Here come the goats, there goes the neighborhood!

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My neighbors bought three goats last fall. Well, this spring I have hundreds of big black flies just sitting all over the siding at the south end of my house, which points in the direction of those goats. How do I make the neighbors get rid of the goats? I don’t want millions of flies from these animals on my property all year. I am going to talk to them.

I am detecting that the first shot in the Hundred-Year Neighbors War is about to be fired.

Before you appear on their doorstep filled with righteous indignation, be aware that the goats are not the problem. These are not houseflies or stable flies. The house sitters are called cluster flies. They have nothing to do with goats or manure. These flies spend the winter as adults, tucked under the siding or in the wall void or attic. When the sun shines on the walls and warms the area, they crawl out. They are slow and sluggish after hibernating all winter.

Cluster flies have an interesting life cycle. The flies will sit for a period of time and then fly away to mate. Eggs are laid in earthworm tunnels and their larvae become parasites of earthworms.

All the adults feed on is pollen and nectar from flowers. In the fall, with the first cold nights and warm days, the flies start looking for an overwintering place. There could be three or four generations a year. No livestock was involved in the completion of this life cycle. Cluster flies are the first out of hibernation in the spring. Houseflies, stable flies and others will be along later.

If the cluster flies are really bothering you, your can suck them up with a shop vacuum. Empty the canister into a container you can seal. Then throw it away or open the lid a bit and pour in soapy water. Let them marinate for a day or two before pouring out the formerly living things.

If you spray pesticides on the siding, it may discolor it. The flies may not die because they are just coming out of dormancy and do not react to pesticides like they do when they are active.

Your fly problem has more to do with a good population of earthworms than goats next door.

I have one big planter in front of my house and I always put annual flowers in it. I plant them and water them and fertilize them with an organic fish emulsion fertilizer. Then, that night or soon after, all of the plants get tossed out on the ground, but are not eaten. I replant them and water them and fertilize them and they all get chucked out again. How do I get the plants to stay when I plant them?

You do this by not sending your critters an engraved invitation to dinner.

It may be hard to believe, but fish emulsion fertilizer smells like rotting fish. Any hungry raccoon is going to keep digging in that planter until the fragrant fish are unearthed. Raccoons are always hopeful. This is why the plants are not damaged. They are just in the way to the potential fish reward under them.

If you are going to plant again this year, it is going to be necessary to change a few things. Keep in mind that animals can smell things that you cannot. There may still be Essence of Carp wafting about. Plant and water but skip the fish fertilizer forever. Use something else. When you are done planting, use chicken wire or hardware screening and put it around the planter like a cylindrical fence. Keep the bums out. Wait several weeks.

Before you remove the fence, mulch the soil surface around the plants with several inches of woodchips. It’s not fun to dig in woodchips. You could try animal repellants but they might not work. Physically blocking them will be more successful.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles
Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.