What do houseflies really like?

Kristina Williams Kristina_Williams at pacsci.org
Thu Jul 22 13:52:47 EDT 1999

I'll never claim to be a chemist, but I believe that most heating type
gasses are relatively odorless, which poses some danger as leaks are
difficult to detect.  So they add smelly chemicals such as mercaptans so
that leaks are detectable by a smell unpleasant enough that people do
something about it.   (Skunks produce some of these mercaptans as well.).
Supposedly, leaks in long pipelines can be detected by the presence of
vultures (it's either black or turkey) circling over the leak as they would
over a carcass.  Vultures are easier to spot out in the open than flies, but
maybe an enterprising entomologist will package flies (maybe in blue or
green bottles) for sale at the local Home Depot so that home owners could
find gas leaks...
Kristina R. Williams
Pacific Science Center
200 2nd Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109
kristina_williams at pacsci.org
> ----------
> From:         Steven M. Cohen
> Reply To:     pamcohen at adelphia.net
> Sent:         Thursday, July 22, 1999 9:10 AM
> To:   leps-l at lists.yale.edu
> Subject:      Re: What do houseflies really like?
> Dear Joseph:
> I am not up on my calliphorids, so hopefully a real expert will add more
> useful info.  I can tell you that these flies are attracted to carrion -
> they are the first to find road kill - and fecies [the expression
> "attracted
> to it like flies to s _ _ _ " applies to the bottle flies to the extreme]
> -
> and their larvae love corpses of all kinds.  On an interesting note, their
> lavae, or maggots, are used medicinally to clean up festering wounds.
> They
> only eat dead tissue and leave healthy tissue alone.  Their range is very
> wide, but I cannot give you the parameters.  I know I have seen them
> throughout the northeast, from Maine to Pennsylvania, but I haven't paid
> very close attention.  I would guess they were nationwide, at least.
> I am only guessing here, but decaying flesh gives off gasses [odors] which
> calliphorids probably use to home in on their meals.  These bugs most
> likely
> detect fuel gas in much the same way, and expect a nice ripe carcass near
> gas leaks.  All gasses of the type we are talking about have several
> elements in common, including hydrogen, oxygen and carbon.  It's been too
> long since I've looked at organic chemistry, so I'll stop here before I
> mis-classify something.  Hopefully a chemistry buff will come to the
> rescue.
> Let me know what your research uncovers.  Good luck.
> Joseph C. Tallon wrote in message <37973B9F.E849880A at Netxn.com>...
> >Where do these two species of flys lay their eggs and develop
> >their larva in an urban environment? What is the range of the adults? Why
> are
> >the adults attracted to these gases and what
> >would be the common element in these gases?  I hope I don't
> >seem too lazy by not following your suggestion on a search
> >Steven but thought I'd ask first and if you didn't have it on the top of
> you
> >head I will research and post the answers.. Thanks
> >Joseph Tallon , Bakers field Ca.

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