Boatyard Pests

To the uninitiated, my title of boatyard pests might seem to refer to the two-legged variety that makes life hard for folks just interested in getting on with prepping their boat for the water. But no, it refers to insects.

Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life not thinking about Greenhead flies. But working one summer in a boatyard here in Massachusetts put me wise to the facts: they won’t go away on their own. For those not from coastal areas infested with Greenheads, I can personally assure you that No-see-umms, Blackflies, and Mosquitos are benevolent neighbors to have. As you drive along the coastal roads, you might notice the big black wooden boxes on poles in the marshes. Those boxes trap and control the population; greenheads are not too susceptible to chemical controls. They seem to laugh them off and get back to the serious business of bitting you.

The female Greenhead has a mouth designed to take a divot out of your leg and suck the blood with pleasure. The fly will shrug off a hit, swat, and slam. As my co-worker, David informed me: ” you can’t be too nice to them; try to brush them off, and they just get mad.” He then showed me the certified effective manner of disposing of one as it lands on you. You grab it, roll it between your fingers, crush it and drop it, leaving the corpse as an example to its siblings. You may be queasy about the crushing part, but I assure you that these large horse flies are hard to kill, and after you have several nasty and painful divots cut into arms and legs, the desire to be benevolently human to your fellow-creature fades.

I had wondered for a while why a boatyard would stock an entire case of spray-on oven cleaner – name brand at that. David informed me that it was ” the best way of loosening up old crudded on varnish.” Applied liberally, then left for several hours and then rinsed off, it does make old varnish easier to scrape off. But there is a second use for it. It’s an effective means of terminating the odd yellow jacket colony hidden beneath the seat of a boat you need to clean up. Not much hurts, like getting stung a dozen times by yellow jackets out for a junket and feeling mean. Spray that nest down with oven cleaner, run like hell and watch the fun. Reapply as needed.

There’s a lot to be said about getting along with other creatures. But greenheads and yellow jackets are the psychopaths of the insect world. Go figure!


In our house, I cook the Holiday meals. My wife works nights, and it would be brutal to expect her to prep a feast right afterward. So I cook. But there can be some significant planning obstacles.

The obstacles are our cat Xenia and dog, Sam. They don’t consider themselves obstacles. They see it as supervising the main event of fall, Turkeylurkey Day – a term they know well. They ensure that everything from a cheese and crackers board served at noon to the turkey and dessert get sampled for Quality Control.

The Bird:

Prepping requires all the grace of a professional dancer. You weave and twist among the cat and dog. They are footloose between your feet until the bird is in the oven. They may leave the kitchen at that point, but they don’t travel far. After cooking the bird, they assume worshipful positions by the cutting board. The small scraps belong to them as their due.

The Meal:

Only human family members are allowed in the dining room. That does not stop Xenia and Sam from “passing through” from the kitchen to the living room. A few calculating looks get tossed at the area under the table…just in case something needs a fast and efficient cleanup.

The Cleanup:

A full crew of humans and the two supervisors fill the kitchen. As the bird gets stripped for leftovers, the supervisory staff gets competitive as scraps get tossed or fall from the cutting board. Careful strategy is needed to maximize your haul at this point. Sibling rivalry is on full display.


How could I forget the year Louis, my youngest, made an incredible pumpkin pie? As it cooled, we watched a movie. The chief of quality control, Xenia, sampled the pie. Luckily she was uninterested in the apple pan dowdy I had made. The dog’s only interest was in the rum-soaked fruitcake. All the crumbs that fall belong to him.

After the feast, everyone reflects on what they have to be thankful for. Xenia and Sam, sleeping it off under the table, are dreaming of Christmas – next on their schedule.

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