This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

June 4, 2017

Why you have flies in your backyard and how to control them

If you have a beautiful, lush, backyard in the desert, it will attract insects. You know, butterflies, creepy-crawlies, and of course flies. Now don't panic if you see some insect life - the most important thing that they want is water, and since you have plants, you have moisture. If your yard were completely dead and dry, of course, you wouldn't attract any insects. I've known people who just pour concrete all over everything, and have nothing but a moonscape, but I don't want to live with that. So I live with bugs. But I do my best to minimize them, short of destroying my tropical paradise.

The second thing you need to know about flies, after the fact that they're attracted to water, and any plant, is that they're attracted to what they consider food. It's not what we human beings consider food, but if it makes you want to gag, flies just love it. Stuff that's rotting, stuff that has passed through the digestive track of an animal (if you know what I mean, and I think you do), and even food that humans could eat.

So the first step to controlling flies is cleanliness. No dog poop lying around (scoop it up and put it in a container with a tight lid), no food outside (that can be difficult if you have horses, or you feed outdoor cats, but I feed my dog in my house - her dog food is never, ever left outside). No rotting vegetation. If you have a nose that smells, or know someone who is sensitive to smells, all the better. Your garden should smell like flowers, not, uh, other stuff!

Even if you've done everything right (and I try very hard to), you can still have flies. That's when it's time to go get some fly traps. I buy the cheap disposable ones, the kind that you just fill with water, hang up, and throw away when they're filled with dead flies. I've learned a thing or two over the years, and here's what I suggest

• Hang them far away from humans. No, they're not toxic, but they stink! The flies are attracted to that smell, remember? So don't put them right there on your patio, it will make you ill every time you walk outside. And they look terrible, no one wants to sit on your patio, sipping Margaritas, and look at that!

Fly trap hung out of sight and out of reach, in my side yard.

• Hang them where your dog can't reach them. I learned this the hard way. My little dachshund was so excited to see a bunch of flies in a bag that she jumped up and pulled it down. And once it spilled everywhere, the fragrance was just too appealing to her, and she rolled in it. We both took a bath that night.

So there you go. When the bags aren't attracting any more flies, it's time to throw them away and put up more. I just got two today, so I should be good for another month. At that time I'll check to see how many flies are still around (there tends to be not as many during our 100-degree plus months) and if I need to, I'll get two more.

Begone, flies!
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