they are uninvited guests to outdoor cookouts, and even find their way indoors to, again, annoy us to no end.

At the office, we had a fly hatch last week that rivaled the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Flies just buzzing around our heads, work stations, and even during lunch. Literally, hundreds and hundreds of flies.

The house fly, Musca domestica, is believed to have evolved in the Cenozoic* era, possibly in the Middle East, and has spread all over the world as a companion of humans. They are present in the Arctic Circle, as well as in the tropics. It is present on every continent.

The adults feed on a variety of liquid or semi-liquid substances, as well as solid materials which have been softened by their saliva. They can carry pathogens on their bodies and in their feces, contaminate food, and contribute to the transfer of food-borne illnesses. Add the fact they are physically annoying, they are considered pests.

Each female house fly can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime, in several batches of about 75 to 150. The eggs are white and are deposited by the fly in a suitable place, usually dead and decaying organic matter. Within a day, the larvae or maggot, hatch from the eggs. The larvae avoid light; the interiors of heaps of animal manure provide nutrient-rich sites and ideal growing conditions, warm, moist and dark.

At the end of their fourth instar, the larvae crawl to a dry, cool place and transform into pupae. Pupae complete their development in from two to six days in warmer climates, and up to 20 days in cooler areas. When the metamorphosis is complete, the adult fly emerges from the pupa. Having emerged, it ceases to grow; a small fly is not necessarily a young fly, but is instead the result of getting insufficient food during the larval stage.

Females normally mate only once and then reject further advances from males, while males mate multiple times.

House flies actually play an important ecological role in breaking down and recycling organic matter. Adults are mainly carnivors with their primary food being animal matter, carrion, and feces, but they also consume milk, sugary substances, and rotting fruits and vegetables.

Adult flies are durial (active during the day) and rest at night. If inside a building after dark, they tend to congregate on the ceilings. In cooler climates, they hibernate through the winter, emerging in the spring when the weather warms up, and search for a place to lay their eggs.

House flies have many predators, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, various insects and spiders.

Flies are definitely a nuisance, but they are disliked principally because of their habits of contaminating food. However, fly larvae are as nutritious as fish meal, and could be used to convert waste to feed for fish and livestock.

The ability of house fly larvae to feed and develop in a wide range of decaying organic matter is important for recycling of nutrients in nature. This could be exploited to combat ever-increasing amounts of waste. Harvested maggots could be used as feed for animal nutrition.

House flies can be controlled, to a certain extent, by physical, chemical or biological means.

Flies have been used in art and artifacts in many cultures.

In the early 20th century, Canadian public health workers believed the control of flies was important in controlling the spread of tuberculosis. Flies were targeted in 1916 when a polio epidemic broke out in the eastern United States. The disease control continued with the extensive use of insecticide spraying well into the mid-1950s.

During World War II, the Japanese worked on bombs which consisted of two compartments, one with houseflies and another with a bacterial slurry that coated the flies prior to release. Vibrio cholerae, which causes cholera, was the bacteria of choice, and was used in China in Boashan in 1942 and in northern Shandong in 1943. The ensuing epidemic killed 60,000 people initially, with a final count of 200,000 dead.

In the 1970s, the aircraft modeler Frank Ehlig constructed miniature balsa-wood aircraft powered by live houseflies. Studies with tethered house flies have helped in the understanding of insect vision, sensory perception and flight control.

Ogden Nash’s humorous two-line 1942 poem states: “God in His wisdom made the fly / And then forgot to tell us why.”

That seems to indicate the value of biodiversity, given that even those considered by humans as pests have their place in the world’s ecosystem.

*The Cenozoic Era, meaning “new life,” is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras, following the Mesozoic Era and extending from 66 million years ago to the present day. The Cenozoic is also known as the Age of Mammals, because the extinction of many groups allowed mammals to greatly diversify so that large mammals dominated it. The continents also moved into their current positions during this era. – Wikipedia.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Which former Red Sox player was nicknamed “Rooster?”

Answer can be found here.