Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's A Fly Ball

We have flies. Not a ton of them, really, just your standard set, and they're almost all in the outdoor stairwell going down into the basement. It's always a bit startling to open the basement door and see all those flies out there. They're mingling and talking over each other like they're at a church social. I don't know why they've picked that spot.

Because ever since those awkward early years at this house, we've kept the piles of cow poop in the stairwell to a minimum. We're likewise short on corpses. It is a bit untidy, and that might be attractive to flies, but it's hard to understand the draw. Being flies, they're marginally annoying even though they don't bite or anything. Probably we should install a frog.

I looked up "flies in the stairwell" to see if there was some reason they hung out there. To my chagrin, Google instantly supplied a billion articles about killing the hell out of flies, which was not what I was going for. I'm cool one-on-one with a swatter, but I always assume if you start spraying small beasts with poison, you'll eventually drop a tiger. Anyway I don't need to get rid of them. I just want to know what they're talking about.

My research proved to be a dead end. However, there was a lot of interesting advice about natural fly control, including the old "put some poop somewhere else" gambit. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that flies like poop, but I already fling the neighbor's cat's poop back over the fence, and my stairwell flies are still here. One woman on a forum was eager to underscore the poop-fly connection. "I have a pet rabbit whom's poop attracts the big fat juicy ones," she contended, and I'm not surprised. I think it's in them's nature.

But check this out. Have you heard of this? You put a penny in a plastic bag half filled with water and hang it near the flies, and they'll go away. People swear by it. I can't help but wonder if a couple of nickels would work even better.

It's not foolproof. One woman complained that although she tried the water-bag trick using fifteen pennies, flies were still hanging around her dog kennels. There's just no explaining something like that, you'd think, but someone did helpfully suggest she'd used too many pennies.

Snopes.com is ambivalent about the efficacy of water bags. They wouldn't say one way or another, although they took a skeptical tone. It's relatively easy to construct an experiment with proper controls and an array of bags and pennies, and you can accurately measure fly concentration by tallying up the poop spots they leave behind, if that's the way you like to spend your time. The mechanism is thought to have something to do with the refraction of sunlight in the water bag amplified by the shininess of the pennies. The flies' compound eyes are completely taken unawares by it and they have to move away to unfrazzle themselves.

Could be so. I'm tempted to try it out, except for two things. My basement stairwell is a perfectly fine place to store flies, and I can think of worse places. Also, there is no direct sunlight in the stairwell. That's right: I am infested with flies where the sun don't shine.

29 comments:

  1. What you need are some stairwell spiders. That will take care of the flies. I would relocate any I find to the stairwell and see if the spiders react as if they just were introduced to the concept of "all you can eat" buffet.

    The only time we get a lot of flies is when I make something that smells really yummy and someone opens the outside door. Apparently, they just linger near the door, waiting for an opportunity like this, because at these times, I sometimes have to go around trying to escort as many as a dozen flies out of the house. (I try not to kill them, unless they get really recalcitrant about leaving.)

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    1. These flies? You open the basement door and they just continue to buzz around in circles. They don't come in, they don't fly away. I think they're a little dull-witted, honestly.

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  2. Maybe the FPPS (Fly Preservation and Protection Society) has notified their clientele about your stairway and listed it as a respite area.
    How is it, in your sometimes soaked climate, that the stairwell doesn't fill with rainwater?

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    1. Oh. Sorry, got excited there. There's a major roof over the stairwell and everything slopes slightly away from it, too.

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  3. Have you checked for corpses buried UNDER the stairwell? Was everyone accounted for in the family you bought the house from?

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    1. I always loved that idea. When I die, I want to be taxidermed and placed inside a partition that is sure to be torn down by the new owners.

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  4. Could it be they like the warmth? As the earth starts to cool off, cement can attract and retain heat . . . I think. Don't quote me on that, it's just from observation.

    What IS that second picture all about? Whom's critter house is that? I'd venture it's not yours, or I wouldn't ask :)

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    1. That's a dog kennel. Free from The Web. Can't imagine why there'd be flies around it.

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    2. Oh lord, I'm sorry I asked. Now, although I still don't see the flies, I see the dogs . . . and I can't unsee them. There are people I could cheerfully gut, and that's saying something, seeing as I don't like violence or blood.

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    3. If you need a corpse, may I suggest that of the puppy mill owner.

      Also, whom's is killing me.

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    4. Not me. I plan to use whom's all the time now.

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  5. Echoing jenny_o. I wouldnt gut those people though. Instead I would incarcerate them in those very same pens. With the same room service they give the dogs.

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  6. I'd suggest spiders, but clearly they are in short supply or they'd have obliged by now. Oh well, keep flies and carry on.

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    1. Any orb weaver setting up in that stairwell would be bombed out in no time.

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  7. Try getting rid of the plant or at least it's lower "dead" parts and/or maybe putting it in new fresh soil.

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  8. This is the second summer we have used the plastic bags with 5 pennies in them. I actually saw a mention of this on the Rick Steves show in Portugal. Every house along the street had a plastic bag with coins and water in it. I digress. We always end up with flies on the front porch, back deck and carport. Nothing before this has gotten rid of them. Now, we have pretty much the occasional fly. Out by the sheep shed and where we store tools, we have one of those fly catchers. It makes the shed stink but takes care of the batting the bunches away every time you get a shovel. BTW, not all of our bags are in the sun.... mostly just reflect light from wherever. I vote for pennies in plastic bags with water.

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    1. Wow! Someone I has tried this? I'm sure it's all of a piece with those plastic jugs of water on the lawn that are supposed to deter dogs.

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    2. Someone I KNOW. I hate using a phone for this.

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  9. One of our HVAC units basically dumps condensate (water) into the drain in our basement stairwell. Flies *adore* it. I have never figured out if the flies actually come from the discharged condensate, or if there is something in it that attracts them -- whatever the reason, they're just like humans basking in the sun at a fancy resort. So the hotter it gets, the more condensate dribbles out, and the thicker the fly population. Oh wait, this is not relevant, because in Oregon you don't use A/C for 6 months/year.....(never mind.....)

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    1. Maybe they're just thirsty? Nothing sadder than a dehydrated fly. Oh wait, there are actually a number of things sadder than that.

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  10. I'm very thankful that I wasn't drinking coffee when I read your last line :)
    the flies probably gather there because it's sheltered from the weather and they chat is probably all about how lucky they are to find such a place and "we must tell dear Myrtle, we simply must."

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    1. Incidentally, they're all gone now. Go figure.

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  11. Penny technique was tried in the horse stall at my in-laws and unfortunately it didn't work. Glad to hear it has worked for the shepherd around her house. Kim in PA

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