Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Word Of The Week

taon

Although the weather is no indication this year, it is summer. And as I said in an earlier post, we had a very mild winter, which means to some here in the countryside that the bugs were not killed off in sufficient numbers.

I really haven't noticed any more bugs than usual so far this summer, but I have noticed a different mix of bugs. We have many fewer moths than normal, and mosquitoes have been somewhat rare this year. But the flies abound.

And then there are the biting flies. I think we call them horseflies back where I come from, but in France they're called les taons. I don't remember really noticing them much before, but they are certainly noticeable this year. I read on the web that in Canada they're called taons à cheval or mouches à chevreuil (horse-fly and deer-fly, respectively). The larvae can live on dry land or in water. Since it's been raining a lot here this year, it seems that maybe there is a lot more habitat available to the flies for reproduction.

I also read that it's only the females that feed on the blood of mammals. The males eat nectar only. They're particularly active in warm weather and they usually won't enter buildings, preferring to stay outdoors. There are over 3,500 species in the tabanidae family, of which about 160 occur in Europe.

According to the Robert, the French word taon has its roots in the word toon, which is traced back to the twelfth century. It came from the low latin words tabo and onis. Any latin scholars out there know what those words mean ?

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