As Green as a...Well...Green Bottle Fly

Nov 10, 2016

Strange thing, nobody ever says "as green as a green bottle fly."

'Cept maybe an entomologist.

You've heard:

  • As green as an emerald
  • As green as a lizard
  • As green as a gourd
  • As green as grass
  • As green as bottled glass
  • As green as it gets

But as "green as a bottle fly" (or blow fly in the family Calliphoridae)?

No. Most people cringe at the very sound.  They associate green bottle flies with their larvae, aka maggots, which eat rotting flesh. These insects lay their eggs in cadaver tissue. At crime scenes, forensic entomologists can determine the time of death by examining the developmental stage of the larvae.

And, of course, maggots are used  medically in maggot therapy (to consume dead tissue around live tissue).

Then there's Maggot Art, coined by a former UC Davis entomology major, Rebecca O'Flaherty. At the annual UC Davis  Picnic Day, children visiting Briggs Hall (home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) engage in Maggot Art, picking up a maggot with forceps, dipping it into non-toxic, water-based paint, and then letting it crawl on a white sheet of paper! Voila! Maggot Art, suitable for framing! (See Bug Squad, "Me and My Maggot."  Some of the young artists get quite attached to the maggots and ask their parents if they can take them home. Of course, the answer is "Yes!"  (Not!) Want to try Maggot Art? Mark your calendar for April 22, 2017 when the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day takes place.

Green bottle flies can also be beautiful. Have you ever seen an emerald green bottle fly sipping nectar from a red flower, such as Lantana? When the light is just right, this little insect can make you say "Wow!"

Plus, it's a pollinator. It gets a little recognition, but not much, during National Pollinator Week.