The good and the bad in biodiversity


At some point last week a small fly bit my leg, perhaps a biting midge in the family Ceratopogonidae*.   In doing so, the fly infected the wound with bacteria, possibly a Staphylococcus species.  That’s turned into a large, painful cellulitis (pictured) that is causing fever, body aches, dizziness, sweating, sleep problems, exhaustion, and general unwellness**.  Although I love biodiversity, sometimes it causes all kinds of health problems for humans.  Bad biodiversity.

A visit to my GP yesterday afternoon resulted in her prescribing me a course of antibiotics, specifically clarithromycin.  Although this is a synthetic antibiotic it was developed as a variant of erythromycin which in turn is a natural antibiotic isolated from the bacterium Streptomyces erythraea.  Good biodiversity.

There’s a temptation in environmentalism to see nature as all good, a Mother Earth that provides for us.  Which it does, and one way of considering these benefits is as ecosystem services.  However nature also inflicts a whole range of ecosystem disservices on the human population of this planet, backed up by some of its biodiversity.  Nature is neither all good nor all bad, it just is.

My first year undergraduate classes start next week with the module Biodiversity: an Introduction.  I hope to be well enough to teach it and at some point I’ll use this as an example the good and the bad in biodiversity.



*Ironically flies in this family are major pollinators of one of the main groups of plants I study in the genus Ceropegiasee this post from last year.

**And a pain in the arse to my wife – sorry Karin!  It was she who persuaded me to go and see the GP after a few days of “no, no, it will get better on its own….”

15 thoughts on “The good and the bad in biodiversity

  1. Driftless Roots

    I had no idea fly bites could lead to infection. I occasionally get bites or stings from something that leave a big purple spot that lasts for weeks. No, nature isn’t good or bad but education is good because we can learn how to be careful out there.

  2. spamletblog

    Did you actually see the fly and feel the bite?
    If not, I would not risk the chance of it being a tick bite, and, definitely look for antibiotics right away. There is a seemingly world wide invasion and mixing of tick species, with previously almost unheard of diseases being reported on health monitoring services all the time.

    As for the small flies. In the dusk or late afternoon, blackflies (Simulidae) can be almost invisible and very quiet, as they bite through your jeans! If I stayed in the garden too late in the afternoon, I used to end up with pus volcanoes all over arms and legs! The flies are supposed to not go far from running water, but they do round here (Luton)!

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      I assumed fly because there was no tick there, just a small, raised, itchy bite mark. But it could have been, and initially I was worried about Lyme Disease. Currently on antibiotics and I had a blood test at the weekend so they will check for that.

      Agreed, simulids are also a possibility, and some species can be pollinators too 🙂

  3. Gina Rackley

    Ouch! Avon make a moisturizer called ‘Skin so soft’ that is the most insect repellent thing I have come across. It works for me gardening! Wishing you a speedy recovery.

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      Thanks you. Yes, apparently the British Army use it! Normally I’m fine, I rarely get bitten and when I do it never usually reacts like that. Hopefully a one off.

  4. Pingback: What are my most read blog posts of 2018? A short review of the year | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s