Blackfly Power

Long ago, Aldo Leopold, an early and long-lasting guru of the environment, wrote “The Odyssey of Atom X”. In that saga of a Carbon atom, Leopold illustrated how difficult it is for any atom to oppose the forces moving it steadily towards the sea and instead to find some way to climb back up the hills. Leopold used a fox to consume Atom X in its food and using its power as a living being, to carry it uphill against the inexorable seaward forces. Certainly the forces of living beings are the outstanding opposition to gravitational and erosional flow of all matter that has no gaseous state.


Of all the forces carrying Atom X uphill, blackflies must surely be among the greatest. The larvae hang suspended by their bungee cords from rocks in fast water taking up tonnes of particles of organic matter from the water. They must because they do produce tonnes of adult flies filling all the spaces among all the trees on the Canadian Shield each summer. How many tonnes of Atom X are in all those flies?


Surely the oceans would soon shallow up with all that particulate matter if the blackflies did not intercept it from our streams before it got into the big rivers and out onto the continental shelf in the ocean.


If it takes 25 adult blackflies to make one gram then a million flies would make 40,000 grams. Two and one-half million flies would be one tonne. If, allowing for efficiencies, it takes about 2 grams of particles to result in one gram of actual fly, then 2.5 million flies would have removed two tonnes of particles from our streams.


These are serious amounts of matter being flown uphill and thus kept on the land by these flies for us instead of being lost into the ocean for geological time.


Next time you swat a palmfull of blackflies, remember that they are moving lots of good stuff uphill for us and you can do your part with thoughtful swatting. The higher up the hills before you swat, the better.

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