Creative Nonfiction

Recollections of a Fly Sex Therapist

NATALIE VAN HOOSE writes, fishes, and watches insects in her native Florida. Her fiction has appeared in The Southeast Review.

I HOLD THE DUBIOUS DISTINCTION of being something of an expert on the sexual behavior of houseflies. This is not due to some bizarre fetish or fascination with fly sex. Rather, I became the resident brain on the ins and outs of the reproductive habits of Musca domestica because my boss told me to.

It was 2005, and I’d been working for Drion Boucias, head of the Insect Pathology Lab at the University of Florida, for a year when he suggested I run a full-fledged experiment, a step up from my usual undergrad lab duties of scrubbing beakers and counting beet armyworm moth eggs. Drion was a sharp and thorough scientist, old school in his zeal for research. He’d also biked to work in his boxers once and puttered around the lab until someone told him he’d left his pants at home. He was both intimidating and encouraging to students, and while he often reminded me he could hire a convict to do my job for less, he never did.

When he asked what insects I liked working with, I told him I was game for anything. “I’m not too hot on maggots or cockroaches though,” I said.

He decided to set me up with houseflies. Houseflies, I knew, were not only uninteresting but were also nothing more than adult maggots. I kept my mouth shut. It was the start of my senior year, and I had thirty dollars to my name. Plus, I was an English major and lucky to be in the lab in the first place. An entomology minor, afraid of the two years of chemistry, physics, and other weed-out classes the major then required, I’d impressed Drion with my writing in his “Principles of Entomology” class, but I knew he could have taken on any number of science students in my stead.

So, when he dispatched me

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