Around the Cabin
How to build a Horse Fly Trap
Horseflies: Let’s Bite Back
There are probably as many things to enjoy at Big Pine Lakes as there are cabins. But I’m willing to bet that even if I surveyed every person who ever visited our lakes, absolutely none of them would include, “Being harassed and bitten by horseflies and deerflies”, among their Top 10 (or 100 or 1,000) activities.
My wife, Margaret, and I bought our cabin on the east side of the south lake just last summer, but I’ve been around Pine Lake all my life. My father and three of his brothers owned cabins since the early 1950s, and three of those cabins are still owned by my brother and cousins.
Before our return to Pine Lake, we owned a cabin on the Kettle River. If anything, the biting flies near the river were even worse than here. Margaret says I looked like Winnie-the-Pooh being chased by honeybees when I came running in from the yard during our first year there.
I know the mosquito is more infamous, but personally, biting flies are the insect I most hate. There are ways to deter (if not completely stop) mosquitoes…but you can put on spray, fog the yard, and burn as many citronella candles as you want, and flies don’t care. The only way to control biting flies is to kill them – hopefully a lot of them early in the summer, before they can breed.
While we owned our cabin on the Kettle, I learned a lot about biting flies. They hunt by sight, looking for large, slow-moving, dark-colored objects. So wearing a light-colored shirt might help…a little. There are a lot of products sold that claim to deter or kill biting flies: I tried some of them, and most are gimmicky and don’t work (or only kill houseflies). But I found one thing that really does work.
Manitoba traps were created in northern Canada, where biting flies are a true plague. Variants of this trap are used around the world, even to control tsetse flies in Africa. Pictured is one of the most effective types, a Cape Cod trap. The trap consists of a box on legs that hold it about three feet above the ground with an open bottom. Hanging from a wire below it is a black ball, which moves slightly with wind, and is the “target” that attracts flies. When flies land on this target, they usually fly upwards, into the box, especially if screen on the top of the box lets light in. Flies usually choose to fly upwards, and towards light. At the top of the box is a screen funnel that lets flies crawl up, into the light – and into a clear plastic gallon bottle with no exit. Then, as Carl the Greesnkeeper (Caddyshack) might say, “That’s all she wrote.”
These traps require no electricity or propane, and maintenance consists of emptying the bottle every week or so. No pesticides are used, so they are environmentally friendly.
I have a trap near the road at my cabin on 116th Lane, and most days it has hundreds of dead or dying flies in the bottle trap. Anyone who is interested can stop by to look at it. It is a commercially-made trap called a HorsePal that is sold to ranches and golf courses. It is not cheap ($295 with shipping), but very well-constructed. Mine looks worn, but bear in mind that it has weathered for 8 years. There is another version available called a Greenhead Fly trap that is only $72.95 with shipping.
Better yet, it is not difficult to build a Manitoba trap for a lot less. I am a terrible carpenter, but I managed to build one of these from wood a few years ago. It killed many flies before it collapsed under snow one winter, but I will be building another for the lakeshore. I built mine from copying the trap I purchased, but there are plans on the Internet (such as http://www.woodlandbeach.net/GreenHeadFlyTrap.html).
It’s very satisfying to dump out hundreds of desiccated biting flies from the bottle every week or so, but does it really cut down on their irritating population? At our Kettle River cabin, we set up the Horsepal trap I purchased two years after we moved in, and I built a second trap the following year. Once these traps were operating from early spring onwards, there was a noticeable drop in horseflies and deerflies. They were not absent, but reduced to the point where we could go outside in July and August – which was not the case the first few years we were there.
One trap won’t greatly reduce the biting fly population around Pine Lakes beyond my own yard, if that. These would be most effective if a number of them were in place around the lakes…so let’s get all you handymen started in your workshops! Building and placing some of these traps could even be a great activity for the BPLA Projects group.
Horsepal trap: http://www.bitingflies.com/
Greenhead trap: http://www.greenheadflytraps.com/
Fly trap plans: http://www.woodlandbeach.net/GreenHeadFlyTrap.html