I’ve written before about how to catch flies. That technique was inside of an indoor room, like a bathroom, where you could close the door and turn off the lights after the fly has landed. Before you turn off the lights notice where he is because he will stay put and you can bring a clear plastic drinking cup within a couple of feet of him in the dark. Then switch the light on for half a second to see more precisely where the fly is, and then in the dark, realign your cup closer to the fly. Switch on the light for another half second to see exactly where he is for your final alignment, and then in the dark set the cup over the fly. Now you can turn on the light permanently and slowly slide a piece of paper under the cup. The fly is contained inside the cup and you can take him outside for release back into his natural environment.

This last week, during the day, there has been an occasional fly trapped against a window while he is trying to get outside. Trying to catch a fly with your hand is rarely successful because they depart when they see your hand coming closer. Flies have millions of years of avoidance procedures built into their DNA. Your motivation to release them back into a world more to their liking is misinterpreted by them as your wanting to catch and eat them. The statistical chance of some creature desiring to release the fly into a better life after catching them suggests rather strongly that his best option is to fly away. From the fly’s perspective the odds are worse than a trillion to one against this act of kindness coming his way, and even that estimate is probably optimistic.

Okay, so I am being just a tiny bit weird trying to catch flies and release them outdoors, but it does have a payoff for me in that it trains me to be kinder to all of the creatures of the world and that includes people, including me. Yes, by being kind to that fly I am learning how to be kinder to other people and to myself too. That is no small thing, because over the years I have not been as nice to myself as I might have been, let alone kind.

Being kind is an advanced form behavior available only to mature humans. Ask the Dalai Lama. I have been searching for ways to train myself to be a kinder person and saving a fly’s life is an easy one to practice. It is a particularly good exercise for habit training because it requires careful thought and attention. To catch a fly requires observing its needs, attention and probable behavior, and that is the first step in any particular act of kindness; it is empathizing with a fly and that should be easier than empathizing with a human.


A housefly caught against my window in clear plastic cup.

To catch a fly against a window is surprisingly easy to do with a large clear plastic tumbler-cup. Grip the tumbler well back on the bottom and point the open top directly towards the fly on the window. The object is to keep your hand and body as far from the fly as possible, so he can’t see you, and then to move slowly toward the fly. As it usually turns out the fly isn’t bothered by being surrounded by the transparent cup even when he still has time to fly away. When about two inches away snap the cup down around the fly. Once the cup is against the window it is easy to slide a piece of paper in between the cup and the window which then contains the fly for easy transport outside. I now keep a cup and stiff postcard for ready access, not too far from the windows where the flies congregate. If you don’t have any paper handy, wait until the fly has landed on the inside of the cup, and then slide your hand between the window and the open top.

Saving a fly’s life is saving your own future life.