Blowflies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Not wanting to gross anyone out, but blowflies are gross!

Submitted: November 30, 2016

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Submitted: November 30, 2016

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There are a few things in nature that can turn your stomach, the blowfly is one of them! Perhaps even worse are their larvae, those stinking, crawling, wiggling maggots! They are associated with disease and nobody likes to see fly eggs, blows, on their food!

Christmas 1955 was the year that Henry was gifted his microscope and the first thing he peered at was the leg of a blowfly, which he unceremoniously ripped off a captured blowfly. His mother had told him that blowflies carry germs and she was right, there they were plain to see! Henry’s Mum had a standard treatment for maggots and flyblows! Pouring boiling water over them! She called the flies ‘bluebottles’ and went to a lot of effort to keep them out of the house and away from food. Her lessons sunk in.

Out of the classroom and into the forest, Henry continued his training, and his first summer was spent at Hamner Forest on the foothills of the Southern Alps.

‘Hang your jersey in a tree boy!’ Was the first advice he was given. Woollen sweaters have that woolly smell, especially when damp, so become a target for blowflies to lay their eggs. Hanging the sweater in a tree was sound advice because although the flies lay their eggs, birds come along to peck them off. Left on the ground the eggs are not so accessible for the friendly birds.

As a member of a twelve-man team, Henry took his week-about turn at being the camp cook! To keep eleven, make that twelve including their would-be supervisor, hungry and discerning young men culinarily-satisfied was a steep learning curve for Henry and that old unoriginal saying, ‘Who called the cook a bastard?’ followed by the retort, ‘Who called the bastard a cook?’ was many times dragged up! Gordie, for example was caught out roasting corned beef!

Cooking cabbage is like writing invitation cards to blowflies! They are attracted to the smell and Henry understood why his mother had insect screening on the outside door and all the kitchen windows. There were no such luxuries in the old, abandoned farm house he and his mates were camping in. Cooking was done over a coal range, only no coal was provided so one of the cook’s duties was to collect and chop firewood. There was no fridge for the meat and butter, but there was a fly-proof meat safe on the shady side of the house. Flies loaded with eggs dive bombed trying hard to gain entry to the safe whenever the door was opened, which was why Henry had to wash small maggots off the sausages he was about to cook! Nobody knew, or took crook so he kept mum about it. Their camp was miles out of town, so Friday night was shopping night but by the end of a very warm week, a shoulder of mutton had gone green! Henry knew the boys would taste that it was off, so remembering school lessons about sailors, he rubbed pepper into the meat before roasting it. There were no complaints.

Blowflies became Henry’s nemesis when he began farming sheep. Not so much with his adult sheep but with lambs. Lush grass growth causes loose bowel motions, which sticks to the wool and becomes attractive to blowflies. They lays her eggs and the maggots quickly grow, seeking a diet of not poo but fresh, living meat! The first sign is that the lamb will become itchy caused by the gnawing, which soon becomes irritating, so it will try to scratch and fidget in annoyance. The next sign is the area the maggots are chewing on becomes blackened because the wool is dead. The remedy is to shear the wool down to the skin on the affected area, removing the maggots in the process. Then spraying with an insecticide to kill any missed maggots or unhatched eggs. It is a dirty, stinking job but left untreated, the lamb will die. Unpleasant for the farmer and lamb alike!

Obviously prevention is the best option and that is drenching for internal parasites and ‘crutching’ - keeping the bum area clear of wool. Also a regular spray of insecticide, or dipping the whole animal is worthwhile.

Any wonder then that Henry does not like blowflies in the house? They have no insect screens at the back door, instead he grows marigolds there, which have a natural insect deterrent. Beyond the house he keeps a baited fly trap - Gordy’s Flytrap by name and it is very successful! There are a couple of important things to remember when it comes to flytraps. Using a dead rabbit as bait is most effective, but it must be under water. The trap is a 20 litre bucket with the Gordy’s trap device in the lid. If maggots hatch inside the trap, they release a pheromone to warn files that the area is already being used, thus warding them off! The rabbit is only the initial attractant, the dead flies’ bodies rot and stink attracting more funeral-goers. Not such a pleasant thing to sit near a back door or a barbeque area!

Henry happily embraces Mother Nature, but like most, he detests all things to do with the bloody blowfly!


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