It’s happened to all of us.
You set up a beautiful outdoor seating area complete with attractive table settings, comfortable chairs, some greenery and with ample staffing. And just as you’re seating your first guests, some uninvited party crashers show up.
These annoying insects that hover over or land on your careful crafted cuisine are the archenemy of outdoor diners and restaurants. Although it will probably be an ongoing war, because you can never completely eliminate flies, there are steps you can take to win many battles and prevent these pesky winged freeloaders from ruining the dining experience.
First, know thy enemy. There can be some confusion regarding what type of fly migrates to outdoor dining areas. Zack Lemann, who is a well respected entomologist for the Audubon Insectarium, says that the culprits are probably houseflies.
“That would be my first guess, because they are by far the most common.” Lemann says. “Although there are some Blow flies and flesh flies that may also go to fresh food.”
Lemann is familiar with a number of different approaches to thwarting house flies, but he says that he’s never seen a “highly effective means of keeping flies away from outdoor restaurants” And the old fill-a-bag full of water with a penny trick? He’s not aware of evidence favoring it. Lemann’s educated opinion jibes well with Cafe Degas Owner Jacques Soulas’ experience. Flies will come around no matter what, but there are ways to minimize their assaults.
Soulas reports that his restaurant’s tactics have evolved through the years, and though he refers to some of his observations as “non-scientific,” they do seem spot on. With the cafe’s proximity to the Fair Grounds Race Course (that’s the official name), Soulas and his staff notice an uptick in the fly population when the horses leave the fairgrounds in April to make way for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Cafe Degas has been around for decades, and Soulas did try the bag’o’ water to thwart the buzzing horde. It didn’t work so well, so like any enterprising restaurateur, he moved on to other means. Taking a page from his neighbors at the fairgrounds, he bought fly bags, which are also filled with water, but come with an aroma lure, which are commonly used in horse barns. The flys get trapped in the bags. Soulas puts the bags away from diners in the restaurant’s garbage area.
Closer to the diners, Soulas plays mind tricks on the flies. He employs small motorized fans with reflective materials that scare away flies because they think the reflections are predators. And Soulas also has a secret weapon: lizards.
“The lizards are very helpful,” Soulas says. “But they do sometimes miss their mark.”
Soulas didn’t import a lounge of lizards (yep, that’s the name for a group of lizards); they just showed up just like they do in many lush green areas like the one around Degas’ outdoor seating area. The staff has had their favorites over the years, and they even named one, “Charlie.” Another unscientific observation from Soulas? Green lizards are more interested in flies than brown lizards.
The bottom line is that you can take some effective measures against houseflies, and the combined effect should limit the population and let your diners enjoy an outdoor meal. And Lemann says with New Orleans' continued dry spell, there is one distinctive benefit.
“The severe drought we’re in is probably contributing to a low number of insects including flies.”