Moorabbin wins the fight against the fly

I was supposed to see a few during a guided tour that took me to a pigsty, barn, nursery, grocery store and a few private homes, but overall not as many as I’ve seen around a single town’s garbage cans restaurant.

And how did it come about?

It began in October 1961 when the State Health Department asked the Moorabbin City Council to cooperate on a campaign to study fly farming and advise on control measures.

Entomologists from the Ministry of Agriculture and experts from the Ministry of Health itself were asked for help.

The request was granted and work began immediately.


The FIRST problem was locating potential sources for fly farming – grocery stores, nurseries, nurseries, stables, poultry farms, and obnoxious businesses such as skinning yards, bone mills, garbage and night oil depots, and pig pens.

A cross-section of residential courtyards was also included in the inspection.

Certain expected conclusions were soon confirmed. Manure-strewn barns, poultry farms, pigsties, and a bone mill that spilled its “soup” in a paddock soon emerged as the main culprits.

Buyers of manure for garden use were also found to be delinquents, although they were innocent of bad practices. At one supplier, manure was being delivered from an unprotected dung heap that was teeming with fly larvae.

Wherever this product was delivered, it proved to be a source of fly infestation. The supplier was told to protect his dung from flies and the harassment stopped.

A milkman offered to concrete his stable yard and provide £7,000 in fly-proof manure bins. I visited his restored premises and, miraculously, despite the hot sun, there was no fly to be seen.

A pigsty was closed because it could not afford the cost of drainage and concrete work demanded by the council. The other one I saw had 80 pigs in closed stalls under a hot roof.

The sprayed concrete smelled almost nothing of animals, and I counted no more than a dozen flies.

The pigs in their clean straw grunted in apparently silent satisfaction.

THE Council soon found that one source of the infestation was the untidy backyards of grocery stores – shops or restaurants – where perishable food had been stuffed into inadequately protected bins.

Such persons were advised and, if necessary, warned. No more than two didn’t answer.

I was taken to a grocery store run by two older sisters, not physically strong you might think. Her backyard was an immaculately manicured garden with manicured lawns and flower beds. Garbage was out of sight in fly proof sheds.

They were among the many thousands caught in the strong tide of community pride as part of the council’s mass education program.

These were the obvious lines of attack in the fight against the fly. Tactics were much more difficult when Mr. Davies and his team worked to suppress fly breeding in apartment buildings.


The problem was so big in a city of 100,000 that education had to be the key. Inspection and warning could only be carried out over a small and random sample.

The Boy Scouts helped. Put a leaflet with the following information in every mailbox in the municipality:

“Always wrap rubbish in newspaper before throwing it in the bin.

“Make sure your trash can is in good condition and has a tight-fitting lid.

“Always wash your garbage can thoroughly when it’s emptied.

“Don’t let your incinerator become an open garbage can. Always completely incinerate each load of waste.

“Store manure in a covered container. Don’t stack it in piles.

“Sprinkle your garden lightly with manure so it dries out quickly.

“Compost heaps should be built in a way that promotes rapid rotting.

“Keep the poultry houses clean and let the chickens run in an enclosed yard.

“Keep grease traps clean.”

There is good evidence that households have responded well. In one house I visited, with a spotlessly clean backyard, there were no flies to be seen, either outside or inside, and no screens were needed on the windows.

Mr Davies, the Health Inspector at Moorabbin, had every reason to appear pleased with the results he had to submit to me, although he admitted he was somewhat taken aback by the bush fly’s separate problem.

The bush fly is that very small, troublesome creature that plagues people on the foreshore, in the scrubland, and even in suburban gardens.

Mr. H. Wilson, the entomologist who helped with the Moorabbin campaign, told me a little about him. It seems difficult to eradicate because too little is known about its breeding habits.


Fortunately, he is not, by and large, a carrier of disease, nor does he go indoors often. In short, he is not a threat – neither a symptom nor a carrier of dirt. He’s just an unbearable plague.

It is the housefly that threatens life and health. It is the vector of hepatitis, diphtheria, polio and a whole range of stomach diseases. In the house he is often not taken seriously enough.

Housewives with their fly-killing pressurized packs will hunt the great bluebottle because it is noisy and repulsive; but it is his cousin, the silent little black housefly, that they should fear.

He was the main target of the Moorabbin campaign and while it is too early to assess the results in terms of improved community health, there are some significant numbers.

One is the reduction in the number of hepatitis cases reported in the community by more than half over the past year.

Moorabbin was the spearhead. It is the health department’s hope that the entire state will follow suit.

dr RJ Farnbach, Deputy Director of the Department, told me that the lessons learned from Moorabbin have been shared with all communities with strong encouragement to implement them.

Perhaps it’s not too much to hope that, with time, Victoria will rid itself of flies like the people of the once-fly-ridden city of Beijing did. Moorabbin wins the fight against the fly

Callan Tansill

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