Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Deer Fly Experiment: Part One



Intro
Deer flies. I can't stand them. They've been very bad this year, and have driven me from running on the trails to running on the roads. Bug spray is ineffective, even with high concentrations of DEET. I think that stuff just makes the little buggers laugh.

I've also tried the dryer sheet method, which consists of pinning a fabric softener sheet to your hat and it's supposed to repel them. Not much luck there either. It might have worked some, and I'm willing to experiment more with it, but the one time I tried it I wasn't impressed with the results.

There has to be another way, and I think I found something that could possibly work. I was willing to give it a try, even if it meant looking like an idiot.

ResearchI googled around, and the research I found on thwarting deer flies was few and far between. Most articles had a defeatist attitude, saying nothing could really be done. However, one piece of information surfaced that appeared to be somewhat of a gem:

http://pestalert.ifas.ufl.edu/deerfly.htm

Worth noting that since it came from the University of Florida, it was obviously reputable. The school is the birthplace of Gatorade, national champions in football and basketball, is located in my hometown of Gainesville, and is also where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications back in 1997. Go Gators!

But I digress.

To paraphrase, Dr. Mizell's article says that deer flies are attracted to bright blue and typically attack the highest point on a moving target (7 mph is optimal). The obvious variable here is that Florida and Maine are two different places, and we could have two different species of deer flies. However, the information seemed pretty consistent, so it was worth a shot.

The HatThe article showed a hat with a blue cup attached to the top, but it didn't say much more about it. It's possible the author could have been joking, but in theory, it could work. Here's the picture from the article:

Looked good. To make mine, I punched holes along the rim of the cup and wove twine through the holes and the rivets on the top of my hat:



The next step was to coat the cup with a sticky substance that would trap the deer flies if they landed. However, a trip to the hardware store for the "Tanglefoot" mentioned in the article or a similar insect goo was unsuccessful. I decided to try my luck with clear packing tape folded over with the sticky side out.

The Test
I conducted the experiment along a section of logging road near my house that I've come to refer to as "the gauntlet". The deer flies are traditionally extremely bad during this quarter mile section, and you must run through it in order to get to the single-track that leads into darker woods where the flies are less.

Unfortunately, conditions weren't ideal. It was hot (83 degrees), but the humidity was low and a very strong wind was blowing. Those last two factors would really hinder the experiment, especially the wind.

I donned the blue-cup hat and began running. The flies were indeed out, but in small numbers. Looking at my own shadow, I could see their shadows as they buzzed around my head. They appeared to take to the cup, since they like to attack the highest point, and that minimized them flying around my face. I mused that this at least raised the attack zone (see diagram below).

I ran down the trail and back twice, and anxiously took off my hat to see if any deers had stuck to the tape which blanketed the cup. None. This could be because the tape isn't sticky enough, and/or the fact that the flies weren't too aggressive because of the weather.

Conclusions
Conditions weren't ideal for experimentation today, so I'll have to try it again when the wind isn't as great and it's more humid out. The raised attack zone as observed from the shadows was interesting. It didn't totally prevent them from flying into my face, but it did seemingly lessen them somewhat.

Next time I may try adding a thin coating of maple syrup and let it dry out a bit on top of the tape to make it more sticky, just to be sure. Trapping even a few of those buggers would be considered a big success, in addition to raising the attack zone. I'll do another post after round two.

And no, I won't be wearing this at the Vermont 100 this weekend.


17 comments:

Bob Gentile said...

I donned the blue-cup hat and began running.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
HAHA wow now that is going the distance to rid those dang Deer Flies...too funny

NOW what I would suggest is RUN that VT100 with that blue cup...BUT no HOLES and when u finish under 21 hours you can take off ur hat, pop off the CUP and have someone pour a cold beer into the CUP !!!

seriously though, look forward to a legitimate test when those suckers are out big time...

I will be the marketeer and we can roll it out across the eastcoast...

Sparkplug said...

I love it!

Perhaps the data that shows they love blue would be why they were attacking with added force this morning while I was on my run in my blue shirt and blue hat! I'll have to remember that... :-)

Anyway, can't wait to hear how the blue-cup hat works on another run. Could be the next big thing in running gear :-)

Blaine Moore said...

