They’re back! Those six-legged, winged creatures commonly known as flies, signalling the return of spring weather by clinging onto windows, doors and walls of homes on warm, sunny days. Once these insects have made their way indoors, they become what some consider a nuisance. The continual buzz that comes from a fly attracted to a warm, bright light bulb after sunset, tends to be annoying. The daring fly that leaves its mark on top of a freshly made potato salad intended for a Sunday School picnic, could be described as digusting.
Not an attractive insect, the purpose of a fly is to break down and consume garbage and decaying vegetation. Some species are pollinators, others are used in the medical field.
Over the years, humans have used numerous objects in the pursuit of ridding the planet of this pest. Spatulas, dishcloths, towels, rags, newspapers, magazines, shoes, books, flip flops, human hands and the fly swatter have all played a role in this quest.
The fly swatter, an invention marketed by Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine in 1906, is the most common form of non-chemical fly control used today. As a member of the Kansas State Board of Health and a leading medical reformer, Dr. Crumbine lead a state-wide campaign against flies and the diseases they carried.
School teacher, Frank H. Rose of Weir City, Kansas and his troop of Boy Scouts were constructing window screens for residents of the town as part of Dr. Crumbine’s public health campaign to control fly-borne diseases. The group cut leftover squares from the screening, then attached individual squares to a yardstick. Rose named his invention a “fly bat”. After showing his invention to Dr. Crumbine, the object was renamed the “fly swatter”. Inspiration for naming the fly swatter came from the crowd at a Topeka softball game. After a batter hit a fly ball over the fence, the spectators chanted, “Did you see him swat that fly!” The next issue of Dr Crumbine’s Fly Bulletin contained the headline, “SWAT THE FLY”, which was eventually used in Dr. Crumbine’s anti-fly campaign. Fly swatters were then handed out at the Kansas State Fair, country fairs and at local anti-fly parades across the state.
The flyswatter is usually made of a small rectangular or round head of lightweight, flexible, vented material. The rubber or plastic head is attached to a lightweight wire or plastic handle. Venting or perforations in the head minimize the disruptions of air currents that can be detected by a fly’s sensitive, coated microscopic hairs.
Even though the fly swatter is designed to kill flies, some swats are unsuccessful. Scientists have undertaken research to explain this phenomenon. High-speed cameras used in fly research reveal that before making a leap, a fly is able to calculate the location of the threat, work out an escape plan and positions its legs for a jump in the safest direction in under one fifth of a second, or 200 milliseconds. In comparison, a human eye requires 33-400 milliseconds to blink. The insect’s compound eyes have a 360-degree field of view, giving them the ability to look in front and behind at the same time. Conclusions taken from scientific research state that the secret to successfully swatting a fly is to slowly sneak up on the fly anticipating where it may fly to, then bring the swatter down a few inches in front of the fly’s face. Daylight hours work best as flies are cold-blooded and their reactions depend on air temperatures. Early in the morning or in the evening, flies tend to be slightly dopey, but they are very active in the heat of the day.
Custom-printed promotional fly swatters containing company logos and names are popular hand-outs at trade shows. Some companies claim that customers can feel the sweet satisfaction of removing irritating flies while using their branded fly swatter.
In 1995, a battery powered electric flyswatter came on the market. The invention resembling a tennis racket contained three layers of metal mesh wire. The centrally charged inner layer covered on each side by a metal mesh wire allow the user to make an aerodynamic swing, while depressing a button to release power. These gadgets are capable of producing 1,000-2,500 volts of power. Due to consumer safety regulations, the device is unable to make a one shot kill of its target. But, the continual use of the power button can cause a fly to cook.
The most up-to-date 3-in-1 convenience pack for the fly swatting public is available on the shelves of local discount shops. For the small sum of $1.50 + HST, the package contains a fly swatter, dust pan and tweezers. After successfully swatting the fly, the fly remains are picked up with the tweezers and placed in the dust pan for disposal.
In this era of modern technology, fly swatting games are available on the internet. One particular game, Killing Flies & Killing Time allows gamers to grab a fly swatter and squash ten flies in the shortest amount of time with as few swats as possible. Hanging the swatter up after completing the task at hand ends the game. Educational games centered around flies are also available for classroom use. These games teach children to read, spell and use correct punctuation.
Keep a fly swatter handy during the warmer days of the season. Take aim and hopefully come one step closer in controlling this peculiar pest.