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  • Writer's pictureBill Greider

Applying some Six Sigma to my War vs. the Deer Flies

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

Can't say I have any enemies at all on this planet. Just don't.

Well, except one. My property is surrounded by woods on three sides. Starting in mid-May, it is impossible to walk to get the mail without being harassed by Tabanas libeola or more commonly known as the friggin deer fly. They are relentless, fast flying vampires. They team up in packs of 4 or 5 and will land on your face, neck, arms, or whatever else is exposed. When you swat them, they just find another landing spot. A simple stroll to the mail box evolves into arms flailing and cursing at these predators. On my tractor, I steer with one hand, flailing non-stop with the other.

A few years ago, I researched how to rid the planet (at least my property) of these low lifes. Someone posted a solution I thought I'd try. Start with a ski pole. Cut a hole in a BLUE solo cup and put the pointy end of the ski pole through the hole. These degenerates love the color blue. Then attach a fly strip to the pointy end and let it hang over the BLUE solo cup. Hold the pole up over your head and walk (or drive around like that).

I call this fly fishing. Fish daily for 2 or 3 weeks, and the deer flies have no blood to bring back to the nest. You see fewer and fewer and eventually none.

Being the lean/six sigma guy, I want to optimize the number of deer flies captured so I don't need to do this silly routine for 2 or 3 weeks. Like fishing, there were times when I got skunked-30 minutes of work, no flies. Other times I would get 7 or 8 in 10 minutes.

y=(f)x is a cornerstone of six sigma. If I control the vital few variables (x), then I can control my y (not getting bit). It took me awhile to understand all of the critical x's that impact how many flies I can catch in a given time spent walking or driving with a solo cup over my head. Here are the critical x's:

  1. Time of day-more flies in the afternoon?

  2. Weather-more flies when it is hot

  3. Colors I am wearing-if I wear blue or gray, the flies don't go to the solo cup, they come at me!

  4. Pace I'm moving-more swarm when moving slowly. More than when stopped.

  5. Height I am holding the cup over my head-what is the right height? What height gets the little monsters attention?

Believe it or not, these 5 inputs will impact the number of flies/minute I "catch"(kill, not release). If I walk at 1.1 steps per second with my cup fully extended over my head between 3 pm and 5 pm in the afternoon when the temperature is >81 wearing a white hat and shirt will yield y=just over 1 fly per minute.

Lesson learned: If I had pulled together a few people to help me with this "mission", it would not have taken me a few years to nail down the right process.

Disclaimer: Many, many flies were harmed in the production of this blog. If I messed up some sort of eco-system, my bad.

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Jun 30, 2020

Oh my! I must have a picture of you walking with your cup overhead. You might also want to consider adding what color blue to your variables. You are the best!

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