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Yuck! Flies



It may come as a surprise to some but I don't like all bugs. There are many I find despicable. Mosquitoes kill more people than lions, tigers and bears combined. Fleas killed my dog. I'm extremely allergic to tick bites. I find flies — not all members of the order diptera but house flies, green bottle flies and blue bottle flies — disgusting. They live in and spread putrescence and decay. So, when I started getting a bunch of them in my house, I applied my extensive knowledge of their life histories to find a way to reduce their numbers.

It's fun to kill them. There, I've said it. One of my favorite inventions is the electric fly swatter, available when on sale at Harbor Freight for $2.99. Smack one with that contraption and you get a satisfying bug-zapper "snap!" and the smell of burning bug smoke. Another not-so-big-game-hunter favorite is the Bug-a-salt, essentially a shotgun for bugs that uses table salt as projectiles. With a range of up to about 2 feet, wing shooting them can be a challenging sport.

The problem with those is that there are way more flies out there than any human has time to kill.

Venus fly traps and pitcher plants, both of which lure flies to sticky ends with the promise of nectar before slowly digesting them, are effective if measured by how well they thrive. But their existence does not dictate eating every fly in the world — just enough for the plants to get the nutrients they need, so they, too, have a negligible effect.

When I lived outside of Reno, for two weeks in the fall every year our house was inundated by hundreds of flies every evening. I would fire up the trusty Kirby vacuum and suck them off the ceiling with the crevice tool. Each one down the tube made a satisfying thuup! sound and a slight recoil. Knowing they were being shredded by the impeller made the whole thing that much more satisfying.

From old-school fly paper traps to modern high-tech pheromone-baited traps, artificial lures and traps can be effective, capturing hundreds in a day or two. A simple and effective trap can be made from a plastic soda bottle with a few V-shaped cuts, a bit of water and some rotten meat. A bit of advice: If you have a hard time with bad smells, half a quart jar of decaying flies sitting in the sun gets pretty bad.

Killing them being pointless, I finally hit on a method that works pretty well. I make my place less attractive to them, knowing it doesn't take much to fuel a critter that weighs 12 milligrams. A greasy thumbprint could provide enough calories to be attractive. So I started to immediately put all used dishes in the dishwasher or wash them by hand, regularly wash down my countertops with Mr. Clean, dispose of kitchen waste right away and, oh yeah, ferment my sauerkraut and kimchi out in the garage.

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