There’s a series on BBC Radio 4 that somehow I’ve never caught up with on i-player. It’s called ‘What’s the point of….?’ and examines a whole range of British institutions, from the Tate Gallery at the more serious end of the spectrum, to lawns and pubs at the other. Though some right-thinking Englishmen might argue that nothing could be more important than a well-kept lawn and a drink in your local after you’ve finished mowing same.
I have a suggestion for a programme, though the subject that interests me isn’t a British institution. But I really need to know.
What’s the point of horse flies?
Out walking at this time of year, some – but not all of us – have come to dread being near horses, cattle or still water. Because when we’re near any of them, we’re likely suddenly to feel a sharp piercing of our skin, as a horse fly eagerly pumps poison into our flesh whilst sucking our blood. It’s not easily brushed away. In the hours that follow, our skin swells, and for several nights, sleep will elude us as we scratch frantically at our fiery, itchy, tightly inflamed skin. These nasty creatures are pretty immune to any repellents, though a cocktail of essential oils such as lavender, melissa and tea-tree sometimes helps. Nor have I found any remedy soothing after the event.
So what are they for? It’s bad enough for us humans, but cattle and horses seem truly to suffer all summer long, as flies of all kinds cluster round their eyes and mouths, resisting all attempts to flick them away.
Apparently they make a tasty snack for a swallow or a frog. I’m sorry, that’s no good. There are plenty of other insects about, so their having a place in the food chain simply isn’t justification enough.
And while we’re about it, what’s the point of ticks? And mosquitos? And another thing. Why do I get so many bites from all of the above while Malcolm, and so many of my other friends, are blissfully immune?