I’m out all day both today and tomorrow, first at our Latin-Mass-Holy-Hour-Pa-Looza, and then on a day-long field trip to a military-chaplains’ museum.

As I was casting about for some religious idea to leave you with, my eye fell on the dog, who has been stalking flies. He’s not very good at it; being a scenthound, not a sighthound, he tends to concentrate on where they’ve just been, following his nose across the edges of counters and the backs of chairs, hoping I guess to tree one eventually. It is to laugh, say the flies.


Anyway, August is the season of flies, and it’s with that biblical idea in mind — and assuming that if we’re having this problem, maybe you are, too — that I’m reposting an item from my old blog.

The Plague of Flies

It is upon us, the summer curse. I would say that I don’t know where they come from, except that I do know where they come from: outside. You know, where people go five hundred times a day, and then think, before the door has had time to swing shut, that perhaps they don’t want to be after all, so they stand deliberating while the winged traffic, far less given to reflection that they are, goes whizzing merrily past their heads and into my kitchen. And then is too stupid to find the exit. They seem to want to go out again, but experience the sensation as of a person who has parked, say, a champagne-colored Honda sedan, or Toyota, or Mazda, in a crowded mall parking lot. Which one? Where to go?

So they blunder up and down the windowpane above the sink, making fat obscene motor noises, or else they get themselves trapped behind the blinds in the dining room. This seems to be the general truism of a fly’s life: it’s easy going in.

So all through dinner those of us who face the window sit watching them crawl up and fall back down and then try to make a break for it, only they can’t ever seem to find the open space between two slats, even though the space is a lot wider than the slats themselves. The blinds are good for us, however, in that we can turn off the dining room light, and while the flies sit dazzled in the evening brilliance from outside, we can creep up with the vacuum cleaner hose and hoover them suckers up. It’s the only way.

Actually, it’s not the only way. We had this same problem two summers ago, in the last rental house we lived in, and things became so bad, particularly in the kitchen, where the constant droning around my head as I made dinner was beginning to drive me off the edge, that I went online to arm myself for battle.

To make a protracted story short, I can report that fly strips aren’t worth what you pay for them at the dollar store: they stick to everything BUT the flies, which are stupid but apparently not that stupid.

Citronella also doesn’t make much difference; neither do basil or rosemary in pots on the windowsill. They say that flies can’t stand the smell of these things, but come on: how delicate can a fly’s olfactory organ possibly be? How rarified its sensibilities? When did a fly ever say to itself, that garbage can looks so enticing — but, oh, darn, there’s some rosemary in the way! So forget that.

We did have some moderate success with a homemade fly trap. This was a large plastic bottle — a white-vinegar jug, say — baited with half-rotted cantaloupe in a little vinegar. It is not true what they say, by the way, that you can’t catch flies with vinegar. Or at least, you can catch enough flies with vinegar that it’s not worth wasting the honey, which costs a lot more. So you put the stenchified cantaloupe and the vinegar in the bottle, apply the lid, and then cut little apertures all over the sides of the bottle. The flies can get in — see truism above — but they can’t figure out how to get out.

This strategem works like a charm. Within twenty-four hours, our trap was sedimented with tragic black forms, embalmed in cantaloupe-orange vinegar. If you have a lot of flies, you can catch a lot of flies with this method. There’s only one drawback: the trap stinks. Unless you yourself are partial to the smell of cantaloupe simultaneously decomposed and pickled, you don’t want this thing in the kitchen. We put ours outside by the big garbage bin, and boy, did it fill up. The population of flies outside our carport was noticeably reduced. The population of flies in the kitchen, on the other hand, remained the same.

In the end what proved to be the most effective method was good old-fashioned obsessive stalking. In the late afternoons, we would turn off all the lights in the house, raise the blinds, and advance stealthily with our flyswatters at the ready. WHACK! Bzzzzzzz . . . WHACK! (expletive) Bzzzzzz . . . WHACK! (Look out, you idiot!) Bzzzzzzzzzzz . . . At night, before retiring, we would turn off all the lights but one and lie in wait. WHACK! Tinkle . . . (I liked that lamp) Bzzzzzzzz . . .

We learned as well that flies like to rest on the ceiling, and that when they’re up there, they’re apt to be sleepy and sluggish. We, alert and primed for the hunt though we were, tend towards a certain deficit in the height department, which was a problem until we hit on using the vacuum cleaner again. It’s a little hard to control the hose with the hard plastic extension at that distance — whonk! (ouch, that was my head . . . ) — but we managed to effect some population control that way, and to sleep without any winged creatures, the real hell’s angels, blowing raspberries in our ears.

Plague Links:
Home remedies for getting rid of flies
Make your own fruit fly trap
How about a Venus fly trap? I notice that people are referring to them as “pets.”
Getting rid of flies using citrus, clove, and other scents flies don’t like (but hopefully you do). I have to reiterate, though, that the flies in my house don’t seem to care much what things smell like.

And then, for the serious and the non-aromatherapeutic, there’s The Executioner, available right this very minute on eBay.

Alternatively, of course, you could just let those people go, already.

More on: Household

Articles by Sally Thomas

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