August 16, 2002 11:39 AM

We have a drosophila infestation at work. It sounds very serious.

Of course, it's just a nice way to say "Ick! Fruit flies!"

I said there were drosophila flying all around me (there are two). I don't think the woman sitting next to me understood. But I couldn't think "fruit flies", or even "teeny itty flies". All I could think was the name from genetics and them all over the biology lab.

I didn't mean to insist on a college word, but sometimes the ordinary words just won't come. When you spend that much time staring at the eyes of something you will later kill by dumping it in the trash, you remember its name.

Yes, it's just a fly. An excitingly varied and simple fly. A terribly useful genetics research tool.

Drosophila Melanogaster is really quite cute (see?). For a fly. And I wonder why no high school biology student has ever become news by refusing to breed and kill hundreds of flies.

It does seem a bit demon-scientist. It means I can relate to the anti-cloning, anti-stem cell research posse. Should we really be so unconcerned with killing?

Science is unsentimental. I support abortion and capital punishment. I know that you can kill millions of the world's tiniest things without even denting the success of their species.

But I can't help feeling a twinge of guilt for once giving a host of fruit flies an undignified trash burial.

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