While sitting in my brother’s backyard in Cold Spring Harbor one evening, a green-fly landed on the picnic table. We all stared in disbelief.
“I thought you said you don’t have green flies up here on the north shore,” I asked my brother.
“We don’t,” he said. “You guys must have brought him up with you.”
In a flash, eight hands came smashing down on the table in an attempt to terminate that much-hated pest.
We folks living around the Great South Bay on the south shore of Long Island are all too familiar with the annual arrival of the green flies during the second week of July. For two solid weeks, their only objective is to torment boaters and beach goers. You speed boaters won’t be bothered much by green flies, but those in slow-moving sailboats, kayaks, rafts and beach goers on bay beaches know exactly what I’m talking about. They are tenacious and hardy and will bite right through your bathing suit. If you smack them hard, they often roll right off, straighten themselves out and encircle your head for another round.
I once researched natural bug repellents and learned that eating a clove of raw garlic every day will fend off insects during the summer months. I couldn’t bring myself to eat raw garlic, so I tried the next best thing. I put two whole bulbs of garlic (about 24 cloves) in the blender with a few drops of olive oil to make a spreadable paste. Then I smeared it all over my body before we got into the boat. It had no effect at all as a green-fly deterrent. In fact, I think they found it especially tasty because they were feasting on me more than anyone else. And after I went swimming in the salty sea, I came out smelling like a plate of shrimp scampi.
My mild-mannered husband, who is so tolerant of most insects, will carry a beetle or a moth gently in his palm and toss it out the front door where it can continue to thrive in nature, as it was intended to do.
But the raw beast comes out in him when a green-fly pesters him at the beach. He once yelled at the kids for crudely smashing them against the ceiling of the cabin in our boat. “Stop! He yelled from the deck. You’re making a mess! That’s not how you do it!”
When he docked the boat and we walked over to the beach, he proceeded to show them the art of killing the green-fly. Like a celebrity chef giving a demonstration on the cooking channel, he spoke slowly and clearly.
“Wait for one to land on you and watch him rub his front legs together. He’s getting ready to feast on you, but now you surprise him with a…” SLAP! The stunned fly rolled around the sand for a dizzying moment, then he picked it up by one wing and continued the lesson.
“Now you pull off one wing, s-l-o-w-l-y. Then you pull off the other wing.”
The boys were so absorbed in the demonstration. They kept looking from the fly to their father, with wide eyes and their mouths hanging open. I know they were thinking, this is the same man who gets on a stool to flick a spider off the ceiling and carry him outside?
“Now that both wings are off,” my husband continued, lifting his foot high up in the air over the fly’s body, “you STOMP it into the sand with the heel of your foot.”
The boys let out a cheer. Their father was a hero and a skilled killer of green flies. I hated those pests too, but found this whole scene much too violent, and decided that my method of immersing myself underwater all day was an easier and more pleasant approach to rid myself of the nagging green-fly.
Thank goodness the life span of a green-fly is only two to three weeks. When they leave, by the end of July, the mosquitos will settle in and stay through September. Have I mentioned the gnats? No? Well, probably because they don’t really have a season; they are here all summer long. They come out every night, just as you’re putting dinner on the picnic table. The picnic bees love to share your dinner with you, too. But they are just a nuisance, unless one of them stings you. Ah, summer! And to think we wait all year for this season.