FLY CONTROL HAS COME A LONG WAY SINCE 1917!
By Chris Williams on December 11, 2017.
Here are some pearls of wisdom from an old bulletin published by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1917. It’s titled “The House Fly” and is Farmers Bulletin #851.
First, consider the year. It’s 1917, the automobile is becoming popular and is quickly replacing horses and bicycles for transportation among the wealthy but horses are still common because you never know when you might need one for backup. Consequently, even city dwellers still face the ever-present problem of horse manure and house flies. Even today, horse manure is a favorite food of house fly maggots.
In 1917, in the District of Columbia, innovative regulations have been imposed to cut down on both manure and flies: Every person occupying a building where domestic animals are kept shall maintain in connection therewith a bin or pit for the reception of manure…Every person keeping manure in the more densely populated parts of the District shall cause all such manure to be removed from the premises at least twice every week between June 1 and October 31, and at least once every week between November 1 and May 31.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
If manure removal didn’t solve your fly problem, the Bulletin advocated the homemade production of fly poisons but since most contained arsenic it was suggested that, around children, a weak solution of formaldehyde plus water (formalin) could be used instead: A very effective fly poison is made by adding 3 teaspoonfuls of the commercial formalin to a pint of milk or water sweetened with a little brown sugar…A convenient way of exposing these poisons is by partly filling an ordinary drinking glass with the solution.
The Bulletin went on to describe how the poison-filled glass could be inverted over a blotter that would slowly soak up and distribute the toxic solution to eager flies. This was expert advice from the government back in the day. Thank goodness we do a better job today of promoting the safe handling of pesticides, especially around children.
MAYBE A FLY TRAP IS MORE YOUR CUP OF TEA
The 1917 Bulletin offers great detail on how to construct your own fly trap so that flies could be caught before they can lay their first batch of eggs: The trap consists essentially of a screen cylinder with a frame made of barrel hoops, in the bottom of which is inserted a screen cone.
The USDA experts also provide tips on baiting your fly traps: For attracting house flies beer is probably the best…it should be renewed every day or two…A mixture of equal parts brown sugar and cheese (or curd of sour milk), thoroughly moistened, gives good results after it has been allowed to stand for three or four days. For catching blowflies and other meat-infesting flies the best bait is the mucous membrane from the lining of the intestines of hogs.
Yes, indeed, life truly was simpler in those good old days even if you did have to put up with flies!