Lord of the Vinegar Flies – Mr Hodson

Every person has his or her breaking point. Living la vida lockdown is a surefire way of locating it.

When Christmas was cancelled with a week’s notice, I looked at the positives of a year done differently.

When my son was sent back to his primary school for one day after the Christmas holiday only for schools to be closed again, I tried to see the funny side of things.

When new strains of Coronavirus undermined the certain sense that we were on our way out of this pandemic, I put faith in the scientists and engaged the power of hope once again. Stay patient, I thought.

But when a legion of vinegar flies invaded my kitchen and, in some cases, my beer glass, that patience ran out. I went berserk. Picture a bespectacled scarecrow (I haven’t been brave enough to cut my own hair just yet) pouncing on empty air in a series of wayward claps and you’re pretty much there. I snapped.

The reason I am so enraged by this insect Armageddon is that, quite simply, it is a problem entirely of my own making. When Mr Ellis-Peckham, our erstwhile neighbour, departed RHS last year, he left behind his ‘Hotbin’, a polystyrene construction which turns household waste into compost in a matter of weeks in optimum conditions. Sounds disgusting I know, but if you’ve got poor soil, it’s your salvation.

Living the dream. Home-made compost.

The biological process of turning carrot peelings into nutrient-rich compost depends on a number of reactions, numerous of which are assisted by insects. Vast numbers of vinegar flies are attracted to the hotbin by the smell of decay and fermentation, and do vital work in bringing the diligent gardener his or her very own, free, highly ethical compost. The problem is that, when opening your hotbin to add each day’s household compostables, vinegar flies escape and, no matter how many intervening doors one shuts, make their way into the Hodson kitchen to enjoy the Radio 4 evening schedule.

So what to do about it?

I swatted, I swiped, I clapped, I slapped; I made little impact on the resident fly population. The only visible effect of my efforts at pest control was a busy array of fly-blood explosions on our ‘rock salt’ white walls. A display worthy of Jackson Pollock. Needless to say this did little to please the house-proud Mrs Hodson-Langer, and with various connubial threats to my beloved hotbin infecting the usual atmosphere of domestic contentment in the Hodson household, I decided to form a plan. Time to Google.

Get out of my beer! A vinegar fly.

While we love to bemoan the internet, it is an incredible thing: its feast of blog activity means no domestic problem is without a solution. Such random internet content has certainly got me out of a few scrapes, including: HOW TO GET CONIFER TREE RESIN OFF YOUR FINGERS (apply vegetable oil before washing with soap)… HOW TO GET INK OUT OF COTTON CHINOS (blot with hairspray)… and now, HOW TO GET RID OF UNWANTED VINEGAR FLIES.

The answer? It’s in the question: vinegar flies like vinegar. Pour some into a bowl along with a few ruthless drops of liquid detergent and cover with perforated cling film. At which point, simply sit back, listen to Radio 4 with a glass of unsullied IPA, and enjoy the quiet spectacle of a vinegar fly massacre.

The lesson of all this? It’s easy to feel frustrated when things seem to be beyond your control. It’s also easy to let emotion blind you to how much is within your control if you calm down and think about the best way forward.

Image result for jackson pollock red painting
Jackson Pollock painting/my kitchen wall
Our carniverous houseplants did NOTHING. The vinegar, however, was plat du jour.

Leave a Reply