Definitely interested in further research into this area...can't wait to see the deer fly hat in action. Heheh.

Thomas said...

I see you left out your awesome six-pack in the latest illustration

Andrew said...

That was the craziest post ever!

Dusty said...

Oh my gosh, that is got to be the funniest thing ever. And if those dang things were flying around, I'd probably sucumb too. The picture looks like you get to run on a trail and not a major road.

Hmmm... seeing Bob's comment.. I'm thinking of Bob and now picturing wearing the blue cup and tugging a tire on a major road trying to pick up hot cop chics.

What about some sort of hat with one of those hard plastic shields over the face? Probably hot, but just thinking how to get them out of your face.

sn0m8n said...

That is the new hotness.

Marc said...

I'll take two!

Jeannine said...

I share your pain. I run 10 miles a day and always get attacked. I have tried the Deerfly Patches, http://www.tucker-usa.com/users/stieg/deerfly.htm, which work but it's still to close for comfort as they try to land on your ears too. So maybe I'll put the Deerfly patch on a blue cup and strap that on -

Runner NYC said...

Great idea! Do you have double-stick tape? What about painting the cup with rubber cement? Would that catch the deer-flies?

Sunshine Girl said...

I'm thinking one of those fake Bob Marley Natty Dred wigs in combination with the Deer Fly Hat might be killer effective. And dead sexy. The dreds would bounce around, back and forth and keep the flys out of your face, while the hat worked its' ju-ju. Yeah! That's it!

Leslie of Banff

Luc said...

Too funny! I'm very lucky to not have to deal with these nasty things. Great pics and even greater drawing. :) Can't wait to read part 2...

Adam Pratt said...

Any updates on the experiment? I've been bit really bad in both VT and WI this summer and I'm going nuts with these stupid insects!

James said...

well this was posted in 2008, but for everyone else that is wondering... the key thing to making this project work is tanglefoot, tangletrap insect trap. The flies land on it one time and they cant fly away.

I moved to central maine this year 2010, and came across this article when searching how to get rid of these devil flies.

I just found the tanglefoot stuff today at a local garden center, after calling 5 or 6 and checking multiple other ones. The rep from tanglefoot told me ace and true values all can have it, but too call first, none i called had it or had ever heard of it.

Anyways, just got the stuff tonight. After puttig in on a cup and holding cup on a stick while moving around the yard, i got 10 flies in less than 10 minutes. I need to make a foolish hat for mowing the yard now. It's kinda satisfying watching them fluster around on the cup, not being able to get free.

James said...

well this was posted in 2008, but for everyone else that is wondering... the key thing to making this project work is tanglefoot, tangletrap insect trap. The flies land on it one time and they cant fly away.

I moved to central maine this year 2010, and came across this article when searching how to get rid of these devil flies.

I just found the tanglefoot stuff today at a local garden center, after calling 5 or 6 and checking multiple other ones. The rep from tanglefoot told me ace and true values all can have it, but too call first, none i called had it or had ever heard of it.

Anyways, just got the stuff tonight. After puttig in on a cup and holding cup on a stick while moving around the yard, i got 10 flies in less than 10 minutes. I need to make a foolish hat for mowing the yard now. It's kinda satisfying watching them fluster around on the cup, not being able to get free.

FLYTRAP said...

I have suffered these pests since we built our house in 2001... more than I ever care to remember! We have a 900 driveway that has a small set of power lines that cross it. I swear that point is the true magnetic North for those buZZerds. ... & I live in Mid coast Maine. All I can say is... IT WORKS!!!! 100 FOLD! We run every day here and Taglefoot (or any sticky tree sap probably) on the blue cup is the clincher. I got mine at Union Agway. Not to mention, we're the talk of the neighborhood!

FLYTRAP said...

I have suffered these pests since we built our house in 2001... more than I ever care to remember! We have a 900 driveway that has a small set of power lines that cross it. I swear that point is the true magnetic North for those buZZerds. ... & I live in Mid coast Maine. All I can say is... IT WORKS!!!! 100 FOLD! We run every day here and Taglefoot (or any sticky tree sap probably) on the blue cup is the clincher. I got mine at Union Agway. Not to mention, we're the talk of the neighborhood!