Friday, 21 October 2011

Ridding Ourselves of Flying Pests

This last summer was a particularly good one for the house fly population in our area. Other parts of the South of England have reported a similar plagues of the little pests. Occasionally I catch the early morning farming program on Radio 4, and it seems that a change in the rules for use of fertilizer may have something to do with this. Apparently, farmers are now obliged to use more animal waste on their fields. There has certainly been an increase in the frequency of the associated aromas in the last year or so.

Well, whatever the reason, we have been fighting a losing battle in the village, finding it very difficult to get rid of the blighters. Unlike North America, insect screens for doors and windows are unheard of here, and as soon as the weather wamed up, and we tried to get ventilation, in they came.

We tried all the usual methods, of course. Fly paper does work to some extent, but is awkward to use, and unsightly. Our insectivoruous plants have done really well this year, with the Venus fly trap performing impressively. But once all its traps are full, it can't take any more prey until it has digested what it has already caught. I guess it's bandwidth limited. Fly spray also works, but at the risk of poisoning the entire family. And it's not really satisfying since you have to wait for the kill. Much better to be able to wipe them out immediately. But swatting is literally a hit and miss afair, with the risk of collateral damage and the remnants of squashed flies can be hard to remove from emulsioned walls.

After several frustrating months, my wife had a brain wave, and came up with what we now call The Dispatcher! It's perfect for use in kitchens and bathrooms, and anywhere where a little moisture won't do any damage. It's simple, and cheap and it works. It's based on an empty spray bottle, the kind that you use for household cleaners. It needs to have a spray nozzle with a reasonably wide pattern. Our current one is an old Lime Lite spray. Other cleaners are available.

Fill the empty container with tap water and add a small amount of washing up liquid. A few drops is fine. This helps ensure that the water adheres to the fly, which is the key part of the process. Put the spray head back on the container and check the spray pattern. Operation is really simple.When a fly has landed on a surface that you don't mind getting wet, approach it slowly with the spray bottle. You'll find you can get to within a few centimetres if you move slowly and smoothly. Then give a quick, powerful squirt of liquid. Even a fly will seldom be able to avoid the spray. Often the water will stick them to the surface they are on. If they are on a ceiling or wall, the extra weight of the water on their bodies may make them fall to the floor. Either way they won't be able to fly, and can easily be dispatched by squashing with a piece of kitchen roll or tissue.Very satisfying. As a side benefit, you can use the liquid that remains on the surface to wipe it down, giving it a quick clean.

As you get more proficient, you'll find you can actually shoot flies out of the air, which is even more fun! It's entertaining watching them try to cope with the fundamental change in their aerodynamic properties when they get wet. They often stop flying and literaly go ballistic!

Now it goes without saying that this technique requires a bit of common sense. Keep well clear of electrical appliances that are not designed to cope with water being sprayed at them. Also, be careful around delicate furnishings, house plants, pictures etc., etc. We've found this a very successful and satisfying technique, but your experiences may vary. I make no warranty as to the results that you'll achieve, and you take full responsibility for any damage that you cause or any other consequences of choosing to try this approach.
(Sorry, had to add that in case anyone from the USA reads this...)

Having said that, if you find this useful, feel free to leave comments, or to link to this blog entry so that other folks may find it.