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How to repel flies from picnics. July 3, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Silence Dogood here. With the Fourth of July weekend upon us, I thought that the folks who came on to our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, seeking an answer to this question were very timely. I’m surprised people haven’t come on asking how to repel ants! (That one’s actually easy: Set your picnic table out where ants can’t drop down from an umbrella or park-shelter ceiling. Then set the legs of the picnic table in wide, shatter-proof bowls or buckets of water until the picnic’s over. No trouble, and no ants on the table!)

Because flies, well, fly, they’re a little more problematic. Ditto for those horrid yellowjackets. To keep yellowjackets away, keep trash cans far, far away from your picnic and don’t serve sweetened drinks. Diet drinks are fine; unlike us, they don’t recognize those no-cal sweeteners as sugary. Keep any fruit salads, melons, and the like covered until you’re actually eating them, and re-cover them the second everyone’s helped themselves. The same holds true for pies, cakes, and sweets in general. And as soon as you’ve finished eating, take those ooey, gooey plates to the distant trash can and toss them! But I digress.

Flies are more problematic, because they’re attracted to all kinds of food, not just sweets, and, as noted, they can fly wherever the food is. But there are a few things you can do to fly-proof your picnic. Here are four:

1. Hold your picnic away from public parks and other places where food is typically served. Flies build up where food is abundant. If you have your picnic in a backyard or other area that doesn’t usually attract flies, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding them.

2. Hold your picnic in a screened pavilion. This could actually be very romantic. You can rent large tents and pavilions for parties, outdoor weddings, and the like. No need to tack actual metal screening on the sides—instead, use sheer curtains, mosquito netting, or other lightweight, see-through fabric panels that are woven densely enough to keep the flies out but loosely enough to let in the breeze. If your picnic is likely to extend into the night or resume after dark, hang strings of tiny white lights and/or paper lanterns from the ceiling, set potted shrubs in the corners with white-light netting, run lights up the corner poles, and you’ll stage a picnic no one will ever forget. Welcome to Shangri-La! This is a great option if mosquitos are a nemesis, too. For extra protection, burn citronella candles on the table(s) or citronella-oil tiki torches outside the pavilion.

3. Hold your picnic in a breezy spot. And no, I don’t mean someplace with a strong enough breeze to blow the plates and napkins off the table. Our friend Ben and I often eat out on the deck at our home, Hawk’s Haven, which is characterized by gentle but nonstop breezes year-round. It’s not a fly-free area by any means, but we’ve never been bothered by a single fly while enjoying a leisurely repast on our breezy deck.

4. Eat indoors. As a last resort, reconsider your idea of what a “picnic” is. Set out a buffet of picnic foods and drinks, cover your dining-room table with a cheerful red-checked tablecloth, paper plates, and colorful paper napkins, and dash back inside with those grilled burgers, dogs and so on as soon as they’re done. Make sure there are plenty of fun outdoor activities to engage in as soon as the “picnic” is over, and everybody will enjoy fly-free food and an outdoor gathering. If you finish up with sparklers or a trip to your local ice-cream stand followed by a visit to the local park to watch the fireworks, I promise everybody will think it was the greatest “picnic” ever!

There are other effective but less appealing options, like tossing a fresh roadkill or piece of raw meat a good way from your picnic area. Nothing like carrion to get a fly’s undivided attention. (Thanks, but no thanks.) No fly strip on earth is going to draw every single fly away from your picnic spread, and anyway, who wants to look at dead (or dying, struggling) flies while they’re trying to eat? Eeeewwww. So I’m sticking with my four suggestions. Anybody have others?

Happy Fourth, everyone!

          ‘Til next time,




1. elephant's eye - July 3, 2009

Silence Dogood uses paper plates and paper serviettes? I thought this was all about Pilgrim Fathers?

Ha!!! I knew I’d get this from someone, Diana! And no, of course I use neither. But nor do I entertain picnic-size gatherings! Since poor Ben is the resident dishwasher, if we did have huge gatherings, he might rebel and insist on paper plates. But since our tiny table holds four at most, and even outdoor gatherings are limited to six, it’s not really an issue!

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