Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I've received numerous questions and comments from folks regarding various aspects of trapping deer flies, so I thought I would devote today's post to addressing those questions and comments.

The Umbrella

The only umbrella I've ever used for my umbrella trap is the black-and-white umbrella pictured in this blog.  I have never tested other colors or patterns, so I do not know if an alternative color or pattern might be better or worse in attracting deer flies.  I chose to use the black-and-white umbrella because I figured it would offer the best contrast for visually broadcasting my movements to the blood-thirsty deer flies who lie in wait for a suitable passer-by.  If you look at commercially available fly traps, you will notice that they tend to consist of a black-and-clear or black-and-white design element for attracting flies.  The rationale behind this design is that the black portions visually mimic (at least to biting flies, such as deer flies and horse flies) the legs or necks of animals, while the clear or white areas of the trap visually mimic the open areas between, say, an animal's legs.  For this reason, I chose to use a black-and-white umbrella.  It offers high contrast (and, thus, high visibility) and it mimics the legs and necks of animals.

The Blue Cups

The only color cups I've ever used are the blue cups pictured in this blog.  I have not experimented with other colors.  I chose to use blue cups based solely on Dr. Russell Mizell's research results (see my post entitled "credit").  While I have not experimented with other colors, I would be rather surprised if other colors didn't work.  That is, I'm guessing movement is the biggest attraction, regardless of color.  Afterall, deer flies are attracted to brown deer and to people (regardless of what color shirt they are wearing).  However, Dr. Mizell's work showed a preference by the deer flies for blue traps, so that is what I went with.  Basically I followed the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it school of thought.

The Sticky Stuff

The Tanglefoot product that you want to use on your trap is called Tangle-Trap Sticky Coating.  You can see a picture of this in my post entitled "Making and Using the Deer Fly Trap Umbrella".  The Tanglefoot company produces several insect trapping or insect attracting products, each with its own specific purpose (for example, they have a product for trees so that one can trap insect pests that attack trees).  However, you need to use the right stuff ... Tangle-Trap Sticky Coating ... for coating your trap surfaces.  Tangle-Trap is colorless and odorless.  It is not an attractant.  It is simply sticky.  Very sticky!!  I do not use the spray version of Tangle-Trap.  I use the canned version.  It comes in two sizes.  The 8-ounce can contains a small brush attached to the underside of its screwcap lid for applying the product.  The quart-sized can looks like a paint can and does not come with a brush.  I have recently changed from using the 8-ounce cans to using a quart-sized can (more economical).  And now, instead of using the small brush that is supplied with the 8-ounce can, I use a 2-inch foam applicator on a stick (readily available in the paint brush aisle) in order to easily and quickly spread the Tangle-Trap.  I scoop out a small amount (something like 2 teaspoons worth) of Tangle-Trap from its can with a plastic spoon and drop it onto the top of a bag-covered cup.  I then spread the Tangle-Trap onto all surfaces of the covered cup using the foam applicator.  I have purchased Tangle-Trap through Amazon, but it is definitely also available from numerous online sources.

The Motion

While I have never collected data of my own to confirm the necessity of having the trap move, there is plenty of writing out there that says deer flies are attracted to movement from Point A to Point B.  Therefore, setting up a trap (no matter how fancy it might be) that is simply sitting or hanging in your yard is not the best way to go for trapping deer flies.  It might not work at all or, at the very least, it won't work as well as it would if it were in motion.  You'll probably trap horse flies, but not deer flies.  Again, I have no personal data to prove this, but plenty of experts state that you must have motion from Point A to Point B in order to attract (and then trap) deer flies.

The Placement of the Sticky Surfaces

Whatever the design of your deer fly trap is, the sticky surfaces that do the actual trapping of the deer flies need to be at, or very darn near, the top of the trap.  This placement takes advantage of the deer fly's natural habit of swarming around the head of a victim and then landing on the victim's head or ears or face or neck in order to carry out its blood-sucking attack.  The sticky surfaces need to be highly visible to the deer flies and the flies need an unobstructed clear area around and above the trap's sticky surfaces in order to swarm and land ... and get stuck!

Does Trapping Make a Difference?

For me, trapping deer flies in the morning makes a HUGE difference for that day.  I can work or play outside on our property and not see even one deer fly all day.  If I didn't trap the little bloodsuckers each morning, we would not be able to go outside without being swarmed and chased by a big dark buzzing cloud of them.  After trapping deer flies in the morning, I don't start to notice deer flies again until the late afternoon or early evening, and then only in small numbers.  It takes some time for other deer flies to notice that there is a "vacant" territory around our house and then, once the word gets around, they backfill the vacancy with their presence.  Thus, by the next morning, it's time to trap deer flies again.  And so I do.  And again I have another deer fly-free day to enjoy outside.

How Long is Deer Fly Season?

In the 22 years during which we have lived on our property here in Livingston County, Michigan, deer fly season has always been eight weeks long ... from mid-late June to mid-late August.  The 2012 season got started a bit early here (the deer flies were very noticable during the first week of June on our property), but I think the season will still be a total of eight weeks in length.  We'll see what happens, but I'm guessing (or, at least, really really hoping!) that the 2012 season will be over by August 1.  Individual deer flies live for only 3-4 weeks.  I don't know if our season is typically eight weeks long because adult deer flies keep emerging every day for four weeks, or if because a crop of adults emerge during week #1 and then another crop (a different species) emerges during week #4.  In either case, the eight-week length of our deer fly season has been very consistent and predictable over the past 22 years, regardless of weather conditions or how many deer flies we have during any given summer.  We are already noticing that this season is approaching its end, because during the past week I have "only" caught 150-250 deer flies each day.  Hooray!  Serenity now!!

What Else Will You Catch?

Using my Deer Fly Trap Umbrella on our property has resulted in the virtually exclusive trapping of deer flies.  I caught one horse fly this year (we have very few horse flies to begin with) and two dragonflies (I felt bad about that because I love dragonflies and also because they are natural predators of deer flies).  Other than those three "accidents", I have caught nothing but deer flies (as of this posting I have caught 12,500 deer flies so far during the 2012 deer fly season here in Michigan).

I'll be posting my final trapping data for the 2012 season once the deer flies are completely gone.  Like I said, I'm predicting that will be by August 1.  I hope nature doesn't prove me wrong!

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