Shoo, Deerfly, don’t bother me: making a deerfly trap hat.

I love living out in the country, amid the forest…

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Driving down our road at dusk

…meadows…

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The land across the street from us, which is still for sale…

…peaceful farmland…

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One of our neighbors’ farms

and cute livestock:

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One of my favorite local sheep red angora goats

But I don’t love the deerfly:

Chances are that if you live anywhere east of the Mississippi, you’ve encountered deerfly…most likely when you suddenly felt a sensation like having a lit cigarette bumped against your bare arm and discovered one of these little horrors lapping up the blood from the hole it just made in your flesh.

A little information about these dreadful creatures:

Deer flies (also known as yellow flies, or stouts in Atlantic Canada) are flies…that can be pests to cattle, horses, and humans. A distinguishing characteristic of a deer fly is patterned gold or green eyes.

Deer flies are a genus of horse-flies (Tabanidae). They are smaller than wasps, and have coloured eyes and dark bands across their wings. While female deer flies feed on blood, males instead collect pollen. When feeding, females use knife-like mandibles and maxillae to make a cross-shaped incision and then lap up the blood. Their bite can be painful, but many bites are not noticed at the time, especially if the victim is distracted. Allergic reaction from the saliva of the fly can result in further discomfort and health concerns. Pain and itch are the most common symptoms, but more significant allergic reactions can develop.

They are often found in damp environments, such as wetlands, bogs, or forests. They lay clusters of shiny black eggs on the leaves of small plants by water. The aquatic larvae feed on small insects and pupate in the mud at the edge of the water. Adults are potential vectors of tularemia, anthrax and loa loa filariasis.

I started noticing these loathsome vermin while I was working in the garden around the beginning of July.  Because deerflies range over several miles, trying to get rid of them with chemical sprays is pointless.  There are (very expensive) traps like this that you can buy:

But that doesn’t help you if you walk out of range of the trap, as I do every single day when I walk our dogs. I decided to look online for a solution, and I found this guy’s instructable page on how to make a deerfly trap hat.  Here are the ones he has made:

deerfly hats

The required products are a large blue disposable cup or bowl, some tanglefoot paste, a putty knife, and something to attach the cup or bowl to.  Apparently research has shown that deerfly are very attracted to blue.  They approach the hat and become stuck to the tanglefoot paste, where they eventually die without ever biting you.

Several commenters on the instructable posted pictures of their own fashionable homemade head gear.  I thought the foil tape was an especially nice touch here:

Just in case your teenagers aren’t already embarrassed to be seen with you…

But this other guy’s caught my attention because he used velcro to attach a disposable blue plate to the back of his hat, making it easy to remove and replace as needed:

I decided I would make such a hat for myself.  I bought the blue bowl, I already had a garden hat and the velcro, so all I needed was the tanglefoot paste.  This product, which is used to keep pests off fruit trees, was invented by a Michigan company and produced for the last 100 years or so in my old hometown of Grand Rapids.  However, it seems that several years ago it was sold off to a large national corporation which has seriously scaled back production because I could not find it anywhere.  I looked online, I looked at all the big box home and garden places like Home Depot and Lowe’s, I checked the local Family, Farm, and Hearth, but no one had it.  On a whim, I stopped by the Dexter Mill – from now on, I’m just going to start with the Dexter Mill and then go elsewhere if they don’t have what I need.

The Dexer Mill 3515 Central St, Dexter, MI 48130 (734) 426-4621

Not only did they have the tanglefoot paste that I needed, but one of the girls there told me she likes to go running on the local rural roads and uses Tred-Not DeerflyPatches on her cap to keep the deerfly off:
They were only a few dollars for a pack, so I decided to give them a try.  I stuck one of the patches to the back of the cap I wear while walking the dogs; on the walk from my house down the driveway to the mailbox and back, which is about ½ mile round trip, I received zero deerfly bites even though I was wearing short sleeves and caught four deerfly:
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I was happy enough with the patches, so I never got around to making the blue tanglefoot cap.  We’re starting to get some cooler weather at night, so the deerfly population has diminished quite a bit.  However, I have all the necessary tools to make it at the start of deerfly season next summer:
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I will wear this while working in the garden, which is right next to our large pond that brings all the deerfly to the yard, because no one will see me, so it doesn’t matter if I look like a total dork.  I’ll use a cap with the deerfly patches whenever I have to go out among other people, like while walking my dogs on our road, so as not to cause my children to die of shame due to having a mother who wears a sticky bowl on her head.
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4 thoughts on “Shoo, Deerfly, don’t bother me: making a deerfly trap hat.

  1. Ugh! I’m glad we don’t have those here. The botflies are bad enough and the ones around here don’t generally bother people. I have to spray my horse down thoroughly or she gets covered from head to toe with eggs that I then have to scrape off with a specialized tool.

    I do wonder how people figured out this whole hat thing, that seems like a really random thing to discover.

    (Also the insufferable know-it-all in me would like to point out that isn’t a sheep, it’s an angora goat.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • that isn’t a sheep, it’s an angora goat.

      Oh, so it is! A red angora goat, according to google image. It looks so sheepish (lol) to me! There’s a lot of sheep farming around here, so I assumed that’s what it was. But no!

      I do wonder how people figured out this whole hat thing, that seems like a really random thing to discover.

      Haha, I know. Looking through that instructable, I am amazed at how creative people are in solving these problems.

      Here is the research from the University of Florida explaining why deerfly prefer blue and how this was discovered:

      http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/pestalert/deerflies.htm

      Like

  2. Winters aren’t that big a deal–we’ve got plenty of bats (including a recent one in my home) here in Minnesota. They just winter in available caves and such. Not quite sure how well they eat deerflies, though–their diet is more mosquitoes around here. And I remember a friend of mine joking about tying a frog to his ballcap while running so the frog would protect him.

    And blue attracts deerflies….OK, yet another reason to wear green & white as much as possible. :^) (seriously, a park ranger at Yellowstone once noted that’s why they wear olive drab)

    Like

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