Officials say flies fleeing in Bachmans Valley area


Flies will return to Bachmans Valley this summer, but the swarms won't be as thick as last year, officials at a nearby egg farm promised yesterday.

"My wife and I, we just have our fingers crossed," said Joseph L. Wood, who lives about a quarter-mile from County Fair Farms, which many blamed for much of a fly problem in 1994. "It was unbearable last year. We did not go in our swimming pool one time last summer."

Farm owner Donald Lippy said he and his three partners have spent $85,000 to $90,000 to make changes to try to eliminate the fly problem. He said he hired Dann Snyder as the complex manager this month because Mr. Snyder helped solve a fly problem at an egg farm in Lancaster County, Pa.

"Hopefully, this year will be a better year for everybody involved," said Mr. Snyder, the farm's liaison with neighbors. "Next year will be an excellent year."

The egg farm, which houses a half-million chickens and produces 11.5 million dozen eggs a year, has drawn flies since it opened in 1992 in the 600 block of Bachmans Valley Road.

Last summer was the worst yet; some neighbors said the flies made them prisoners in their homes.

Carroll County Health Department officials found that the nearby George Mullinix egg farm in the 500 block of Saw Mill Road also contributed to the problem.

Yesterday, County Fair Farms officials wanted to show the changes they had made to neighbors, health officials, county commissioners and a Cooperative Extension Service agent. About 15 people attended the two-hour tour.

Lee Hellman, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland College Park who has visited County Fair Farms several times, said "a lot of mistakes were made in the beginning."

But the company is ahead of where it was this time last year, he said.

The problem has been with two of the four chicken houses because the drainage system was built differently in those, Mr. Lippy said. Two houses have been dry from the beginning and have not contributed to the fly problem, he said.

Water that accumulated under the cement floors of the other two houses led to the fly problem, he said.

The chickens are housed in cages stacked in a pyramid so that manure drops to the floor. When the manure dropped on wet floors, fly larvae flourished.

Mr. Lippy had spread the manure on his grain and vegetable fields in the area.

County Fair Farms installed a drainage system and electric fly catchers and now runs fans 24 hours a day in the manure pit to keep it dry, Mr. Lippy said.

Mr. Snyder is using bugs -- mites, beetles and wasps -- to eat the eggs and larvae before they reaches the fly stage.

"They're headed in the right direction," said William F. Gimpel Jr. of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Mr. Gimpel said he visits the farm at least once a month. The farm's goal is to treat the fly problem without chemicals, he said.

Mr. Snyder said neighbors might find some the imported beetles at their homes, but added that the pests are easier to get rid of than flies. Neighbors of the farm can use a garden hose to shoot water at the beetles, he said.

Yesterday, more flies were outside the chicken houses than inside.

Linda Lewis, who owns a horse farm with her husband, Norm, in the 400 block of John Owings Road, asked where the insects were coming from.

Mr. Snyder said he wasn't sure, but speculated that the smell of the manure being pushed out of the houses by the fans might be attracting flies.

"We cannot be fly-free," he said.

"You guys planned on having flies," Mrs. Lewis said. "We didn't."

Jim Finley, a John Owings Road resident who organized neighbors last summer to try to solve the problem, said conditions have continued to improve in the area.

Mr. Finley attributed the problems to "growing pains" at the farm.

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