Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Fie On Thee, Horseflies!

If you’re new around here, I live in a swamp. I know I’m supposed to call it a “pristine wetland,” but if you don’t mind, I’ll call it the bog-to-hell-and-gone instead. Everything comes out of that swamp all the time, sometimes to delight us, sometimes to bite me and give me a fever of 105. The swamp will kill you if you let it. It would pull my house apart in a decade if I ever stopped mowing the lawn.

The worst thing the swamp produces is the horsefly. It’s not actually only one kind of a beast; there’s a handful of types. They appear after the midges and mosquitoes, but before the poison ivy, generally. They’re the most vicious thing I can imagine. They attack like kamikazes, and get a blood meal from you with scissor mandibles. They make the end of my yard miserable for five weeks or so in the summer. Let’s kill them.

Go down the basement and bring your heir and your spare.

You need a plan. It should contain all the information you need to build the thing, plus a list of all the items you need to purchase to make it. It should be a loopy looking long-haired- equation looking thing like that.

1/2″ plumbing pipe, a clear plastic one-gallon jug with a screw lid, a funnel, a roll of 4 mil plastic, some punky wood strapping I dumped behind the shed 5 years ago.

The kids like the tinkertoy vibe of the plumbing pipe. I like the kids.

An 8″ square of MDO left over from windowboxes.

If you can’t use things for what they’re not intended for, you have no business on the Internet.

You buy a 20″ beachball at Wal-Mart, put a blessed halo around it with duct tape, leave a tab flap to pierce and hang the ball in the center with kite string. Spray paint the thing black while it’s hanging.

Horseflies are dumb. They see the ball swaying in the breeze and think it’s a spherical cow or something. When disabused of this notion, they always fly straight up. They eventually make their way through the funnel and die in the heat of the clear jug. No bait or poison is necessary. The trap is a little more than a week old and the jug has thousands of the nasty bugs in there. For Amityville spectacle, some of the beasts lay their eggs in the corpses of their brethren before perishing, and the little sluglike larvae hatch and crawl around in there too. For a while. Hence the breeding cycle is interrupted, and next summer is made better now.

What do you know. It works. The kids can play in the yard again. If I’d have known it would work, I would have made a better looking one.

“If I’d have known it would work, I would have made a better looking one” would make an excellent epitaph for my grave, now that I think about it.

[Update: Many people read this essay every day, seven years or so after I wrote it, and wonder if the trap works. Here’s a picture I took a day or two after I set it up. Not long after that, I had to empty it because the horseflies piled up to the top of the funnel]

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38 Responses

  1. As a regular home-owner guy, why should I use to cut that perfect circle in the MDF? (I’m actually building a guitar amp, and need to cut very very nice holes).

  2. Perhaps you could paint some Holstein markings on your dark orb?

    On the plans photo: is that directions for my tea table underneath?

    Amityville: Oh, the horror!

  3. By Gorlick!

    I have stumbled into “The Way New Yankee Workshop.”

    These plans and this gizmo are a great gift to suffering humanity!

  4. Hi Misterarthur- How are you? The circle is cut with a forstner bit chucked in a drill press. I’ve made guitar amps, and a forstner bit big enough for the holes you require would be terrifying in size and weight. Put a router on a trammel instead. (a plywood scrap with the router on the outboard side and a pin on the other end for your center) Then swing the trammel around the circumference. Perfect circle. You can accomplish this with a string and a nail if you’re really brave.

    Ruth Anne- I want pictures of your little darlings sitting at your tea table! Must have! Eleventy one !!1!11!1!11

    Hi Gerard- Thanks for the Digg! Hope you’re having a pleasant summer.

  5. Sippican: I’m waiting for you to put the table/chairs on the furniture website first!

    Whacha doin’ with the dead ones?

  6. After all the idyllic sea front photos, thanks for this glimpse of the seamy underbelly of New England.

    In Old England it is easy to forget that anyplace with a warmer climate than here always has mosquitos (leave aside these horrific horse flies).

    It isn’t so often warm here, but when it is you can sit out with no repellant, and we don’t need screens on the porches, doors and windows.

    Somethings to be thankful for.

  7. Got anything similar that will exterminate mosquitos? I’m looking to unleash a genocide of Biblical proportions that would allow me to dance on their tiny little blood-sucking carcases.

    Or at least drink my sweet tea on the back porch without doing the slap dance all afternoon long.

    BTW, “Heir and the spare” is funny!

  8. BGC, warm climates are not required to produce mosquitoes. They can handily survive winter temperatures of -40. Ask anyone who lives in northern Canada.

    For that matter, New England has much more rigorous winters than the Old one.

    But now you’ve got me curious. Why aren’t there mosquitoes in England?

  9. I had a farm once just over Hadrians wall from Scotland…summer was made miserable by billions of scottish(I’m prejudiced) midges…never again.

  10. janet..plenty of mosquitos where I live in England (wirral peninsula) but they just don’t seem to bite.

  11. This is the best project, ever. Also, it’s good to know that Mosquito Magnets don’t work on anything but mosquitoes. (I was kind of hoping one could take care of the rest of the nasties, but I guess not.)

