August 15, 2011

Not in my House, Flies! Seven Ways to Deal with the Summer Pests. ~ Emily Alex

Photo: Derek Thomas

I decided it’d gone too far when I realized that the sound waking me up at the crack of dawn was no longer the sound of chirping birds, nor the seashore-sound of city buses and eighteen-wheelers on Broadway.

No, my dreams were being interrupted by the loathsome BZZZT of houseflies, presumably impatient for me to slice open a grapefruit, so they could dive-bomb it.

Even as I sat down at my laptop to google, “Getting rid of houseflies,” a pair dropped into the 1-2-W-Q-Tab region of my keyboard and commenced screwing. Good effing morning.

Fly City, Population 191 Quintillion, 10 Quadrillion

The housefly oozes sticky goo out of its toe pads, defecates every four to five minutes and drools acidic vomitus onto every surface it touches. Its micro-haired, ten-millimeter-long body is, on average, home to two million bacteria.

The noisy nuisances can carry typhoid, cholera, diarrhea, amoebic dysentery, anthrax, gangrene, bubonic plague, leprosy, scarlet fever and yellow fever.

The fly has an average lifespan of thirty days and, in the heat of the summer, can go through its lifecycle in as little as ten days. Eggs can hatch into maggots in less than 24 hours.

Assuming optimal conditions and a lack of predators, a duo of flies in April will proliferate into 191,010,000,000,000,000,000 (191 quintillion, ten quadrillion) flies by August.

So how do we nix ’em?

Hai, Sensai

“Man who catches fly with chopsticks can accomplish anything.”

Flies jump up and backwards when taking off, so if you swipe at them from behind they will generally jump straight into your palm.

My roommate Joel has demonstrated, with a 95% success rate, that if you clap your hands two inches over a landed fly, you’ll end up with a handful of insect mash.

The Hunt

Photo: Melissa Eder

The variety of available weaponry is pretty extensive.

First, there’s the traditional fly swatter, or its on-hand proxies: a dishtowel whip, a newspaper, a wiffle ball bat.

There are also the fly swatter’s modern versions, including The Amazing Fly Gun and the electric fly swatter. The electric fly swatter, according to a customer testimonial, is:

“…easy to use. When you actually hit a bug, it explodes. You actually hear a ‘pop’ and see a little smoke some times.”

And, in the off-season, it makes for an amusing Jackass-type diversion, bro!

My roommate Brian recommends a redneck blowtorch: WD-40 and a lighter. Any aerosol will work — OFF!, hairspray, PAM, water-proofing spray. Risk of harm to self: medium. Likelihood of harm to property: pretty much guaranteed. But you’ll have those flies dropping like… you know.

Fellow elephant intern Dylan shared his secret weapon in the war against houseflies: The Yellow Pages. Flip to the “E” section, find “Exterminators” … Just kidding! Apparently a phone book dropped from standing height onto a fly is a sure smoosh. And here you thought it was just a waste of paper.


Don’t have the time to chase the flies around yourself? Why not introduce some natural fly predators into your home? Like frogs, bats, spiders. One can also buy parasitoid wasps that kill the flies in their pupa stage. Usually sold to farmers, you can buy a 10,000-insect bag via mail for just under thirty bucks.

Or, get yourself one of these:

“Feed Me, Seymour!”

Photo: Jeff Begley

No assembly required: The Venus flytrap, native of the Carolinas, is available at most supermarkets, hardware stores and florists, in varieties that are relatively easy to sustain. The downside is that the plants go for approximately $10 a pop, and each mature plant will grow no more that seven traps. Once the trap has shut its jaws on a fly (or a bee or a spider — or your finger), it will remain shut for anywhere from one day to two weeks during digestion.

The Nzi trap is a Canadian variation on the simple, cloth traps traditionally used by African farmers to deal with the tsetse fly. The tsetse fly, a carrier of “sleeping sickness,” is the second deadliest insect in the world (behind the mosquito). D.I.Y. instructions here.

If you don’t want to invest $200 in Venus flytraps, why not craft a small-scale fly trap that is essentially free to make. It involves filling a plastic container (ours is an empty hummus container) with apple cider vinegar or fruit juice and punching small holes in the lid, and it’s especially effective for fruit flies. The following video demonstrates another variation.

The Middle School Gym Locker

In my opinion the two are equally noxious, but flies love the smell of rotting detritus and hate the smell of Axe spray deodorant. Oddly, Avon’s Skin So Soft will do the trick, too. So, you can either go around smelling like a pre-pubescent male or a granny — your call.

The Hippy Home

Photo: Just Karen

Some other smells flies can’t stand are cinnamon, cayenne pepper, curry powder, oregano, lavender, thyme and spearmint.

Oh, and dude, beaded curtains at the doors are a neat alternative to screens and nets, and like, really keep the flies out!

Also, like, they don’t like smoke, if you can figure out any way of filling your apartment with smoke…

Bladder Control

Lastly, here’s a mysterious trick out of Mexico. Fill a simple Ziploc bag halfway with water and hang it above your door. Some sources suggest tossing a penny in there as well. No one is sure why, but it freak flies out.

What’s your method?

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