Explaining Fly Song

I spent the last four years studying fly song. When I tell this, many people are surprised and ask: flies sing? And: yes, they do! And I explain how and why flies sing in this video. (You may need to use Google Chrome Browser to view this video.)

Song is part of fly courtship. Male flies produce a song by extending and vibrating one of their wings. And females ears’ are specialized to hearing song.

Interestingly, fly song is structured and males sing different types of songs: sine and pulse songs make up unique patterns. Sine song is a low humming noise and pulse song sounds more like beats on a drum. Females pick up differences and can tell if they like a male from hearing his song.

Flies are tiny and people often ask me, if fly song is audible for humans and yes it is: you could hear fly song, if flies were courting in your ear. The reason we don’t hear fly song every day, is not because it’s not audible, but because it’s not very loud. Imagine: male fruit flies produce song by shaking their tiny wing—even when they shake hard, they can’t produce loud sound.

So one important part of my work was to record elusive fly song, so that I can study it. To do that I worked with brilliant engineers, who helped me build a song box, with a very sensitive microphone, that’s just perfect to pick up flies singing.

Now you know that flies sing, and that we can even hear their song. Probably you want to hear it now, don’t you? You can: check out this video of flies courting and singing!