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The Flies Have It

IT'S called the Australian salute. Right, left, right, left across the face. With any luck, you'll brush away a few flies. Although no one has taken a census, Australia has a lot of flies - the result of its huge cattle herds. The flies get protein from cattle dung, but if none is available a drop or two of perspiration will do.

The most common pest is the bush fly, which is a nuisance. With uncanny accuracy it goes for the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. If these are not available, it takes a free ride on the back of your shirt. The insects come in ``flywaves,'' mainly showing up from March to April and September to December.

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The blowfly is more than a nuisance. This pest lays its larvae in sheep. The government estimates the blowfly causes about $90 million a year in damage to herds. Then, there is the buffalo fly which bites cattle.

There is little that can be done about the flies. An Australian government science and research organization has released dung beetles that temporarily cut back on the fly population. There have also been attempts at releasing sterile flies. Most Australians, however, just grit their teeth ... and keep saluting.

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