‘Flies are of course always irksome, but the Australian variety distinguishes itself with its very particular persistence. If an Australian fly wants to be up your nose or in your ear, there is no discouraging him. Flick at him as you will and each time he will jump out of range and come straight back. It is simply not possible to deter him. ‘ ~ Bill Bryson
There have been many glorious and joyful moments about returning home to South Australia. The proximity of family, the fabulous food and wine, the delightful climate, the ease of life. Then there is the blow fly, that insect so annoying, so ubiquitous to the Australian landscape. So perfectly designed to drive you crazy.
After all these years away, I had forgotten – almost – about flies. And while this past summer has done immense damage to wild animal populations across the country, I am betting my bottom dollar that the common Ozzie house fly has not suffered one jot from smoke inhalation or destruction of habitat.
If it has, then the only remaining colony has taken up residence at my place, anticipating my lack of preparation and my rusty skills of elimination.
Six years living above the clouds in Manila and we had the occasional infestation of weevils, which, small though their little legs may be, seem perfectly willing to climb thirty-five flights of stairs to feed on the contents of my pantry. Oddly, though, we were too high for flies. In Luxembourg, it was apparently too cold for flies. The only intrusion from the insect world came in the form of tiny spiders who liked to snuggle into the corners and wrap themselves up warmly in their webs, but generally stayed out of the way. On the Isle of Wight, when the seaweed would occasionally sweep in over the reef and descended thickly on the beach at Bembridge, we’d be mobbed by sand flies on our evening walk. But on the whole, the cross-channel winds swept most small invaders up and away across the Channel, and I suspect they have since taken up residence in Brittany and speak fluent French.
I now – unwillingly – recall long dusty walks in the bush, when we would turn around to discover a vast swarm of flies piggybacking on our shoulders. White t-shirts would turn black, as we carried them from one camp to the next, free of charge, while a small posse of scouts would be sent forward to swoop and swarm into the corner of our eyes. Recently, I saw a very wise and well-prepared walker attach a net to her broad-brimmed hat, like a beekeeper, and will definitely be investing in that piece of genius. Corks look cute but never seemed to have much effect, and without some sort of protection, my swearing becomes prodigious.
In Adelaide – at our place at least, and with apologies to the neighbours – the house fly is alive and well, and twice as irritating as ever my younger brother could claim to have been. Unfortunately, too, no fly spray has any effect whatsoever on the tough strain of Musca domestica that has evolved since I last encountered it. And it has become a Jedi master at dodging tea towels, rolled up newspaper or even the swiftest slap.
My Number Two Son, lacking anything as practical as a fly swat, has got very handy with the egg slice.
Yes, I know we should love and forgive all God’s creatures, but I do find flies are beyond redemption – and definitely beyond my patience. They have a habit of waiting till I come down to make a cup of tea in the morning to start scooting round my face in that ‘look at me! look at me!’ manner of small children. Then they lie low, where I can’t find them with the egg slice, until I bring out something edible, and off they go again, swooping and careering over my breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I can assure you that this is not random, unconditional fly behaviour, but a concentrated effort to drive me completely nutty. It took me only three days to recognize that my resident flies simply love fly spray, and are happy to bathe in it like Chanel, despite the vast quantities that I aim furiously at their chirpy heads.
The egg slice is more effective, but where one dies, another simply rises in its wake… or maybe it’s just the same one with a Lazarus complex.
I have scoured the internet for clues, and finally found a possible solution. Apparently, flies hate the smell of basil, cinnamon, lavender and lemongrass – so ‘not only will spraying these essential oils around the house create a beautiful aroma, but they will also deter those pesky flies too.’ Well, here’s hoping. If this advice proves to be effective, I will be planting a Trump-style wall of lavender and lemongrass around our new house to keep the little buggers at bay.
In the meantime, I am sitting down at McLaren Vale, overlooking vines and hills, and enjoying a fly-free zone. Maybe it’s the crisp autumnal morning that’s keeping them tucked up in bed and out of my face. Or perhaps the howling wind that is deterring us from lounging out on the deck, has blown them all the way to Antarctica. One can only hope…
*With thanks to Google Images for the introductory image!