Why flies are hard to swat, and how to outwit them

If you want to be smarter than a fly, aim your swat slightly ahead of it in the direction it's likely to take. That's the advice Michael Dickinson of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena gave to The Independent back in 2011. The advice probably holds true today, unless morphic resonance within the fly-o-sphere has kicked in.

Professor Michael Dickinson of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said the findings offered a practical suggestion to anyone plagued by an annoying intruder in the kitchen. "It is best not to swat the fly's starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter," he said.

Houseflies have all-round vision and can take off in any direction independently of how their body is aligned. This is one of the reasons why they are so good at evading an attack, Professor Dickinson said.

In the instant between seeing a moving swatter and flying away, the fly's brain is able to calculate the position of the impending threat and place its legs and body in an optimal position that allows it to jump in the opposite direction. All of the action is carried out within 100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the moving swatter, which shows just how rapidly the fly's brain can process the information, said Professor Dickinson.

[Image: By I, Kamranki, CC BY-SA 3.0]