Flies aloft

Cluster flies hatch September - MarchBarely awake and freezing, I had turned on the tap to run a bath in an effort to coax myself into facing the day. Horrified, I watched transfixed as dead flies poured out from both taps and started to fill the bath with a disgusting emulsion of water and insect bodies! I leapt back from the taps and let out an ethereal groan of disgust. At first I couldn’t be sure if I was fully awake or was this some sort of macabre dream?  

I recovered my senses and snapped the taps shut. I went to pull out the plug but was left cursing the lack of a chain as I grappled amongst the corpses trying to release the stubborn little rubber bung.

With the bath finally drained I checked the taps in the kitchen. The water there also had six legs, wings and eyes! I gave up on the idea of a bath and also decided against making a cup of tea. Instead I sat in front of the fire and tried to figure things out. Had I insulted a local wizard, was I now under a horrible curse and doomed to be plagued by flies for the rest of my life?

Given that I lived near Glastonbury in Somerset it was possible I’d insulted a wizard but I dismissed the new age curse nonsense and instead applied cold logic to the situation. The water came from the small loft space in the cottage roof where the header tank was. Perhaps there was a dead bird in the tank and it had attracted flies. Reluctantly, I squeezed myself into the tiny roof space to investigate.

Time for another horror moment. This time it came as I realised that the gritty stuff coating the loft floor, the dirt I was now laying on, was a carpet of dead flies. I ejected myself from the loft opening, kicking the step ladder away, and crashed down into the hallway in a fly strewn heap.

I reasoned that flies in that quantity, dead or alive, were best left in the hands of a professional fly person. Although not literally, hopefully. A few hours later a pest control expert arrived and quickly passed judgment on the nature of my plague.

Cluster flies,” he barked as he crunched around above, having somehow squeezed his considerable bulk into the roof space.

“They’ve probably over-wintered up here and became active when the weather got warmer. The lid’s off your water tank and a lot of them have decided to go swimming! You’ll have to flush this tank, it’s thick with them!”

Great. I’ve spent winter with a new baby in tiny country cottage, along with a million flies. Now my water system is infested with their bodies. Yuk! More importantly though, can this man wipe these pests from the face of my cottage and ensure they never darken my roof space again?

“I’ll have to set off some smoke generators, they’re like candles that produce clouds of smoke and kill all the flies,” replied the expert.

Yes, launch the attack! Exterminate! Exterminate! I was in no mood for mercy.

“I’m afraid you won’t be able to stay here for a couple of days, sir,” he said, as he clambered back in to the hallway and dusted a few hundred flies off onto the carpet. “Especially what with the baby, the smoke wouldn’t be good for the baby.”

What? Now I was being driven from my home by a swarm of cluster flies and a man with a broad west country accent and some weapons of mass destruction.

Cluster flies like to overwinter in a place that’s relatively warm. They will often buzz around in your conservatory, leading you to wonder what on earth these pesky flies are doing bothering you in mid-winter! They don’t need bait such as a dead pigeon to congregate, just a convenient shelter they can get access to. They don’t lay eggs in your rafters, they do that in earthworms! But if you get an infestation it’s really not pleasant and your best option to get it sorted is calling in a professional.

“Oh, and best warn the fire brigade,” said the flied-piper. “They might get some calls once people see smoke coming out of your roof, especially with this place being so high up on the hill.”

I went and spoke to the fireman on the phone, spending rather longer than I’d hoped explaining that I didn’t mean it like that when I said the smoke from the roof would be deliberate!

Two days later, after the smoke bombing run, I returned to the scene of the plague. The man had done his job, he had killed all the flies. However his brief apparently didn’t include cleaning up the corpses and that dreadful task had fallen to me.

And I’m not even going to try to describe what sound a bin-bag full of dead flies makes…

Written by Glenn Le Santo,  social media guru and  live event reporter.

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