The first time I heard the term Spanish Fly, I had to be in single digits. It was the theme of one of my mother's favorite scenes from the 90s television classic The Golden Girls. According to an exasperated Dorothy, Spanish Fly is not, in fact, a fly. It's a beetle that is commonly used to an aphrodisiac. The scientific name for this little critter is Lytta vesicatoria and it is commonly found in the southern Mediterranean countries.
I, like Rose Nyland before me, am still utterly perplexed by this name. I have no idea why beetle is referred to as a fly--possibly the unsexiest of all creatures. Or it somehow became to be known as singularly Spanish. But that’s not the point. An etymology lesson is not what we are here for today.
While I've had little interaction with the critter or aphrodisiac here in Spain, I have had an inordinate amount of interactions with actual Spanish flies or moscas. With the advent of summer, they came out in full force. And here in Minorca, it took until December for them to fully disappear.
During the first few weeks in my apartment, I found myself besieged by these pests. Like most people, I am not a huge fan of insects. But flies in particular truly repulse me.
Spanish flies would never dream of being so basic.
When I was younger, my mother used to insist that food that had been touched by these pests had to be immediately discarded. She never failed to mention that flies had a penchant of landing on anything, including feces before they landed atop your food. Thanks, Mom.
To be clear, flies, are hardly uncommon in a New Jersey summer, so I am used to them. But what's different here, is the sheer number and, dare I say it, the aggressiveness, of Spanish flies so bothersome.
New Jersey flies seem to have developed a fear of humans that seems to allude Spanish flies. I've always thought that an aversion to humans was normal for insects, especially from places as highly populated as my home state. But, now I believe that this fear may be simply a result of a mutation from all the pollution--or fear of the mafia. Who knows?
The fact is, ordinary flies will usually move as soon as they sense your presence drawing near. Flies in Spain would never dream of being so basic. Spanish flies are bold, brave and fearless. They will land, with confidence, on any surface without fear of death or consideration for your personal space.
Spanish flies are bold, brave and fearless.
I had them affix to my leg, shoulder and even lips. And they will stay there as long as they please, regardless of your attempts at shooing them away. Oh yes. The disrespect is real.
But what makes these critters even more despicable? They bite. Yes, if you annoy them too much, they will bite you. I am not exactly sure how they do this because I am fairly certain that they don't have teeth, but they manage to find a way.
What's more, here in Minorca, window screens seem to be something of a rarity. And unfortunately, my apartment has no proper windows--only french doors. So aside from leaving all the windows and the doors shut, there seems to be no way to avoid them.
Luckily, the winter wind has provided some relief and has blown many of them off course. Undoubtedly, many have met their ultimate demise. While others have landed back on the Peninsula and are gearing up for the opening of next year's tourist season.
The irony is that while I've come to associate flies with filth, generally speaking, Spanish people are remarkably clean. While American homes tend to be neat and tidy, most Spanish homes I've visited were spotless and would pass any white glove test. Perhaps the upside to that is that if the house is clean, the flies with be clean, so that will not contaminate the surfaces that they refuse to move from.
But I know one thing for certain, next summer, I'm buying a Venus fly trap.