Local science writer, Sue Heavenrich, has done it again. Her second children’s book “13 Ways to Eat a Fly,” a picture book illustrated by David Clark, is sure to be another hit. And so, the countdown begins — due out mid-February.
With a master’s degree in Biology from the University of Colorado, Heavenrich concentrated on insect behavior. In this picture book, we are introduced to 13 different kinds of flies, many you might recognize, and the animals (and plants) that dine on them. In an interesting spin on the fly itself, we discover what parts of a fly are the tastiest, at least from an insectivore’s point of view. After reading the book, you will have a whole new perspective of flies. I know I did.
When asked, “what were you thinking” when you decided to write about ‘eating’ flies, Heavenrich proceeded to explain how her research on flies gave her the idea for this book.
“I jotted down a miss-read book title: ‘How To Eat A Fly.’ I started writing a list about how animals captured flies: with a flick of the tongue (frog) to the flycatchers that capture insects on the wing. In reading books it would say, this animal eats flies. And I would wonder, what kind of flies? So I thought it might be fun to highlight fly diversity — there are at least 110,000 species of flies!”
Like any researcher, the more she researched, the more she dug deeper. Starting to pay more attention to the flies she saw around her garden and yard, she noticed interesting facts—first hand.
“I spotted long-legged flies, a fungus fly appropriately hanging out on a mushroom, fuzzy bee flies and striped flies that mimic wasps. In addition to my own observations, I used field guides and articles from scientific journals and observations by entomologists to create a spreadsheet for various kinds of flies and what ate them.”
She also admitted that she contacted entomologists who were quick to answer her questions and share their knowledge about the bugs they love. As for deciding on the number of flies to include and the types of flies, Heavenrich did her homework here, as well.
“I looked at a lot of counting books and noticed that they went up to 10 or 12 (a dozen of this or that). So I wanted something different, and 13 is a fun number. It’s a baker’s dozen, it’s prime, it’s a Fibonacci number.”
She also wanted to include flies and fly-eaters that might be familiar to most people, plus “a couple surprises.” As for the picture book being a counting book Heavenrich finds that each time you read one, you are apt to discover something new, thus adding the number sequence in her book. What is interesting, is that, as she stated: “I tried to layer ‘13 Ways to Eat a Fly’ with different things to discover: the swarm of flies that grows ever smaller, the predators, an introduction to fly families, some humor (like the Guide to Fine Dining at the back), and a fun way to learn fly anatomy.” Illustrator David Clark did an excellent job “depicting these poor, doomed-to-be-eaten flies with such personality and expression, and adds some wonderful visual humor.”
As for what interesting fact Heavenrich discovered along the way of researching flies, she said “I love chocolate. Most folks don’t know that midges — tiny flies related to ‘no-see-ums’ — pollinate the flowers of cacao trees. Without these pin-head-sized flies there would be no candy bars! And although my other book, Diet for a Changing Climate contains lots of information about how to eat insects, I don’t eat flies. Except by accident.”
Heavenrich writes about science and environmental issues and is passionate about insects. She has followed ants in the Arizona desert, tagged bumblebees in the Rocky Mountains, and tallied insects on Cocos Island in Costa Rica. Her writings for children have appeared in Ranger Rick, Cobblestone, and Highlights for Children. A local journalist, she also writes the science column for Ithaca Child, and maintains the website Archimedes Notebook BlogSpot at: archimedesnotebook.blogspot.com. When not writing, Heavenrich volunteers as a citizen scientist, collecting data on flies and other pollinators for researchers. You can also visit her website at: sueheavenrich.com; or check out her Facebook page at: facebook.com/SueHeavenrichWriter