Blog : New England's Biggest Summertime Pest Meets Its Match

By Craig | Jun 30, 2015 | in

Rising from the backwoods and marshes, deer flies, horse flies and green-heads terrorize backyards and beach days, from the Cape up the coast of Maine, throughout the summer. But Tom Pray of Ecotech Pest Control Services in Eliot, Maine, developed a solution that could finally alleviate one of the summer's biggest backyard woes. He calls it the Fly Cage, and he is giving one away this month to the first Sustaining Member of The Green Alliance.

“With the Green Alliance community, I’m essentially preaching to the choir,” says Pray about the like-minded businesses and individuals that make up the sustainable business and consumer union. “The Green Alliance has given a lot to my business in the form of education and exposure around issues of pest management in a safe and non-toxic way, and I want to give back with a free Fly Cage.”

Pray's invention, which mimics the appearance of a four-legged animal, is completely environmentally friendly. Built with recyclable materials, the Fly Cage is meant for residential and commercial use.

"There are no chemicals or pheromones or anything," said Pray. "Its a visual trap so it will catch the biting flies known as green-heads, deer flies, horse flies; it will catch them without using anything but a visual lure to bring them in."

That visual lure is a buoy; black in color, with a shimmering exterior that attracts the seasonal flies. The flies are drawn in, acting on their natural behavior to attack the underside of large animals like deer and cattle. Once the flies realize their mistake they fly straight up, toward the light coming through the top of the trap, getting caught in its mesh netting and perish. The netting works like a lobster trap allowing the flies to enter, but not exit.

As the owner of Ecotech Pest Control Services, Pray has dealt with different types of pests; from carpenter ants, wasps and ticks. His environmentally friendly treatments for the home are made of plant-based, biodegradable compounds. Servicing a property with these eco-friendly treatments, and developing a product to trap and kill the flies without chemicals, is, according to Pray, part of his commitment to staying green.

Pray advises erecting the trap near the shaded areas of a property where a majority of the flies spend their day, and are most likely to approach it.

Completely collapsible, owners can hand-wash the canvas and mesh netting, after shaking out the dead flies, when storing it for the winter season. The Fly Cage is made of materials that are 100 percent recyclable, from the metal legs to the canvas and mesh, and retails for $150.

So why are these bugs so nasty and widespread during the summer? According to Pray it comes down to biology. Deer flies raise their larvae in mud areas and along stream banks while greenheads develop in salt marshes. Deer flies, who lay their eggs on the underside of leaves along rivers and muddy areas so the larva can fall into the mud and water to live, produce at least one or more generations of offspring each year. Pray says that by using the trap in their yard, property owners can knock down the population dramatically.

"For two summers I had loaded traps and then nothing," said Pray. "I crashed the deer fly population by taking out the breeding females before they got a blood meal and lay a second batch of eggs."

The traps won't cause long-term damage to the fly populations, according to Pray, who says it is impossible to eliminate them completely. Females don't require a blood meal - the nutritional food for the fly - for their first batch of eggs, meaning that a percentage of the young population will survive without food and grow. The flies will also seek out other locations, where their species is thriving, to live and breed.

"Let's say we put a trap in every backyard in Maine," said Pray. "Look at the huge areas in Maine where there are no houses. They're breeding there. As soon as you take the traps down, the populations will filter back in and build it back up."

With a B.S. in Entomology, Pray is more than just the typical pest control guy. He backs his work with science. Over the years he has studied the flies and developed a product that will target the weaknesses in their instincts to beat them.

The traps are more effective and environmentally friendly than chemical sprays, according to Pray. He added that these flies cannot be eliminated with the traditional chemical treatments available on the market.

Because greenhead larvae are buried in the mud of the salt marshes, sprays cannot be applied in an effective way without also risking the contamination of water sources. The constant ebb and flow of the tide washes the chemical treatments away and prevents them from reaching the fly larva. Environmentally this is hazardous as the chemicals leech into the water and are carried downstream.

Though the peak biting fly season is already underway, Pray says it is never too late to protect your backyard and properties from greenheads, horse flies and deer flies, or to start planning for the next generation of flies to be born.

"You'll know when they're here, but you won't miss them when they're gone," he said.
 

To join as a Green Alliance Sustaining Member and receive your limited free Fly Cage, click here.

Existing members receive 10% on mosquito, tick, and ant mitigation services for the first year of service with Ecotech! (Does not apply for termites nor can it be applied to any additional year of service).