The flies were so thick in the house that I gave up yelling at the kids to shut the door.
Instead, I hoped the principle of osmosis applied to flies, too, and that they would diffuse outside where they were far less concentrated.
The fly situation was so extreme that a rare houseguest commented: “I hear there are more flies this summer…” the end of the sentence drifting into a vague, unspoken suggestion.
Our once-monthly housecleaner helpfully informed me, “They have fly paper at the hardware store.”
“I tried to buy some,” I told her, “but the product was so new they couldn’t ring it up and I had to leave it at the cash register to get to school pick-up on time.”
I silently vowed to make another trip.
Meanwhile, I fostered my toddler’s newfound love of playing weapons by vacuuming flies off the ceiling as they slept.
“We got another one!” I cackled, relishing each small victory.
The vacuum cleaner was a new acquisition, and I’d kicked our useless cordless one to the curb with a free sign.
I felt like Donna Reed. I could finally vacuum! I’d done all the laundry (except the waiting pail of diapers), and gotten the washer fixed. Now I was going to get rid of these dang flies. A domestic goddess, that’s me.
Post-hardware store, flypaper in hand, it was time to start hanging the twirly toxic strips.
But first, I decided to load those diapers.
They’d been sitting in the pail for at least six weeks, blessedly odor-free, waiting for the washing machine to stop blinking its “F you” message.
It was time.
A couple of clean diapers in hand, I hoisted the pail to the laundry room. I took all the towels off the floor so I could position the pail right next to the front-loader. This would be the washer’s inaugural wash, post-repair.
Lifting the lid, expecting a wave of ammonia, I was pleasantly surprised to smell… nothing.
With the clean diapers, I scooped diaper after diaper into the washer, grateful they were all poop-free.
But I was not to be disappointed. Finally, toward the bottom, a soiled diaper.
“What’s this?” I thought. “Does poop dry up into flakes when it sits that long? Weird.”
I shook out the diaper and threw it in the wash. Did the same to a cover, then loaded the rest, grateful for so little poop and no smell (!), and set the washer to Kid Wash, Auto Soak, Steam Sanitize, Extra Rinse.
Then I took the pail back to the bathroom to shake out the poop-flakes into the toilet.
I looked a little closer? “Huh. Is this rice? Did rice just go through his system and dry up?”
Then realization dawned.
It was larvae. Fly larvae.
As confirmed by a quick Google search.
That’s where all the flies came from. Shit.
Gagging, I hoped and prayed the washer would get rid of all the larvae that had made it into the machine.
The house began to smell like baby fly death. A disturbing, indescribable smell, tinged with iron.
As I hung the fly paper throughout the house, determined to GET RID OF ALL THE FLIES, once and for all, I cursed myself for my lax housekeeping.
An hour into the wash… beep! beep!
It was the “clogged drain” message (F21) that I knew so well. The washer didn’t even make it through one load post-repair.
But I knew what needed to be done–I remembered what the repair person had done the first time we got the washer fixed. We had to remove the front, bottom panel and clear out the drain.
With trepidation, I opened the washer door, expecting to see a swamp of larvae. I lifted each diaper out of the barrel, back into the pail.
No larvae. Whew!
“Did they clog the drain?” I wondered. “Is the drain full of dead larvae?”
And then: “What’s this? Shredded diaper wipes? It would be this load of diapers that had diaper wipes, falling apart, clogging up the works. Dammit.”
I pulled out the fibers… more and more of them.
“Ohhhhh…” Realization dawned again.
“These aren’t wipes. These are diapers that have fallen apart. The flies must have eaten through them. Ugh.”
Kneeling on the laundry room floor, assessing the disaster, I heard my husband walk in the backdoor.
I stuck my head around the corner, calling, “Guess what?!”
Simultaneously, he asked, “What’s that smell?” And then, he complained: “Fly paper? I hate fly paper?”
“WELL, I HATE FLIES!!!” I finally lost my composure.
“And I’m NOT in the MOOD to discuss the fly paper! I need your help.”
“Oh boy,” he breathed out, surveying the scene.
I’d been trying to use an IKEA hex screwdriver to remove the screws that held the panel over the filter, but it wasn’t long enough and it was a tight space.
My husband, who’d warned me while we were dating, that he “wasn’t handy,” left for the hardware store to buy a special, long-handled screwdriver.
“Get chlorine bleach too,” I texted after him, realizing our hippie, oxygen-based bleach wasn’t going to cut it.
Now it was his turn to kneel on the laundry room floor.
He got the panel off.
Too late, we realized a flood of water would rush out. I threw in all the towels, thinking I should have just left them on the floor.
“Here’s the problem,” he said, satisfied.
The cone-shaped drainage screen was wrapped round and round in a tangle of diaper shreds.
Somehow, there were no larvae. Relief!
My husband fixed the washer. “And you claimed you weren’t handy! Oh, I’m so impressed! Hooray!” I heaped on the praise.
Manly work accomplished, he started to head outside, hands full of towels…dripping towels.
“Stop!” I exclaimed, horrified.
“That’s poop and dead larvae water! Wait!”
I ran to the kitchen to grab a couple of inadequate cookie sheets to put under the dripping towels.
Towels outside, I bleached the floor. Then I ran the cleaning cycle, with bleach, three times. The dead larvae smell finally cleared away.
That evening, I washed the diapers–repeatedly–with bleach. They had never been so clean.
And a few short days later, there were no more flies.