It’s ridiculously hot. It’s stupendously hot and I can’t get cool anywhere. I know it’s an annoying habit of British people to complain about the weather but it’s just. Too. Hot.
Pretty fly for a… fly guy?
Anyway, another aggravating problem that so often comes along with heat is… flies. Situated on water and that problem is aggravated further, with clouds of biting insects filling the air. You know the ones, they wait for you on riverbanks like the rural equivalent of feral gangs. Ferural gangs? Anyway, there’s those. And if I sit outside or close to a door I kept finding these tiny black flea-like creatures on me, and I don’t know what they are. They aren’t fleas; they fly, and do a vaguely grotesque twerking manoeuvre with their upraised butt-ends. Whatever they are, they have a bitey look about them. I do not profess to be an entomologist (etymology I’m better at) but I’m almost certain fleas don’t fly or twerk.
Inside the boat, well of course you get the odd big buzzing thing, a bluebottle or some-other-colour bottle that usually leaves as suddenly as it arrives, bashing its head on everything as it goes. Then there are those smaller flies, what are they, houseflies? Maybe not quite houseflies. They fly around in little zigzags and seem never to get anywhere near a window, but land on things, and on you, and on the edge of your teacup, annoyingly.
They aren’t fleas; they fly, and do a vaguely grotesque twerking manoeuvre with their upraised butt-ends.
I could spend this whole post describing fly types and tendencies, but thank goodness! I hear you cry, I’m not going to. What we want to do is to get rid of them.
Whatever the question, Raid is not the answer
There’ll be no fly spray – I do not like a lungful of Raid – and swatting isn’t ideal. I don’t do it as a rule, especially not on those really big flies. The last time I swatted one of those (it was a very long time ago, an incident never to be repeated) it left a smear of blood and – *shudder* – eggs on the window.
I used to be an infallible shot with a teatowel when it came to the smaller houseflies; I could take one of those out of the air before it saw me coming, with a lightning flick of the wrist. But I seem to have lost that skill, somewhere, somehow. Maybe a result of involuntary compassion. Or just decrepitude.
So we’re not going to kill the flies. Nobody has to die. We just want to discourage them. The key here is to repel those flies, naturally. And we’re going to use essential oils.
Citronella goes to the ball
I’ve got a friend, a very nice guy in real life who is also a dentist – although if you saw the inside of his house you would never want his hands inside your mouth, I can tell you. He is always spitting vitriol about ‘quack alternative therapies’, and asking for recommendations for chemists that don’t stock homeopathy and aromatherapy supplies.
But of course there’s nothing quackish about essential oils (and nobody is suggesting they should replace even the dirtiest of dentists), they are simply highly concentrated plant oils which can be used for a variety of purposes. And right now our new best friend is that rookie pantomime dame Cinderella. I mean Citronella.
Citronella oil is derived from lemongrass variants. As the name suggests, it basically smells like a particularly pungent lemon. You can buy all sorts of fancy (and expensive) Citronella products from the supermarket and chemist and garden stores, from sprays to sticks to whatever-the-hell-else. But all you actually need is a little bottle of pure Citronella essential oil. I bought mine from a local independent health food shop for less than £3, having already been into a certain other well-know health-food chain which was selling it for more than twice the price (even its offer of buy-one-get-one-half-price didn’t make up for the massive mark-up). Avoid! (You can also order Citronella oil from Amazon.)
They fly around in little zigzags and seem never to get anywhere near a window, but land on things, and on you, and on the edge of your teacup, annoyingly.
So, now you’ve got your little bottle of Citronella you’ll find your little flying friends just don’t like it. If you have a fancy oil-burner or a fragrance humidifier, great. I just put a small pot of water on the hob and drop some citronella oil onto the water. As the water heats up (it doesn’t even need to boil) the oil vaporises and fills the air with citronella which flies do. Not. Like. It gets rid of ‘em. They leave in a state of high dudgeon.
Ella, ella, ella, ay, ay
Citronella can actually be quite a heavy smell, and in an enclosed space can cause headaches (it does me anyway), but I’m assuming you have all your doors and windows open otherwise how did the flies get in? Exactly. I do add other oils if I feel like it, such as lavender or lemongrass. Insects aren’t supposed to like those either (although try telling that to bees).
If you’re thinking it’s a very wasteful use of power to boil a pot just to evaporate some smelly oil, you can put that boiling pot to a secondary good use by popping some dirty dishcloths in there to boil at the same time. Dishcloths don’t get clean in a low temperature wash so they need a good boiling now and then. They do. I’m not lying. And they come out all lemony and fresh.
Put that boiling pot to a secondary good use by popping some dirty dishcloths in there to boil at the same time
And! you can use the leftover citronella-y water to wipe down your surfaces. Kitchen surfaces, I mean.
You can of course use a pottery oil burner with a candle, rather than use up your gas or electricity supply; or you can make easy scented candles by lighting a candle, waiting until the wax forms a pool around the wick, and dropping some essential oil into the melted wax. Try not to set fire to yourself. Or you can make actual citronella candles! But that requires a whole-other-post to happen.
I also add citronella oil to the spray bottle of homemade cleaner that I squirt around. Basically water, some white vinegar, essential oils of your choice and a squirt of washing up liquid or shampoo to emulsify. I should probably do a whole-other-post about that. (Oh look, here it is.) And I also add it to coconut oil and smear it on myself to deter any little bitey friends from making a meal of me. Greasy!
That’s it! Well I mean, there’s lots more I could say on this topic. But it’ll have to wait until another day.
Geoff’s Top Tip: Citronella is not safe for cat peoples when ingested, so take care with that… and don’t use it undiluted on your human peoples skin, unless of course you want a burning, suppurating rash (maybe). You can thank me later.