Sunday, 9 July 2017

Ten Green Bottles

Ok, so I lied. There were twelve green bottles not ten. And they were blue not green. Sue me.

Cor, look at that lot!
I swept these flies from a grassy meadow at the top of the beach. These are calliphorids, Calliphoridae, commonly known as blowflies. Or 'bluebottles' in everyday parlance. There are quite a few species of bluebottles in Britain, spread across several genera. I'd always assumed that they were just too damn difficult to even attempt tackling (for me that still holds true for most flies) but Steven Falk has recently produced a fantastic pdf entitled Test Key to the British Blowflies which covers our 'bottles' in detail. 

Add the fact that the local species record collator is a dipterist (fly fanatic) and has specifically asked me to look out for a seashore-loving bluebottle, one which hasn't yet been recorded from my area, and I simply had to give them a try. I netted twelve individuals which I felt would offer me at least a couple of different species. Calliphora vicina and Calliphora vomitoria are the commonest bluebottles. The 'missing' species that should be here is Calliphora uralensis, it being something of a northern specialist in Britain. 

I popped them into the deep-freeze overnight which is a humane way of despatching flies. On opening the pots I was surprised at the strong odour of shite coming off these flies. Shite or rotting carcasses, I'm not sure. I've dubbed them The Dirty Dozen. Must remember to wash my hands sometime soon...

Anyway, all pinned and ready to be keyed through. Happily they all key to Calliphora so I'm in the right genus at least. Rather annoyingly they all show the orange/yellow beard and back of the head which clearly indicates that every single damn one of them is Calliphora vomitoria. Well, I really didn't expect that, just look at the variation in sizes for starters. Next time I think I'll target the large rocks at the top of the beach itself, which may be more suitable for uralensis and less attractive to vomitoria. Oh well, I tried.

Apologies to anyone hoping to see ten green bottles hanging on the wall. Best I can come up with at such short notice is this

"4 Green Bottles sittin' on me desk..."
These were fresh into the hotel today, it's the first time I've seen Stella for sale here. I much prefer pints, or even cans, of Wife Beater instead of these poncy wee bottles, but I was overcome with excitement at the sight of my fave beer unexpectedly sitting there in front of my eyes. Probably a good thing it isn't on tap, the locals would probably lose their shit very rapidly (as happened on Scillies when it first arrived on tap - before being rather quickly taken back off again!) They aren't used to a good ol' pint of chemicals in these parts!


  1. I had Calliphora uralensis for the first time this year - at Ramasaig Bay in April. Still not had one on Raasay after several years of bottle collecting.

    1. Yes, Murdo mentioned that you'd had it on Skye, though he didn't say where. It's yet to be found up the top end here at Trotternish though.

  2. Mine are almost always vicina, so an easy one to pick out even in the pot