Opinion

Commentary: Do flies deserve any compassion?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals took Barack Obama to task for his deft and deadly skills in ridding himself of a persistent and pesky housefly that refused to move on to less dangerous territory.

During an interview last week, Obama killed the pest with a swift bare-handed swat that has now been replayed a thousand times.

I was impressed. PETA was not.

PETA sent the president a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a catch-and-release device for insects. I'm sure we'd all like to review the salary of the person assigned to carry that around for the president.

Mind you, if a fly is pestering me in my house, I will try to shoo it out a nearby door, or open a screen to free it from a window. But if those attempts fail, the bug will meet its maker a couple of days ahead of schedule.

I am not ashamed to say I have killed my share of flies. Knowing where they live their first few days of life and where they have fed, I will not let them land on my food or in my kitchen without a fight.

Within three or four days, the female housefly can lay as many as 500 tiny white eggs in manure or a warm, moist pile of garbage, on which the larvae or maggots feed when they emerge. After feasting for four to 10 days, the maggots enter the pupa stage and are transformed into adult flies. Fifteen to 30 days after they become flies, their life cycle ends. Sooner than that if they land on my food.

There can be as many as 10 generations produced from spring to fall in moderate climates and more than 20 in tropical regions.

That Obama fly has not been missed.

So, I applaud the president's prowess. He probably saved Americans from killing a few thousand other flies.

The method of execution I prefer is the long-handled plastic swatter with ample air holes to permit quicker, guillotine-like action.

My father used that instrument, telling me to strike from behind because flies take off backward.

In exploring other methods on the Web, I discovered that isn't quite true. The little boogers, or "suckers" as Obama calls them, are smart enough to dodge impending blows from all angles.

So we humans, who have much larger brains, have to outthink them.

On his Web site, www.chrisglass.com, Chris Glass of Cincinnati said his father taught him a unique fly-killing method, how to kill a fly without a flyswatter:

1. Position your hands a few inches above the fly as if you were about to clap.

2. Clap.

3. Wash hands.

Because the fly senses your intentions, he will attempt to escape when he feels the rush of air as your hands are about to meet. But, with his exit covered from both sides, when your hands meet, the fly is squished in between.

"Sadly I don't have any statistics or info other than my dad taught me this trick back when I was a teenager (mid-80s)," Glass wrote in an e-mail. "It does NOT, however, always work, but it will increase your chances."

I'll pass.

On Thursday, the British Broadcasting Company News Magazine ¡ª yes, this fly-killing thing has gone worldwide ¡ª issued 10 ways to best kill a fly:

¡ö Do it early in the morning.

¡ö Approach from behind (which we've already discussed).

¡ö Aim ahead rather than at

¡ö The Barack method, the hand slap

¡ö Holed implements

¡ö Chopsticks

¡ö The hand-clap method

¡ö A bug zapper or fly strip

¡ö Rolled newspaper (after reading my column, of course)

¡ö Any catch and release method.

Obviously, the life of the common housefly is not held sacred by a majority of folks.

Mosquitoes should be added to the list of enigmatic pests with which we are forced to share the Earth. I am quite confident I have killed many more of them than I have flies and have never once considered releasing one back into the wild.

If a mosquito buzzes near me, it will die near me.

I don't even want to discuss what I'd do to a roach.

PETA said it doesn't condemn Obama for killing the fly. "Human beings don't often think before they act," PETA said on an Internet posting.

"We support compassion for all animals, even the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic ones," the post said.

So do I, as long as they don't try to share my living space or my meal, and don't eye me as the main course on their dinner menu.

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