High-altitude flies

Hey Matt:

One day I was daydreaming out the window instead of working, in a high-rise building downtown. I noticed a fly parked on the widow outside. Being as I was on the 33rd floor, I came to wonder what it was doing up this high. So tell me, Matt, how high can a fly fly? Meanwhile, I'll be searching the want ads for employment.

-- A.H., San Diego

Unless you've stashed a Big Mac on your window ledge, that seems like a lot of energy for a bug to expend for no particular reason. Most likely, your city fly was caught in an updraft and couldn't extract himself before the 33rd floor. Flies and many other insects can survive at high altitudes, but don't bother because all the yummy garbage and dog poop is down at ground level. Butterflies might be the altitude champs; the migratory kind have an easier flight far above the ground turbulence. The record is 22,000 feet, according to etymologists at the Smithsonian Institution. But since your fly has no particular destination aside from the next available garbage can, why would he waste his time and energy?

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