Photo by Audrey Pavia
Urban farmers in Southern California don’t normally have to deal with rain. Doing chores in wet weather just isn’t on our regular agenda.
But this past weekend, one of the first storms of the season blew into town and I had no choice but to do my outside work in the intermittent rain. This gave me an opportunity to do something I have always loved to do: kill flies.
When I was a kid hanging out at riding stables, I’d bring my fly swatter with me and go around smacking flies for what seemed like hours at a time. It wasn’t sadism that motivated me. It was my love for horses. I saw how the flies tormented the horses, crawling inside their eyes and biting viciously at their legs. In my mind, for every fly I killed, there was a happier horse.
I didn’t realize it at first, but rainy days are a great time to kill flies. I found this out when I happened to look up at the ceiling of the stall roof over my three pipe corrals. I’ve often wondered where the flies go during cold weather and at night, the only times in this part of the world when they aren’t pestering the horses. It turns out flies like to hang out on the stall ceiling. They were lined up all over the place, probably 100 or more, from one end of the stall covering to the other.
How often do you get to see so many flies all gathered in one place, immobile and vulnerable? Usually, they are buzzing around the horses’ faces or clustered on the horses’ legs. But here they were, chilled from the cold air, just resting on the stall ceiling.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wipe out as many of them as possible. I ran to the tack shed and grabbed the most toxic fly spray I could find, but then reconsidered. If the flies died and fell to the ground, the chickens would eat them and ingest the toxic chemicals. So I instead opted for the all-natural fly spray, which, according to the label, killed flies with only natural ingredients.
Standing beneath the stall cover, I began firing away with my spray bottle, nailing one fly after another with the pleasant smelling insecticide. Most of the flies took off as soon as the stuff hit them, but others stayed where they were, staggering around in a drunken stupor. Those flies got an extra dose of spray for good measure until they dropped to the stall floor.
After 15 minutes of this anti-fly crusade, I decided I had done enough damage to the winged fiends. I’ll be interested to see if the fly population seems lesser in the next week when things warm up. If so, you can bet I’ll be outside armed with that fly spray bottle whenever it rains.