Something was missing at the Missouri State Fair this year and missing afterward also — flies. The winged tormentors were AWOL due to a tiny winged insect called a fly predator who nipped them in the bud right at the source, by destroying fly pupa in livestock droppings and other decaying matter.
Each year after the fair, Pittsburgh Corning’s Sedalia facility across from the fairgrounds found themselves inundated with hordes of flies. This year, thanks to the ingenuity of their senior programmer/analyst Gregg Haverly and Jeff Brandt, their engineering supervisor, the annual flies will fly no more.
The men released 1 million predators before the fair began and another 1 million at the midpoint of fair activities.
The small, but deadly, fly predators are packaged as pupa in cedar shavings, 50,000 to a bag. They were purchased through Spalding Laboratories in Reno, Nev. The insects are related to the wasp but do not sting and look like tiny winged ants.
“They lay their larvae exclusively on fly pupa,” Haverly said. “So it gets the fly at the source, you kill the pupa, no flies. They have about a 150-foot range so we try and set them down where there’s going to be poo. All the different areas around there, and they’ll hatch out and just immediately start looking for fly pupa. And, so far, when I’ve walked the fair a couple days ago it didn’t seem like there were a whole lot of flies out.”
It was Haverly who received the scoop on the tiny winged lord of the flies.
“It was my recommendation, actually,” he said. “I’ve used them for years at my house. I had a lot of success.”
He added that since Pittsburgh Corning is right across the street they received the “brunt” of the fly invasion every year.
“So we thought let’s see what we can do to help ourselves plus help the fair people,” he added.
Releasing the additional 1 million predators last Wednesday was what Haverly called the “prime time” to kill off the fly population.
“Technically they are like the smallest member of the wasp family,” Haverly said. “But they are biteless and stingless. The common name is fly predator but there’s about four different species that fit in that family and they have like really long names.”
With names like Muscidifurax raptorellus, Spalangia cameroni, Spalangia endius and Muscidifurax zaraptor, these bad-boy, lord of the flies mean business.
“I can tell you last year it was bad,” said Brandt about the flies at Pittsburgh Corning. “Every year it’s bad. I was out with one of our maintenance guys and he was in an electrical panel. He was sweaty, and he was hot and he was covered with flies. It was just dangerous to have him in that panel and have all these flies bothering him.”
“This year we haven’t seen any flies whatsoever,” Haverly added.
“It usually leads into about the week of the fair and about three weeks after,” Brandt said.
“That’s why it’s so important to do this now,” Haverly added.
“And it doesn’t do anything to live flies,” Brandt said.
Haverly said that his brother, Mark Haverly, the CIO at State Fair Community College, said they also have had a fly problem in the past after the close of the MSF.
“He was real happy to find we were doing this,” he added.
Last Wednesday, Brandt and Haverly spent the afternoon sprinkling the fly predator egg casings around the perimeter of the Sheep Pavilion, the Swine Pavilion and the MSF horse stables.
“Over the next couple days they will hatch out,” Brandt said. “The females will go and immediately lay eggs in any kind of fly casings that they find. One of the issues is, they only travel about 150 feet from where you disperse them. So it’s real important to get them out on the fairgrounds and spread them around.”
“And we need to cover a lot of the fairground because flies have about a mile and quarter range,” Haverly added. “So you’ve got to make sure you’re covering the area.”
The men added that many of those working with livestock are familiar with fly predators.
“In fact when we were here the first time, I had one of the people who was getting ready for the fair and setting up, she saw me dispersing them and she yelled out, ‘fly predators,” Haverly said. “She was like, ‘Yeah!’ She knew what they were.”
“We were putting the first ones out and one of the pest control people came to our plant,” Brandt said. “And I said don’t be scared by these. I started talking to him about it, and he said that he could watch over the fair, and the week of the fair every restaurant up and down here (on U.S. Highway 65) will be calling him to come and spray for flies. He said he’ll watch and by about three weeks, it’s out by TT highway by the nursing home. They’re calling him. He said its the same way every year, he can just watch it expand.”
“They reproduce and they keep expanding like a wave,” Haverly added. “But we’re going to kill the wave this year.”
“Get ‘er done before it starts,” Brandt added. “I hope it works.”