    Any advice for treating a horsefly bite? I’ve got a nasty welt on my shin from the meal one made of my leg last Monday. Cortisone and Benadryl creams haven’t really done much of anything.

  12. Sipp:
    Start making a portable version folks can take to the beach in the evening.

    BTW- where did you get the idea to make this thing? You should get a Nobel Prize for sharing it.

  13. Hi AJ- How are ye?

    The horsefly trap is like a folk remedy or something. I’ve seen various versions of it here and there. There’s one that looks like a sort of pup tent but with just one pole in the center called a “Manitoba” fly trap that’s the most common. I think the idea was originated in Canada, hence the Manitoba, but I really don’t know. I just made a version of it that suited the little amount of time I had and the things I had handy.

    The trap only weighs a few pounds as it is. I move it around the yard by myself.

  14. We're in the process of making one of these traps to protect our llamas–the horseflies are after them as we speak! Can you offer any help as to how to wrap and attach the plastic?

  15. Hi Tim- We did it quick and dirty. We rolled up the overlapping plastic at the corners and stapled it top and bottom to the strapping and the small square of plywood with a staple gun.

  16. Got the trap up today and immediately horse flies and deer flies started going in. Yea! But although there's at least half a dozen of each within the body of the trap, only one has managed to find its way into the funnel and killing jar. The rest are milling around inside the plastic sheet, trying to get out. Boo! Would it be better to use a more opaque plastic sheeting, or maybe paint it, so the only transparent part is the jar?

  17. Came across your blog while trying to find a way to destroy horse flies, and while reading your blog I had to wipe the tears of laughter off my face. What a great way to start my day, with a big smile.
    We too live in an area surrounded by peat moss and swamp. We have a short summer season and have had to battle many types of insects, but mosquitos and horse flies are by far the worst.
    Thanks for the humor and thanks for the trap plans.
    Candle Lake, Saskatchewan

  18. Thanks, Anon at Candle Lake.

    After about a week or so, I had to empty the jug because the horseflies were inches deep in there. Good luck!

  19. Thanks for this, from a fellow sufferer in Eastern Canada. We're slow talkin', and I guess I'm slow thinkin', and I sure would appreciate a bit more detail about what this means….

    "put a blessed halo around it with duct tape, leave a tab flap to pierce"

    The tab flap is to hang the ball, but my goodness, what's a blessed halo?

    By the by, rumor has it that dark blue is as good as black for the colour.


  20. Hello Bill- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    The halo is just my way of saying a circle. Wrap duct tape around the meridian of the globe, and leave some extra at the top for a flap.

    I don't know about blue, but I think it just has to be dark.

  21. Thank you much.

    Almost bought the ball today at W-mart, but they didn't have the full selection of summer toys out. When I've built ours, and see how it works out, I will advise, if that's OK.

    Incredible weather here on March 20/12 in Eastern Ontario. 70+ degrees today, snow all but gone, ponds unfroze, frogs chirping and geese a wailing.

    Won't be long be long before those winged creatures are upon us.

    Best to get buildin', then.



  22. Thanks for this great idea. Me and my wife laughed so hard reading the comments!! BTW please Patent this idea. I would hate it if someone made millions on your generousity!!

  23. Black works best because the critters attack anything that radiates heat and moves.

    They even attack my tractor !

    I believe a free-swinging black ball smeared full of fly glue would work just as well. As long as the sun warms it and the wind moves it around.

  24. Hi, Do you just wrap the plastic around the top and sides or do you also wrap it around the bottom?

  25. Hi All,

    We're going to make a version of this — similar to the Epps Fly Trap (no patenting on the design). If this doesn't work, I'll try the NZI design, but several horse friends speak of success with this design. Thank you for the nice photos and write-up. Regarding the color, several researchers report the biting flies are attracted to a deep shade of blue, similar to that seen on some "disposal" cups and plates. You can google to get exact shade of blue. Enjoy a fly-free summer.

  26. Thank you for this! I have the Horse Pal version, which has gotten old and I need to redo the covering on. I can attest how well this design works – have used mine for over 10 years and it greatly reduces the number of horseflies. Never had good luck with Deer Flies. Have wanted to add a few more to my collection but have refused to pay the price of another one – Thank You!!!

    As for the discussion on the color of the ball. Black would work best for horse flies. Deer Flies are attracted to the bright blue color (when we had a blue Ford tractor they would bounce off of it as we drove around the fields). I use blue solo cups perched on a stick with Tangle Foot smeared on them, carry them like a umbrella going back and forth to the barn to catch them and prevent vicious attacks. I might try making one of these to catch Deer Flies, but never had any luck with the Horse Pal trap.

    One tip – it really matters where you place this trap. A matter of moving it a few feet can be the difference to catching a few flies and catching a lot of flies. Don't know what that magic spot is but trial and error helps to find it.

  27. Hi Tricia- I'm glad you enjoyed reading about our fly trap. Thanks for sharing your experience with yours. You're right about placement, too. We moved ours around the yard, and we'd happen upon spots that really attracted the bugs.

  28. What are the measurements of the pvc sections? I made the trap 3×3 and I'm having trouble figuring out how long to make the diagonals to properly intersect with the wood square at the top. I'm sure there's a simple equation, but… English major.

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