Maynard van der Galien
Back in September I asked an acquaintance, who lives in the country but doesn’t farm, if they had the usual number of house flies, or more or fewer than other summers?
“Terrible,” was the reply. They couldn’t understand how all those flies got into their house with the new windows.
I had read that in 2022, cities could see an uptick in fly activity. The cause: trash, warmer winters, and more rainfall.
When I was invited to their home for a barbecue a few weeks later, I saw why they had a fly problem. The barbecue was on a small deck beside the entrance door. The deck had a garbage can, some garbage bags and a recycling box filled with cans and empty beer cans. The dog had a food dish on the deck. There was sticky stuff on the floor. All things flies love. They were breeding flies on the deck.
The female housefly lays batches of about 100 eggs on decaying organic matter such as food waste, carrion, or feces. She can lay up to 1,000 eggs in her short life of about 28 days. They can carry pathogens on their bodies and in their feces, contaminate food, and contribute to the transfer of food-borne illnesses.
All my life I despised house flies. I hated them. When you live on a farm, flies are a pest you have to put up with. I can remember how I loathed flies back in the late 1950s when we separated our milk and separating was done at the back of the house in an overhang. Mother would take the separator apparatus apart and wash it and flies would be everywhere.
We shipped cream for a few years and my father realized it was a lot less work and a bit more money shipping whole milk. That eliminated cleaning the separator and it reduced the fly population by the house. But we always had a few sticky fly catchers hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen.
I recall going with my father to a farm in the 1960s to look at something the farmer had for sale. It was evening and the man was in a little building with a wooden floor separating milk. The place was black with buzzing flies and I thought of the Biblical story of the plagues God sent Pharaoh to release the Israelites from Egypt. I wondered how anybody could work in such a fly-infested environment.
Another reason I hated flies so much was during the summer months dairy cows would bring flies in from outside and before milking them we would close the barn doors and fog the barn with an insecticide using an electric hand-held fogging apparatus. I wore a full face respirator contraption and walked up and down the aisle behind the cows fogging the cows and the air. The doors would stay shut for 10 minutes and the flies would be dead. We’d open the doors to let fresh air in and milking would begin. I was very concerned about the poisonous insecticide on humans as we prepared the barn for milking. If flies weren’t as bad I would just spray the cow’s back and legs with a hand-pump sprayer and there was no need to close the doors.
Flies were never much of a problem in the house during my adult life and we never used those hanging sticky fly catchers. I kept flies under control as much as possible. This past year we had no houseflies in the house. It was wonderful not having to swat at flies.
How did I manage that? I might sound like an eccentric old chap who doesn’t like anything invading his space. That’s true. I also don’t keep pets in the house.
It’s been five years since I’ve had cattle on the farm and the barns, the yard, the manure storage area, the bunk silo were all cleaned meticulously. There is only clean concrete and no decaying stuff anywhere. No place for flies to breed.
You don’t have to settle for living in a home with flies. There are things you can do to deter those flying pests from buzzing around your home. Don’t welcome them! Feed your pets away from the house. Not on the porch or on the deck.
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer and a long-time columnist with Farmers Forum.