‘Fly’ is the general name given to an insect of the order Diptera and is normally related to some common ethological and morphological features. Because, in different contexts, the word fly might take diverse meanings, it is not possible to provide a definition based on taxonomy. The word ‘fly’ normally calls to mind the domestic fly, found in all indoor and outdoor areas where there is human presence. The commensalism (literally meaning "eating at the same table") between flies and humans makes this insect’s appearance and behaviour familiar to most people. So then, the term ‘fly’ has come to mean any Diptera which act and, above all, look like domestic flies.
In the common language, the correct use of the term is related to the ability to recognise the morphological and ethological differences between the domestic fly and any other Diptera. At times, even experts, when using an informal register, call not only the Musca domestica, ‘fly’ but also the species of the Musca genus and, by extension those of the Muscidae family by the same name.
Most people have more difficulty in distinguishing the different morphological and ethological features of the Diptera, and therefore the word ‘fly’ is commonly used with an extended or inaccurate meaning. This often includes all Diptera which resemble the Musca domestica (housefly) in size or appearance.
Therefore the term Diptera includes any insect that is commonly perceived to belong to the family Muscidae. For example, noticing a marked difference in size can determine how we identify these insects: large-size Muscidae like the Sarcophagidae are simply identified as blue bottle flies; likewise, the term ’gnat’, an insect which falls in the suborder nematogera, is also used to refer to other small-size Muscidae, like the Drosophilae.
Perceiving different pigmentations, affects the way we identify these species. For instance, because of their aposematic coloration and ethology, Syrphidae are rarely associated with flies as such: although many species of this family look like Muscidae, they are often mistaken for Hymenoptera apoidea by inexperienced observers. On the contrary, in the case of Lucilia, the morphological perception prevails over the chromatic one so that, despite their typical metallic colours, that would make the species easily recognizable, these insects are more often simply referred to as flies identified by their colour.
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