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Fly Wrangling

Updated on November 25, 2009

Kitty Fly Catcher

Children are rather morbid creatures when you pause to consider them…

The more grotesque and savage the object, the greater its fascination. Whether it’s a dinosaur from the Jurassic Age capable of spitting poisonous goo into your eyes before ripping out your lower intestine…or any creature that crawls, slithers, swims or flies…children naturally latch onto these freakish entities with a perverse intensity. As if the truly gruesome details associated with these creatures wasn’t horrifying enough, these cherubic little toddlers find it vastly entertaining to expound upon it using their own amazing capacity for imagination.

Which is why they’re convinced such monsters lurk beneath the bed or within the dark recesses of their closet, probably memorizing their scent from the clothes hanging there…the better to snuffle them out in the dark after you’ve left…


Not that I’ve ever been afflicted with such flights of fancy.*

*Author’s Note: Okay…this is a blatant lie. After seeing “Jaws” I was convinced that hanging my toes over the edge of my bed while I slept was probably not a good idea.

Dead Fly Humor

 In the light of day, things are a lot less scary and the monstrosities regain their proper proportions. They are, however, no less intriguing.

My own particular fascination was with bugs. Dinosaurs were cool…but the chances of being able to examine a Brontosaurus (my personal favorite) first hand were pretty slim. However, there were plenty of ladybugs, praying mantis, locusts, grasshoppers, worms, ants, katydids, walking sticks, butterflies, moths and daddy-long-legs to keep me busy. Usually, I could tell by the name whether or not a bug and I were going to have a painful relationship. Wassssssssssssp….Leeeeeeeeeeeech…see how they sound rather threatening? I realized the flaw in my thought process upon making the acquaintance of a rather large bumble bee. Somebody obviously thought it a grand joke to make a critter so fluffy and yellow like a baby duckling…but with no sense of humor whatsoever.

I liked to experiment with my bugs. How many butterflies does it take to fill a bedroom, what happens if you put a mess of ants in a pickle jar of sand…is a bumble bee trapped in an empty butter tub considered a musical instrument when shaken like a tambourine? Of course in order to find the answers to these burning questions, one must learn to catch the subjects.

Most were pretty easy to wrangle. Worms couldn’t exactly run away. The bugs that relied upon camouflage for protection never took into account the tireless scrutiny of a ten-year old. Fireflies, although more challenging, could be coaxed into a coke bottle while a praying mantis, with delusions of being more than a match for any interloper, could be tricked into placing a death grip on a twig only to be trotted off to the lab dangling in a rather undignified manner.

Nothing, however, required more hand to eye coordination though than the common house fly.

My older brother was quite adept at catching the loathsome little insects in one hand. His cruelty in experimenting with them knew no bounds. In a mild mood, he might just shake them up in his hand and then hurl them into space to watch them bump into things before righting themselves. In a churlish mood…he would remove their wings. I always knew when his temper was the foulest when I found little charred fly bodies adhered to the stove burners. My mother never could quite figure out what they were…but I knew.

Advanced Fly Catching Technique

Selfishly, my brother would not impart his fly-catching secrets to me. Sure, I could have taken out the fly swatter, stunned the little buggers and then hoped they regained consciousness so I could experiment…but most of the time I obviously didn’t know my own strength. Flies are interesting…smooshed bug guts not so much.

Luckily for me, my Uncle Moe came to visit with his family one weekend and took me under his wing. Just like Obi Wan Kenobi taught Luke to master the light saber, Uncle Moe patiently trained me in the ways of fly wrangling.

“Wait for it to land….wait….wait….” he softly spoke. “Now, cup your hand slightly and come around behind the fly…in its blind spot. Not to the side…not in the front…behind. Slowly, slowly….you don’t want to stir the air.”

My eyes were transfixed…my gaze traveling from the fly…to his hand…and the ever shrinking distance between the two.

“When you are about this close…you must move your hand swiftly…bring it forward, above the fly…just as he takes off.”

His hand was a blur as it shot forward. One minute the fly was there….and then it wasn’t. With a smile, Uncle Moe opened his hand and a very pissed off fly buzzed away from his palm. In childlike glee, I applauded him and then set off to practice catching flies.

I’m pretty good at it….even though I’m somewhat rusty.

Which brings us to the point of this entire tale…

“You aren’t doing it right,” my husband chided me. “You have to come from the top because the fly will take off and flies can only go straight up.”

I wasn’t quite sure where he obtained such faulty intelligence regarding the capture of house flies, but I decided to make a competition of it to prove that my method was far superior.

“Tell ya what,” I replied, “we’ll see who catches it first. If it lands on me…then I get to make the attempt. If it lands on you…then it’s your turn.”

So there we sat in our office chairs, two forty-something year old adults, waiting for a house fly to land on us. In my mind, I could hear Uncle Moe’s instructions…”Wait for it to land…wait…wait…for it.” I almost cheered when it settled down upon my bare thigh.

“Ooh…there it is!” Donnie exclaimed…his fingers itching to make an attempt despite the rules that had been agreed upon.

I snuck my hand behind the fly…closer…closer...

Without hesitation, I quickly scooped my hand forward, aiming slightly above the fly, making an educated guess regarding his trajectory.

“Did you get him?” Donnie said with only mild disbelief.

It was hard to tell…

I didn’t see a fly anywhere…and I was pretty sure that I felt something in my loosely balled fist. Could be a fly….could be my imagination.

“Yep!” I bluffed with a proud expression on my face.

With great pomp and circumstance, I triumphantly marched my closed fist to the back door, opened it and flung my hand out while opening it at the same time. To my amazement and relief…one rather pissed off fly was released back into the wild.

There are just some childhood skills that still come in handy.

Obama employs the hand-above-fly method


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    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      Ah, the fine art of fly catching. I am something of an expert. My Zen master didn't call me "Flycatcher" for nothing. I found that in N.Y., I could pluck a fly from mid-air with one hand, but when I traveled home to Missouri, could not pull this off. Simply put, the flies in N.Y. were slower. I guess because of the traffic exhaust. Who knows.

      Thanks for the memories!

    • Naomi R. Cox profile image

      Naomi R. Cox 

      9 years ago from Elberton, Georgia

      This is a great hub, spryte. It made me laugh thinking about pissed off flies. But I was never quite fast enough to catch one. Thanks for sharing your hub. I look forward to reading more.

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Misty: I will definitely have to check out your fly corpse hub...and perhaps forward it on to my brother. :) LOL!

      Nemingha: Where's the fun (and challenge) in that??? :)

    • Nemingha profile image


      9 years ago

      I think I shall stick to using fly spray!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Wow, you certainly came back with a bang spryte me old mate. Great hub that had me giggling all the way through it, (btw, have you read my hub on how to get rid of flies from your home without leaving corpses everywhere? I reckon you might appreciate it ;))

      Lovely to see you writing again:)


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