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Dealing with Flies

Flies!  WA has such amazing weather and we all enjoy getting out into it but who would have thought that these tiny creatures could almost ruin a family barbecue, upset the dog and send us all fleeing inside out of their reach.  How can we enjoy our backyards and our gardens when one hand is always waving these annoying pests away? 

The best way to deal with these pests is to break the problem into sections and consider a few questions.  What are we doing on our property that they find so attractive?  What areas do we have that they use for breeding?  How do we discourage them from even hanging around and how do we deal with those that do?

Flies remain dormant until their body temperature reaches approximately 18°C and only begin to search for food when the temperature is above 20°C which is of course is just about the time when we like to get outside also.  Different fly species are attracted to different items.  House flies like dairy, poultry and animal waste and garbage where as blow flies are attracted only to decaying meat.  Flies search low for their food and like heat, light and low levels of wind.  Their life cycle can take just 7 to 12 days to go from egg to adult.

Most gardeners agree that adding compost and animal manure to the garden is a terrific way to improve the soil’s structure, fertility and water-holding capacity.  Many garden owners keep a compost bin in their backyard to reduce their household waste or bring in trailer loads of raw manure to spread across the garden beds.  Often, in gardening, the smellier the manure, the better it is!

Of course, we all know that smelly things also bring in the flies.  To them, animal manure and compost is no difference to humans at a sausage sizzle.  Who can resist?

Uncovered compost heaps and raw manure allow flies to breed causing them to become a nuisance to the home and even to the neighbours and may even constitute an offence under the Health Act.

To reduce the opportunity for flies to breed, use enclosed compost tumblers or bins and ensure that the lid is always sealed.  Don’t assume that just because an open compost heap is at the back of the block that the breeding flies won’t cause a problem to your outdoor barbecue area or house.  Consider this pests name.  Fly!  They can travel long distances easily.

Avoid using raw manure on the garden, especially during the warmer fly breeding seasons.  Compost the manure or purchase commercially composted manure, dig it through the soil and cover with a good layer of mulch to reduce access by the flies.  Household scraps can be composted by burying it directly into the garden, ensuring that it is covered by at least 10cm of soil to prevent fly breeding.

Many backyards have bird aviaries or chicken pens.  Most local councils allow home owners to keep poultry but with very strict environmental health conditions.  One of which is that they should be regularly cleaned to avoid smell, rats, mice and flies.

Reducing the problem of flies in poultry pens and bird aviaries is very much down to the design of the enclosure itself as well as good hygiene practices.  If the floor is constructed of a smooth, impervious material with a gradient of at least 1 in 50 it will be much easier to clean and will drain well, reducing smelly puddles of water and keeping the area dry.  Ensure that the floor under perches and roost is covered with a good layer of sawdust to help the manure dry out and replace this regularly to prevent flies from breeding.  Refresh the water daily.

Hang several fly catching traps outside of the chicken pens and replace the baits fortnightly.  Spray the outside of sheds, perches and inner walls with an appropriate non-toxic surface spray and consider planting several wormwood, tansy or Lad’s Love around the pens as these attractive but tough plants are reputed to repel flies.  Maintain these by simply cutting them down hard twice a year and watering them every now and then.

Better Pets and Gardens stock a variety of products that will help repel all pests, including flies, from the outdoor entertaining area.

One option is Coopex which is a water dispersible powder mixed with water and sprayed onto kennels, rubbish bins, walls, furniture, door and window frames and provides up to six weeks of control.  It is very economical and safe and will control spiders, mosquitoes, flies and midges.

Outdoor foggers are an effective way of keeping flies and other pests away from outdoor entertaining and picnic sites.  They are citronella based and are sprayed prior to entertaining to form a barrier to repel these annoying insects.

Natural insect deterrents such as sandalwood, eucalyptus and citronella are well suited to using around the outdoor entertaining area to repel flying insects.  These are most effective when several are used to surround the area instead of using just placing one in the middle of the table.

Fly traps are a proven method of controlling flies.  These are reusable plastic containers that contain a safe food based attractant which are harmless to animals and pesticide free.  The bait attracts both house flies, blow flies and other species which all have different food sources.  The bait is then placed about 40cm from ground level where flies tend to search for food and will attract them from approximately 20 metres.  Once in, the flies are trapped and although they may still lay eggs, their larvae will not survive in the water.

Baited fly traps are best placed away from entertaining areas and entrances to the home to attract flies elsewhere and so that their smell doesn’t waft throughout eating areas.

Dogs can be terribly affected by flies.  Preventing the flies from hanging around is just as important as protecting the dogs themselves.  Dogs love to chew and doing this helps relieve their boredom and helps clean their teeth.  During the warmer months, it may be a good idea to switch from giving fresh bones that attract flies to smoked clod bones or rawhide chews.  They will enjoy these without the irritation of flies hanging around.

Wash the dog’s bedding as often as possible, especially if it gets soiled from the grease from bones or other food.  Where possible, open the kennel lid weekly to allow it to dry out and clean out any food debris.  Food bowls should be washed as soon as the dog has finished eating; avoid leaving it there to attract flies as well as ants.

Spray around the kennel, its roof and under beds with Coopex or other long acting surface spray.  These last for several months and are effective at killing any flies that land on the surface.  Spraying overhead beams or nearby walls will also help.  Hang a fly trap above any areas that the dog spends time in though not near the back door – they can be quite smelly.

Animal manure attracts flies instantly.  Collect all manure on a daily basis, especially during the warmer months when flies are breeding.  The fly life cycle from egg to adult may be from 7 to 12 days so even a weekly pick up may not be sufficient to stop breeding.

Seal all manure into a plastic bag before disposing of it as the eggs may still hatch in the rubbish bin before it is collected.

Stable flies are common in most areas.  They are biting flies that attack the most exposed area of a dog’s ear, generally the tip or the fold.  They will seek out blood meals twice a day and can take up to three times their own weight in blood.  Their bites are quite painful and continual exposure to them can cause redness and then lesions which the dog will make worse through scratching and rubbing, thereby attracting even more flies.

It is important to repel the flies as soon as they are evident and not to wait until the redness begins as then the problem becomes far more difficult to control.  Non-aerosol insecticidal and repellent sprays are available at Better Pets and Gardens that are effective against flies and biting insects on dogs as well as other animals.  These are lightly sprayed over the animal, avoiding the eyes, and can also be sprayed on the inner walls of kennels and animal sheds.  In times of severe infestations, twice daily may be necessary.

Better Pets and Gardens now stocks a new product which attaches to the dog’s collar and emits an electromagnetic frequency to keep pets away.  It is non-toxic, waterproof and lasts for up to four months.   These are also effective against fleas and mosquitoes.

If lesions have already been caused from the biting stable flies, antiseptic creams that will also repel the flies are available and should be applied to the top to the ears, around the eyes and the base of the tail.  If the wounds do not clear up and begin to improve quickly, a visit to the vet will be necessary.

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