Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

To Crowded House, for services to science

When not shopping, sunning myself or catching yellow fever some of my time in The Gambia will be spent catching flies to start up a colony in the UK, to which I can do unspeakable things. A sensible way to do this would be to catch some adults rather than trying to find eggs or maggots, but this raises the problem of what to feed them. As you are all sick to death of hearing by now, Musca sorbens adults feed on tears. Much as if you’d never tasted steak you’d be happy eating tofu all your life (or for that matter if I couldn’t remember what a baguette was supposed to taste like I’d be quite happy with Trufree sliced bath sponges), laboratory raised insects are often quite happy eating an artificial diet, but it may well be that the wild caught adults that have tasted the real thing will refuse to touch it. If that happens I’ll have to feed them on my own tears.

Empathy’s a very worthy thing, but obviously I’m not particularly keen to get trachoma myself so I’m not just going to let the flies land on my eyes, I’ll have to cry and mop the tears up. It’s actually extremely difficult to cry on demand, which is why I’m not an actress or a guest on Oprah – I spent a rather unpleasant afternoon slapping myself in the face and looking for people to give me Chinese burns finding this out. Just when all seemed lost I remembered a song that was playing when I had a very bad argument with someone I care about a great deal. This triggered some sort of Pavlovian response*, and ever since when I hear the song I start crying. This happened many years ago and I though it had worn off, but I heard the song at Glastonbury this year and had to rush off in case anyone I was with noticed. The song’s by Crowded House, but I’m not going to say which one in case everyone starts playing it at me to watch me blubbing. So strange but true, Crowded House may well play a vital role in the fight against trachoma.

*According to the great Terry Pratchett, a Pavlovian response occurs when a dog is conditioned to eat a raspberry meringue whenever it hears a bell ringing.


Katie said...


What is this business?

Firstly, I'm concerned that you need to cause yourself such upset for the pesky besties. Would onions not be an easier (if not more painful) solution? Could we help by sending in our own tears?

And secondly, being one of the folks you were with at Glasto during the Crowded House set, your secrets save with us!


Jules said...

Onions would unfortunately contaminate the tears with onion volatiles. But if you're serious about donating tears I may take you up on it - if I turn up to your birthday with a small sponge and a pair of sterile forceps be prepared to run!