Super Fly!

You know what doesn’t get enough credit? Flies. Flies are incredible and we generally, I know I do, see them as a nuisance or gross. So let me drop some fly facts on you. 

Flies flap their wings at 200 beats per second and have what is basically a mechanical gearbox for their wings. This gearbox has 4 gears; one neutral and 3 drives. These biomechanical gears determine how far each wing goes up or down, thus varying the power of the stroke. This allows the fly to fly forward, backwards, or torque one more than the other for a sharper turn. They can make a turn in under 120 milliseconds! So fast! Not only is their flying ability incredible but so is their vision.

Flies have an almost 360-degree field of view. Each of the fly’s compound eyes is composed of around 6,000 miniature hexagonal eyes. And those eyes see the world moving slower than we do because of their “flicker fusion rate”.

All animals (including us) perceive the world around them like a continuous video - but in reality, they piece together images sent from the eyes to the brain in distinct flashes a set number of times per second. Humans average 60 flashes per second, turtles 15, and flies 250. Think of all three species looking at a clock with a ticking hand: as a human, you’d see it ticking at the normal (for us) speed; but for a turtle it would appear to be ticking at twice that speed, and for most fly species, each tick would drag by about four times more slowly. When a fly sees a threat, like your hand coming towards them, their body responds in less than 100 milliseconds. 

Oh, and another fun fly fact is that they can perform a rapid body rotation, followed immediately by an active counter-rotation and it is enacted by remarkably subtle changes in wing motion. It all happens within just a few wingbeats, the blink of an eye. Actually, faster than the blink of an eye: the fly can do this in 200 milliseconds, a human eye blink is 300-400 milliseconds. 

Next time you swat at a fly, remember how much is happening, how many processes are occurring for it to avoid the palm of your hand or that rolled up newspaper.