May 31, 2005 8:26 AM   Subscribe

A friend who lives in the country is trying to keep flies out of her cafe. She heard a rumor about an Amish technique where you can keep a clear bag of water over the entrance, and somehow the light refraction keeps them away. Sounds like an urban myth, but short of swatting or unsightly strips, does anyone have any ideas about how to conquer flies?
posted by jgballard to Science & Nature (16 answers total)
It works - the theory being that flies see this enormous monster clone of themselves and go away. Also potted sweet basil plants keep flies away - both methods frequently seen in rural Spain, especially the second.
posted by adamvasco at 8:32 AM on May 31, 2005

I'll second the clear bag of water idea--the local diner uses them, and it seems to work.
posted by Jeanne at 8:35 AM on May 31, 2005

I'll second the sweet basil...I have giant Jurrasic basil plants planted around my deck, and we never see flies anymore.
posted by dejah420 at 8:42 AM on May 31, 2005

amish?! i've seen this in several places - no idea if it works, but i don't think the amish have much influence down here in chile!
posted by andrew cooke at 9:04 AM on May 31, 2005

I don't really know about the bag of water. We had one strung up in the cafe where I used to work and the only result was that the girl who suggested the idea was mercilessly made fun of. We only used one bag, however, and it was not at the entrance, so maybe the idea was just poorly executed.

The cafe ended up installing bug zappers, and the flies continued. As much as I hate to say it, an effective method of fly prevention may simply not exist.
posted by Crushinator at 9:05 AM on May 31, 2005

This does work. Apparently, hanging up old CDs in the door also works, for the same reason (whatever that reason may be).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:16 AM on May 31, 2005

Install an air door, which pushes out a curtain of air from above the doorway. They're most common in grocery stores, but air doors for smaller doorways can be purchased for less than $500 wholesale.
posted by waxpancake at 9:16 AM on May 31, 2005

Another traditional remedy for keeping flies/birds/etc. out is the bead curtain. Not as high tech as an air door, but the retail price of the bead curtain is about 1/30 of the wholesale price of the air door and it needs no electricity.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2005

A local restaurant uses the bag of water technique on their patio. One change, though -- they put a penny in the bag. The waiter told us it looks like a spider and its web to a bug.
posted by LeiaS at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2005

I heard you have to put a penny in the bag. There's a barbeque joint near here that does that. I have no idea if it works.
posted by Doohickie at 10:34 AM on May 31, 2005

The Straight Dope on water bag fly repelling says it works. No mention of the penny.
posted by donnagirl at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2005

Where I live, the flies come in through the walls and window frames so hanging something by the door doesn't work too terribly well. If you already have flies, you can try this: put full glasses of water with a few drops of dishwashing soap on the windowsills [where flies seem to like to hang out]. The flies will go to the water, and won't be able to get out. If you're a restaurant, make these glasses opaque so that diners don't see all the dead flies in them, but I have tried this and it works fairly well. If you know where they are coming in, you can spray some toxic death spray just by the entrance and it will really cut down on fly traffic. If you've got one of those really cool days where it's hot by the window and all the flies congregate there, you can also just suck them up in a dustbuster where you've sprayed the filter with toxic bug death. It's not pretty but it beats sticky fly tape.
posted by jessamyn at 1:51 PM on May 31, 2005

Thanks donnagirl! I consider the issue effectively resolved if the Straight Dope has come to a conclusion on the matter.
posted by Crushinator at 3:13 PM on May 31, 2005

Thank you Ask Metafilter! I learned why my favorite BBQ joint has them hanging all over the place.
posted by birdherder at 4:44 PM on May 31, 2005

They do the clear bags in Burma, too. Apparently they work.
posted by dreamsign at 8:19 PM on May 31, 2005

Can I ask a silly question? We don't have many flies in Toronto, but wouldn't screens on the windows be enough to keep flies out? Then again, restaurants in TO almost always have double doors, to keep out the cold in winter, so maybe that keeps out any bugs too.
posted by jb at 11:38 PM on May 31, 2005

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