For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they're annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree).
Super Fly is a lucid, absorbing and sprightly account of the world of flies. There is also a parallel story here, in which Mr. Balcombe becomes an outright advocate. His fervent enthusiasm for flies startled me, until I eventually understood his benevolent motives ... Super Fly will satisfy the nonscientist’s desire to know about the physiologies and cultures of flies, and its championing of its subject is surprisingly moving ... To end on a lighter note, Mr. Balcombe shows a sense of humor when reporting on the sundry sexual stratagems of flies. For instance, signal flies, picture-winged flies and stilt-legged flies put the scent in concupiscent. Are you buzzed by the possibilities of such prurient perfumes? You’ll have to read the book to satisfy your curiosity.
[I]t comes as something of a revelation [...] to learn by way of Jonathan Balcombe’s latest book, Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects, that far from operating on autopilot, flies exhibit discerning social lives, idiosyncratic behavior and sensitivities to stimuli that are not dissimilar to our own ... Super Fly belongs within a subgenre of animal literature that sees frequent recourse to titles that begin: 'The Secret Life of _____' (of bees, of cows, of wolves). But Balcombe’s book does more than unfold surprising facts about flies. The effect of being keyed into this miniature world is an uneasy feeling of double vision. Where once flies might have represented tedium or torment, Super Fly unveils an existence that is not necessarily simpler for merely being smaller.