The Latin proverb ‘Tempus Fugit’ looks and sounds like swearing to me, and I think some sensitive Pro-consul changed its meaning. Tempus Fugit or ‘Time Flies’ likely was first coined by Julius Caesar’s troops after they encountered the fiendish Gallic insects that swarm the fly-blown nether parts of this otherwise unblighted country.
The French canals are deliberately routed through such zones; quite an achievement as there are around 7500 kms of navigable waterways. Clearly the antipathy towards lock keepers began as early as the sixteen-hundreds and reached its peak during the Napoleonic canal-building boom. Each lock had a keeper – sometimes several – so ‘punishment by annoying insects’ became government policy and canals were routed through pestilent regions.
Now we are in gentler times and the canal locks are nearly all automated, the government is searching for a way to discourage the flies, mosquitoes and so on. French domestic insect pests are classified in two sections: the fliers: mosquitoes (moustiques) and flies (mouches), and the crawlers (Les Rampants): ants (fourmis), cockroaches (cafards), araignees (spiders), and puces (fleas). Experiments in eradication have been underway for many decades.
The most recent failed iteration has been described in my past reports; the insect spray was deemed ‘over-polite’ to the insects which simply ignored it. However, France is signatory to a UN Resolution which covers the humane treatment of insects so the new insecticides reflect French national values.
However, the insects have used the last few hundred years to evolve their physical and genetic defences. Instinctive selective breeding has given us a French fly of steely determination and ruthlessness.
That’s why the new generation of pest sprays utilise psychological principles of insect consciousness. At the first pssst! the spray draws the flies’ attention to a meeting to be held between the human occupiers of an enclosed space and the flies and mosquitoes which are aggressively colonising it. The insects gather and wait politely for the Chairperson – you – to address the issues.
This is done by drawing your can of BLAST, SMASH or NUKE from under your apron and releasing a huge mushroom cloud of French chemicals, including D tetramethine and hydrocarbures aliphatiques, which are designed to disorient the insects’ libidos. A microscopic drop of aerosol is enough (the makers claim) to send any fly into a suicidal frenzy and you can expect your flies to scramble through the nearest opening and throw themselves under a steamroller.MUSTARD GAS
Of course when you bought the spray in the supermarket you knew it wouldn’t work, but you bought it anyway. Certainly you could have carried a can of MEGA-MAIM all the way from Australia but you may have been arrested at the airport as a terrorist.
The new psychotic fly-attack chemicals are still squirted into the air we breathe by the same old lung-melting aerosol propellant. The font size of the small print on cans of fly spray is rightly called ‘fly speck’. If you have an electron microscope handy you’ll read that aerosol spray can cause dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, elephantiasis, dropsy and incontinence. The true mustard-gas odour of the spray is masked by perfumes named limonene, hexyl cinnimal, finafool and geraniol.
Remember the movie ‘The Fly’, in which actor Jeff Goldberg and a blowfly shared a molecular transmitter and when re-assembled together became a giant, drooling monster with a fly’s head? Well, when I look into the bathroom mirror every morning I think I may be suffering something similar and have decided to draw the line and restrict our use of spray chemicals to harmless toilet sprays, window cleaner, spray degreasers, spray paint, aerosol deodorants, spray cooking oil, aerosol cream, hair fixative, shaving gel, oven cleaner spray, and air freshener. My crew and I have gone back to square one to find an answer. First, know your enemy.BEWARE POPPY SEEDS
Flies like to take the high ground. They shit everywhere. Parts of your ceiling can look like some child has taken a fine-point marker and made black dots over everything. Disturbingly flies also like flat surfaces. Kitchen benches are a danger area. Beware the scattered poppy seeds around your chopping board and coffee cups. A black dot doth not necessarily a poppy seed make.
Perhaps scientists should have included a chemical which brings on a fly coup d’état based on the ‘terror period’ of the Revolution – that would destroy the leadership elite of the flies. Not only that, flies are not known for their eloquence. You can rant on as long as you like about Liberte, Equalite,et Fraternite to a fly but all you get is a blank stare. We don’t appear to have a chemical which will make flies talk, hence negotiations are doomed to fail early.
Because innovation has failed us we have reverted to humble fly paper, not used in Australia for several decades because now we use violently carcinogenic sprays which do kill flies but also peel the skin off women, children, pets and endangered species generally. However, French supermarkets still sell fly paper as a nod to non-toxicity because it doesn’t require fancy chemicals, nuclear power or smashing fly corpses into the tablecloth with a fly swatter to work.
Apta-brand French flypaper comes in a pack of four, each complete with a thumb tack with which you attach the paper onto your polished Mahogany mantelpiece. Each is the size and shape of a 12-guage shotgun shell. The idea of shooting at flies on the wing appealed to me until I realised that the size of the lead shot would have to be miniscule and you’d do more damage to the wallpaper and Lladro figurines than you would the flies. I estimate one flypaper could capture up to seventy three or four flies.
Other insect threats like wasps (gueps) and hornets (frelons) require a different approach which is described in my autobiography ‘Serpent Repellent & other Social Aids’. To achieve an acceptable attrition count it’s probably unnecessary to hang three dozen flypapers at once, and walking from one side of the room to the other would prove hazardous.
Fly paper also may have been invented by Julius Caesar’s troops. Reliable legend has it they covered peasants with a mixture of honey and bat dung to attract flies. Then they threw the fly-crusted peasants over cliffs. Fly paper consists of an unrolled strip of sticky paper pinned to the ceiling. The flies confidently land on it, sigh with satisfaction and settle down to gaze over their conquered territory. Their compatriots join them.
Flies are suckers for triumphalism. They soon discover they can’t move their feet. After a while there are a dozen struggling in the molasses-ey coating, glued onto the paper in distorted attitudes.* They hang in vertical humiliation from the saloon ceiling like a hunter’s trophies.
These trophies are not Moose Heads but Mouches Heads. Best of all you’ll never have to pronounce “one-R transphenothine” ever again.
*A word of warning: do not allow your skin, fingers, clothing or any part of your face to come into contact with the sticky fly paper. It will stick to you like shit to a blanket, and you don’t want that.