Sedlescombe History
The Fly


Transcript of inset in a 1916 Sedlescombe Parish Magazine


The information contained in this article was supplied by the National League for Physical Education and Improvement, which has also kindly allowed the illustrations to be reproduced. Suitable literature on the subject can be obtained from the League at a cheap rate, and the pamphlet on 'The house-fly as a Danger to Health', which can be obtained at the Natural History Museum, price 1d. is very instructive.

In an article that appeared lately in this magazine attention was drawn to the danger to the public health that arises from vermin at all times, and especially just now, when as experience teaches us, there is a danger of some great epidemic breaking out. If such a disaster were to happen, the situation would be very perilous, because so many doctors and nurses would be employed in caring for the wounded, and so unable to help the civil population. Of course private individuals would do their best. Mothers especially would fight for the lives of their children, sacrificing sleep and food, and counting no sacrifice too great.

Prevention better than Cure

But here, as everywhere else, prevention is better than cure. We pray in the Litany, 'From plague, pestilence and famine, Good Lord, deliver us'. But say it is 'in the air', so it is, the flies are carrying it about with them in the air. But quite apart from epidemics, thousands of deaths are caused every year by flies. In the extraordinarily hot summer of 1911 there were swarms of flies everywhere; there was also a remarkable increase in the deaths of children from summer complaints. The first was the cause of the second.

Not their Right Place

We must then kill as many flies as possible by means of fly-traps and such methods. All thought of kindness to animals must be banished: one would not be kind to a pack of wolves roaming the district. Nor must it be said 'No doubt they do some good or God would not have made them'. They may do good, it is true, as scavengers in their right place, but human habitations are not their right place. God intends us to do our own scavenging by means of active and intelligent human beings, and not to employ such a dirty and careless lot as the flies are. It is a mockery to ask God to help us, if we do not at the same time try to help ourselves. There is one very simple way of helping to prevent this evil and performing a patriotic duty to our country - namely the waging of war against flies. It is a little thing to ask. Our sailors and soldiers are fighting against the Germans, let those who stay at home fight against insects.

A Twofold Aim

The aim of home war is twofold, to kill as many flies as possible and to prevent new ones being born. The fly is a great enemy of mankind and must be exterminated as far as possible. If you look at a fly under a magnifying glass, you will notice (a) the legs covered with bristly hairs to which germs and filth cling; (b) the glue pads on the feet which may carry thousands of disease germs; (c) the trunk through which the fly sucks up filth, and vomits it back on our food.

Causes thousands of deaths

The fly goes everywhere, but prefers dirty places. When his legs and feet are smeared with dirt, then he comes and settles on our food, and in this way spreads disease. Sometimes there is a bad epidemic.

Preventive Measures

But more important than killing the flies is stopping their breeding. These are the rules:

Screen all food (especially milk) and remove all scraps and crumbs from the table immediately after every meal.

Do not place any animal or vegetable refuse in a dust-bin, as flies breed in this; always keep the dust-bin covered and its contents dry.

Burn all animal and vegetable refuse and tea leaves in the kitchen fire.

Do not allow any accumulation of dirt or rubbish to remain about the house or yard.

In tropical countries the insect plague is far worse than in England, but fever has been almost stamped out in places by draining the swamps in which the mosquitoes breed and excluding them from the houses by netting. In the same way, a great improvement might take place in the health of the British nation, if people generally would act upon the information given them by the health authorities."


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