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Summary

Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History and a New York Times Editors Choice Pick

"After reading Super Fly, you will never take a fly for granted again. Thank you, Jonathan Balcombe, for reminding us of the infinite marvels of everyday creatures." (Sy Montgomery, Author of How to Be a Good Creature)

From an expert in animal consciousness, a book that will turn the fly on the wall into the elephant in the room.

For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they're annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree). No matter your outlook on our tiny buzzing neighbors, Super Fly will change the way you look at flies forever. 

Jonathan Balcombe is the author of four books on animal sentience, including the New York Times bestselling What a Fish Knows, which was nominated for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Science Writing. He has worked for years as a researcher and educator with the Humane society to show us the consciousness of other creatures, and here he takes us to the farthest reaches of the animal kingdom.

©2020 Jonathan Balcombe (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“Flies! Those irritating insects that settle on your food when you eat outside in summer, cluster round the eyes of horses, and carry diseases on their little tickling feet. How can someone write a whole book on flies! The best thing I can say is 'Read Super Fly!' It is utterly fascinating, written with clear prose, a delightful sense of humour, and by a gifted naturalist and story teller. And Jonathan Balcombe not only writes with authority about the incredible diversity of fly species, but with a real love for these fascinating winged beings that play such an important role in the tapestry of life.” (Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace)

"Ogden Nash wrote, 'God in His wisdom made the fly, and then forgot to tell us why.' Now Jonathan Balcombe's witty book enlightens us, advising of the fly's, and other insects', surprising role in preserving our ecosystem and far more. In my view, the first thoroughly readable, enjoyable and scholarly work on the subject." (Ingrid Newkirk, president and cofounder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA))

"Balcombe has done it again. He’s peeled back our assumptions about a class of maligned creature and shown us there is wonder, majesty, and even poetry to find inside flies. I left this book hypnotized by the celestial blues Balcombe illuminated in flies’ eyes; I was delighted to learn of flies’ status as unsung pollinators, as forensic tools, as secret codes in fine art. This book has so many gifts for nature lovers, engineers, poets, and tired old souls hoping to rekindle their love of the world." (Lulu Miller, author of Why Fish Don’t Exist and cohost of Radiolab)

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  • R. Klein
  • 11-08-21

Highly informative and engaging!

This was a terrific read. Very informative and entertaining. The book contains some nice, detailed descriptions of the amazing diversity, both in type and behavior, of one the planet's most plentiful life forms, served in a story-telling format.

Balcombe creates engaging chapters that explore what and how flies eat, how they reproduce, and their importance to the ecosystem and to science. And some interesting thoughts and on whether insects, and flies in particular, are sentient beings, and the experiments that test the hypothesis that they, indeed, may be.

And there are a few cute jokes interspersed into the narrative.

I've read or listened to books about the lives (and secret lives) of other animals and plants. I enjoyed the factual, yet breezy air of this book more than most. And I enjoyed listening to the author's voice and cadence. Straight forward, factual, but warm and engaging. The work is fact-based, and where the author raises questions, he carefully presents his opinion and facts that support it, but he does not try to convince you one way or another.

If you have a healthy interest in the creatures with whom we share our planet, I'd recommend you GET THIS BOOK.

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  • Travis
  • 05-08-21

Passed with fly-ing colors!

Excellent book on an often irritating order of insects. Really, everyone would benefit from this book. I'm a beekeeper, so naturally I'm more of a fan of bees and wasps, but flies are just as diverse and at times bizarre. Buy this now!

The author also does a great job with the narration.