May 27, 2018
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Shooing flies seeking shelter for the winter

By Tom Gocze, BDN Staff

It is pretty safe to say that the insects will inherit the Earth someday.

Whether we destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons or an asteroid hits us or a pox lands on our heads, the bugs likely still will be here after we disappear.

So now, in the middle of September, we live through another season of bugs. Perhaps the best season of bugs yet, the cluster flies and Japanese lady beetles.

Cluster flies are those annoying flies that spend the winter with many of us and hang around windows. They get into your house and drive you crazy all winter.

Jim Dill from University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Integrated Pest Management group tells me that the cluster flies are a sign of fertile soils that have a lot of earthworms. The flies spend half of their life living in earthworms and the other half of their life with Mainers in the winter. (Insert your joke here about politi-cians.)

I have three ways to deal with cluster flies:

First, seal the cracks to keep them out of the house. This should work. Since I am Mr. Caulk-Till-You-Drop, I have been trying to seal them out of my current house for five years. They apparently have some kind of shape-shifter function that allows them to get through screens because I declare there are no holes in my highly weather-stripped windows, which also have storm windows on them.

So the second plan is to use something to kill the flies. I hate using insecticide and no one at Integrated Pest Management feels warm and fuzzy about this.

Fortunately there are some fairly benign insecticides that you can use. The pyrethrins are a derivative of chrysanthemum plants and dispatch cluster flies well.

But if you live in Maine and have sprayed, you know that our flies are stronger than the average cluster flies and those mutant insecticide-resistant ones still get through the secure sprayed perimeter.

Big plan No. 3 is the fallback position that can help you keep your sanity.

You vacuum those shape-shifting, poison-resistant mutants into oblivion once they get past all your other defensive security measures.

You can use your Oreck, Dyson, Kenmore, Eureka or even a Dustbuster. Just suck them into that dirt bag. (Insert second political joke of this column here.)

The deal with Japanese lady beetles is somewhat the same. The Japanese lady beetle is a lot like the good old American ladybug. It eats aphids and is a “good” bug. The problem is getting too much of a good thing. Bugs, even good bugs, tend to do that. Too many of them can be a real hassle.

These critters tend to act a lot like the cluster flies. They sneak in and want to spend the winter with us. The control routine is the same. Vacuum them if they get through some crack in your house.

The Japanese lady beetles seem to hit my house on Columbus Day. I am not sure why. It might be seasonal; it might be they have a calendar that tells them when to go to Gocze’s house.

Or maybe it has something to do with Election Day.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at

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