Saturday, July 23, 2011

How To Get a Fly Out of a Web

This morning a persistent spider once again drew its web on my car's driver's-side window. His home is inside the side-view mirror, which he (or she -- hard to tell) conveniently uses as a base for the web.

As I got in the car, somehow during the opening of my door a brownish, long-winged fly of some unknown type got caught in the the spider's sticky trap. As it tried in vain to get itself free, I started to drive off, keeping an eye on the fly as it mightily struggled.

My commute of some 20 miles at speeds up to 60mph had the fly bouncing around within the web with incredible turbulence. It was amazing that the fly didn't become free in all the bouncing around, and perhaps more surprising that the fly survived this fury seemingly unfazed. Ultimately, the wind during the drive destroyed the web and the fly collided and stuck to the side view mirror, still desperately trying to free himself.

When I finally reached my destination, I used a napkin to free the bug from the mirror. I held the bug in my fingers and tried to remove the remaining bits of web from its right wing. At first, it was understandably freaking out (yet couldn't go anywhere as it was still stuck to a small piece of the web, and that was stuck to my finger), but then it relaxed or played dead or passed out, and I took as much of the web off as possible. I then put the fly on the ground and went into a 90-minute meeting.

Upon returning to the car, I noticed the fly was still at the same spot as I had left it. I picked it up and discovered that there was still some web on its wing that had attached to a piece of gravel. This tiny piece of gravel was like a gigantic boulder to the fly, and had successfully kept it from going anywhere.

Playing insect doctor, I determined that there was nothing to do but to remove the part of the wing that stubbornly refused to give up the sticky piece of web. So, that's what I did. I sat in the car and began the clumsy, thick-fingered operation, separating perhaps a quarter inch from the end of the wing. The fly was free, but when it went to fly, it went in circles and couldn't figure out how to leave the car. It landed on my hand, and I drove off to my next stop, some five minutes away.

Whether the fly felt some safety on my hand, or just happened to wind up there and was too exhausted or traumatized to go anywhere else, of course I don't know. But it stayed there, crawling around a little, occasionally staring at me with what I perceived as contempt, until I arrived at my next stop. I tried once again to get it to go outside, but it looped back into the car and landed on the dash. Finally, it made it outside of the car and I lost sight of it as I shut the door. In retrospect, I think there's a small chance it got caught between the door and the car frame, but I think it's more likely the fly got outside and landed somewhere to collect its fly thoughts.

And I collected my thoughts, which were mostly questions. Does this fly have the capacity to learn how to maneuver with its damaged wing, or will it be sentenced to a life (probably a short one) of flying in circles, unable to make allowances for the amputated section. What does it make of my interference in his life? Does it know that I saved it from a certain, horrible death in the fangs of a spider (I've seen the spider, and it ain't pretty). Did it understand I was trying to do it a favor by removing part of his wing?

All I know is if the fly survived and met up with some fellow flies who asked what happened to his wing, he sure would have a story to tell.