Kya deLongchamps says summer has seen a 38% rise in the fly population — so how do you safely protect your home and rid yourself of obnoxious insects?

Even sheltered in its Latin name, musca domestica, there’s nothing I can say to defend the character and deportment of the house fly. Break-dancing over foodstuffs, eagerly exploring the crevices of the human face and playing a demented insect Icarus with the light bulbs — few care if his six feet are trembling on a fragile lever in the natural ecology.

Nibbling rubbish, carrion, faeces — they cheerfully regurgitate their meals, track germs, and glue down tiny droppings everywhere they go.

Every 30 days a darling female fly lays from 300-500 eggs. She’s has three months to propagate and is not a picky mother. They only have to mate once to nestle and hatch all their larvae in a moist hide in or near the house.

The potential illnesses that an invasion of flies could cause to a human if left unchecked include salmonella, shigella, campylobacter, escherichia, enterococcus and chlamydia. With a direct trajectory of filth to food, these hairy kneed chums and their disease-causing pathogens have to go.

DIY Management

What to do when summer swarms attack

Before calling in a pest-control specialist there are things you can do to investigate and control a moderate nuisance caused by flies and bluebottles (calliphora spp). Take an unflinching look around to see where they are getting in, feeding, and settling in the house. They are needful, fragile creatures — there has to be a reward for them to stay.

  • Flies need moisture to thrive. Contain any leaks or damp in the house that could be encouraging flies to enter and to go on to breed.
  • Clean up your act. Cover foodstuffs and empty any bin in the house or near to the backdoor regularly, keeping the lid tightly closed. If your neighbour’s rubbish is causing your fly troubles, find a diplomatic expression and address it.
  • Move the bin out of the sun which may cause it to smell highly. Reposition the outdoor bin if there’s an open door or window close by.
  • Check the kitchen drain for fragments of waste while you’re out there, giving it a good clean with a bucket of hot soapy water and stiff, long-handled brush.
  • If you have a lot of flies and more especially bluebottles that appear to be breeding, there is rotting organic matter close by. Sorry, but this may be an animal carcass under the house. Pet faeces should be bagged and removed — flies love it as a moist, nutrient-rich nursery.
  • Wipe down your counters with a spray disinfectant or a 1:10 white vinegar solution. Don’t forget the handle of the fridge, the oven, the microwave, and keep that sink clean with a soapy wash after use. Deal with dirty dishes and pans immediately.
  • Use a ‘knock-down’ biocide spray in limited amounts and with care. Do not inhale, or use near foodstuffs, animals, fish plants, or kitchen counters. Remove the dead fly with a little kitchen paper or sweep them up. Residual sprays left on surfacing can be slight toxic to animals — use with care.

The frequent invasion by winged stragglers in the summer months is inevitable, but if you have to take urgent, stressful measures daily to control flies, it’s worth going back and exploring just what is encouraging the little blighters into your home. There are some safe, stringent seasonal defences beyond a roller up newspaper.

Screens

A homemade fly net can be attached to windows to prevent flies and moths when open day ad night during hot weather.
A homemade fly net can be attached to windows to prevent flies and moths when open day ad night during hot weather.

Fly screens are not widely adopted in Ireland, but they are available as taut, temporary curtains that are easily fitted to openings and that seal with Velcro or magnets around doors and windows for the season.

Screens allow you to open your windows and leave doors ajar, but like any sheer, they can collect crumbling bodies onto the sill. Clean the area regularly.

Without the American screen door which operates independently, it’s important that you can peel up loose window screens and part-door curtains easily. Again, ensure you are not creating the fly problem you are stoically fighting before taking to intrusive measures.

Simple sticky tape, hook, and loop fastening types of 1.3mx1.5m start from under €10 per window, and will protect babies and children from wasp, moths, and other flying invasions too — ‘Buzz’ products simply trim to fit and are available from lenehans.ie and many good DIY outlets.

Smarter custom, magnet-attached screens rely on perfect measurement when ordering. Follow the maker’s instructions and round up to the nearest 100mm for both dimensions. Prices from €52-€112, gossflyscreens.ie.

Moving up to magnetically attached screens, rollers, and even full shutters — roller screens based on American mosquito screens with an aluminium housing box, start from €65 m² in a choice of frame and net colour.

More expensive, permanent fixed, hinged and sliding screens in a guiding frame can be detailed for just about any door or window configuration, with prices from €80-€200 for a moderately sized window, noflystore.ie

Zappers and tapes

Plus-zap electric fly killer — this 16w insect-o-cutor costs in the region of €165.
Plus-zap electric fly killer — this 16w insect-o-cutor costs in the region of €165.

With the exception of spare rooms, conservatories, and inaccessible high positions, tapes and glue papers encrusted with flies are a revolting, last-ditch measure, best deployed for a few weeks in the summer.

The advantage of a blue-light fly-zapping device is that it gathers and hides the bodies of the flies and other winged insects where they fall rather than staging them under your nose.

Favoured by commercial kitchens and food prep’ factories for decades, blue UV light is irresistible to most flying insects. Now, keep in mind that placed by an open window or door after dark, your light may invite in bugs — use it intelligently, and empty the tray regularly as dry insect bodies can be ignited by the lamp if left on and unattended for excessive periods.

Plastic tower units start from as little as €15, but for a more permanent solution up and out of the way on the wall, invest in a metal housing with 28 watt UV tubes (€53 at Owl Pets Control, owlpestcontrol.ie).

Rentokil has its own range of Luminos killers with attractive grills which are hard to identify as fly-control units unless glowing by night.

Call 1890 666 444 for advice and pricing. Electric domestic units are for indoor use only and will cover an area of about 33m².

Cluster Flies

 

Cluster flies (pollenia rudis) might not cause the regular nuisance of houseflies, but are horrible on discovery, appearing in huge numbers in warm attics as the summer draws to a close.

They are significantly bigger than house flies, and despite feeding on fruit, have to vomit to consume their meals, spreading pathogens and causing a signature rapid-ladder-descent with their fat, creepy, communal presence.

Cluster flies get in through the inevitable gaps around fascias and tiles, and gather together to sleep out the winter in hideous swarms.

You may not realise you have them if you don’t go into your attic space or shine a torch around when you do, but sometimes a cosy spare room or underused loft conversion can turn up these unwanted squatters, crawling up the corners of the room in iridescent seams.

Having removed the flies with a dustpan and/or vacuum (you might want to throw that bag away), a UV light zapper can keep the fly count under control in most instances.

Seal up gaps around chimney stacks, roof windows and any crevices where exterior walls meet the roof.

Smoke bombs with insecticidal chemistry start from €10. Deploy with extreme care. Suppliers include owlpestcontrol.ie.

Natural Deterrents

The Victorians placed their faith in pale blue, milk paint to deter flies in the kitchen, but we had known for centuries by this time that some herbs, dried or in concentrated solutions work to some extent in a small local area too.

Vodka, eucalyptus and lemongrass are three ingredients that flies genuinely loathe and will avoid. All three despite their overall safety are potentially allergenic. Don’t apply to skin and surfacing you might touch if you are particularly sensitive.

Solution One:

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 tsp aloe-vera juice
  • 1 tsp lemon eucalyptus oil
  • 1/2 tsp. essential oil blend

Solution Two:

  • 20-25 drops of lemon grass oil
  • A bottle of warm water to dissolve

Method:

Shake up these mixtures and spray around windows and doors (lightly) to deter flies.


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