The Renwick Flyers

This long, shaggy, and interesting variant on an old theme was posted to the groaners listserv. The author is not known.

A couple of nights ago, I actually took the time to watch some television. This is something I don’t do much of, and hence, I have absolutely no clue of what programs might be of interest, and when they might air. So, with my usual spate of luck, I picked the night when there was nothing of interest. Only humorless sit-coms, and sensationalized gossip masquerading as journalism. (Sigh) Oh, well.

In one of my journeys through the channels (in the hopes that an interesting channel would have suddenly appeared since the last cycle through) I paused briefly on the local news (the batteries in the remote are dying, and it wouldn’t change the channel for me). There is, it seems a dangerous remnant of Hurricane Bonnie lingering in the area — mosquitoes.

These mosquitoes are transmitting some infection which is resulting in encephalitis. Nasty. Soon, however, the remote started working again, and the news became a thing of the past.

The story, however, tripped something in my brain (as these things are wont to do) and brought up the a memory of an old Discovery Channel program I had seen on a similar situation several years ago. It was either in Wales or New England. I can’t remember. And it really doesn’t matter (except maybe to the Welsh and the Yankees, but, hey….) The program had to do with a variety of gnat-like bugs which were infesting flowers–primarily those in florist-shops. The bugs, called “Renwick Fliers” after some 18th century British botanist who discovered them, were apparently coming in on flowers (carnations if I recall) from India (or maybe Africa–my memory is hazy on the details). Normally, the fliers are only of minor annoyance. While they do bite, the bites rarely react, and leave no itchy spots.

The fliers that had come in this time, however, were different. They were some new mutation which had different tolerances and a slightly different body chemistry–just enough to make things interesting.

You see, normal Renwick Fliers are easily killed by some of the more common insecticides. These little critters, however, seemed immune to virtually everything. And to top it off, they were carrying a virus, which affected humans. Now the virus was nowhere near as serious as the one we have here, but it was bad enough. A rather nasty case of Bronchitis was the normal result. For small children, people with asthma, emphysema, or reduced immunity, it could progress into pneumonia.

The florists were in quite a problematic situation. Several of them went out of business, and despite insurance coverage, many others were in danger of it also. The word had gotten out that the fliers were coming from the florist shops. Business plummeted. The Florist union (or whatever it’s called) forked over some serious money to find something that would kill these bugs–without harming the customers who would be sniffing the flowers. The solution came from an unexpected corner. The florists were, of course, looking at chemical insecticides to eradicate the fliers.

A British university, however, proposed another solution. They had been experimenting with natural enzyme compounds for use as “organic” pesticides. These pesticides would, they hoped, be a much safer and eco-friendly alternative to the chemicals currently used.

The university had been having a fair but of success with compounds made from the enzymes of various animals: pigs, cows, chickens, and sheep being primary among them. With the blessing of the Florists, the university acquires a supply of the fliers and began to attack the problem. They solved it in less than 3 days. An enzyme found in the urine of pregnant sheep proved to be extremely deadly to the mutant fliers. It took something like 5 ppm (parts per million) to effectively kill them. By the end of the week, the fliers were dead.

So, I guess what they say is true, “Only ewes can prevent florist fliers.”

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