Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

Shoo Fly

by cathym on September 9, 2018

by Cathy Monrad

This summer we had an unusual number of flies congregating near our back door. In my search for a homemade fly repellent, I found solutions that included spraying pine scented cleaner, burning coffee grounds, and inserting whole cloves into lemon halves, all of which are purported to offend the olfactory systems of these annoying insects.

One method utilized in Latin America seemed ridiculous to me, but I gave it a go since I had the materials on hand: Place three to five pennies in a plastic zipper bag, fill it halfway with water, then hang outside where the problem occurs.

Surprisely, it worked! But the execution wasn’t pretty—definitely not up to “Crafty Cathy” standards. Additional research uncovered that using an incandescent light bulb with tubes and filaments removed also works—and it looks trendy. I chose to hunt for a bulbous vase instead, and my shopping excursion netted a cool find: a light bulb–shaped glass jar.


Check out this post on the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation site: www.tnfarmbureau.org/pennies-bags-water-make-flies-flee


1 small bulbous vase or jar*
3 or 4 pennies
20 gauge wire
S hook
Clear fishing line (optional)

Needle nose pliers
Wire cutter
Scissors (optional)
Drill and a 1∕16 inch bit (optional)

* Make sure the neck of vase is large enough to fit a penny through. If you decide to use an old light bulb instead, there are tutorials on the Internet showing safe removal of incandescent bulb insides.


1. Use needle nose pliers to bend wire into a nearly closed loop.

2. Hold loop in place and wind wire around vase. Slip wire through open loop and bend upward.

3. Create a looped wire handle, then cut and slip the end under wire as shown.

4. Use pliers to create a second loop. If desired, go on to steps 5 and/or 6 before completing project. To finish, fill vase with water nearly to top, add three pennies, then hang from desired location with S hook.

5. Optional: Wrap wire around top of vase. Create an unclosed loop of wire and hook it on loop created in step 1. Wrap as desired, finishing near starting point. Cut wire then slip the end through the first loop and bend backward.

6. Optional: Suspend a penny. Drill a hole in a penny as shown. Thread fishing line through hole and tie. Lower penny into vase to desired location, then tie other end of fishing line to one side of wire handle created in step 3.


Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and the self-proclaimed garden crafter for the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.


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