I saw the image of a fishfly on the front page of the Wall Street Journal this morning. The story is headlined “Something Smells Fishy In These Tony Michigan Towns.” Then I see that the story is from Grosse Pointe, MI. So we are “tony,” are we? The author got that wrong. Next I encounter this little snippet: “The worst part: The flies have little to do with fish. The name refers to the smell all those rotting bugs give off.” Wrong again. Finally our author found a policeman in my part of the Pointes, Grosse Pointe Farms. According to that official, this year’s is supposed to be the worst “invasion” in more than 30 years. Not in our opinion here.
“Tony” is supposed to be “high-toned,” thus “uppity.” In the 1920s, I am told it was the name of a reddish-brown fashion color. Yes. The Grosse Pointes are well off to wealthy. And the color is right because most of the homes are brick. But if you live here and know the population—from its highest to its modest levels—it would occur to no one to describe this place as “tony.” Want to be negative? Call the Grosse Pointes bourgeois—with the kind of intonation a French person would use. Want to be neutral? Upscale, staid will do. Want to be positive: Reserved, traditional describes us. We also have lots and lots and lots of trees. They cover us. Green, green. Major budget battles here turn on how many and which kinds of trees to plant. Tony? Baloney.
The fishfly is an aquatic insect meaning that it spends one year out of each year under water living in submerged mud burrows. Had to add that word, submerged, just to emphasize the point. Through most of its life this creature is a nymph. It turns into a winged insect just before its time has come to reproduce—and die. Sex is enjoyed high in the air. Then the fertilized females deposit their eggs on the water. Finally, male and female, they fly inland to die. The fishy smell? Well, hadn’t noticed it. Indeed, just to see, I collected some and held them to my nose. No sign of it. They are called fishfly because they live under water.
Now for that “worst invasion” in 30 years. The policeman may have been referring to the WSJ’s invasion of the Pointes, not to the fishflies. 2010 was much worse; last year the fishflies were both late and rather thin in population. This year was just about right. The Journal’s writer did get one thing right. Elsewhere these creatures are called mayflies. Around here they tend to peak around about June 16.