My family sends a holiday package every year filled with treats from Trader Joe’s. The chocolate-covered sea-salt butterscotch caramels are purely amazing. But I wonder how they would compare to a batch of candy I saw a fly make- and eat- on our porch in Gamboa, Panama.
A little gin and tonic got spilled on the railing the night before, and the puddle was still there the next morning next to where I sat in the early sun with my coffee. A wasp-like fly was standing on long legs at the edge of the puddle. It stared up at me thoughtfully, as if trying to decide if I was a threat, or just another barfly. Finally, it swiveled its large head around, projected out a fleshy proboscis, leaned over and sucked up the last of the gin and tonic.
Then it did something odd.
After having a snootfull (and staying disappointingly sober), the fly (Paragrallomyia, a.k.a. stilt-legged fly- thanks @BioInFocus Morgan Jackson) once again extruded its proboscis and walked around the railing while it spat out dozens of round dots, evenly spaced. (the video below is slow-motion. All were made on my iphone)
Once its tank was empty (abdomen visibly deflated), the fly stood by and waited. It even guarded the dots, chasing away other insects that got too close. The dots baked slowly in the sun. After ten minutes they turned from clear to caramel-colored as water evaporated and sugars concentrated ( Just a guess. Did I taste them? No.). Every so often the fly stretched out a short antennae-like front leg and tapped a dot, as if testing for doneness. And finally, when the moment was right, the fly slurped up the dots, one by one.
Tonic water is full of sugar, and so is gin. Overly ripe fallen fruit, abundant in tropical rainforests, is a fairly reliable source of sugary juice (and fermentation), much more so than G&Ts. Though they are very popular in Gamboa. Flies know what to do with boozy, half-rotted fruit (not to mention porch parties), but this one seems to have gone the next step and is making artisanal caramels. Good talent, for a fly.
Happy Holidays, everyone.