Fly Dope

OK people, if you’re not from Maine, perhaps you might call it insect repellent, bug spray, or maybe “Off”.  Where I grew up it is called “Fly Dope”.

When I moved from Maine to Ohio in early July of 1997 I was standing outside talking to one of my new neighbors. It wasn’t the first time we had talked outside, but I did notice (perhaps because she was more comfortable with me after a few conversations) that she was staring at me rather oddly and having trouble paying attention to what I was saying.  Finally she summoned her bravery and asked, “Why are you waving your hands around your head while you’re talking to me?”  I literally couldn’t stop laughing when I realized there were no bugs around my head. And I hadn’t put on any fly dope either.

We called it the bug wave.  If you weren’t getting a good breeze off the lake, and you wanted to be outside between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, you needed to master the bug wave.  And you needed fly dope.

Why is it called “fly dope”? Well there’s this ridiculously effective, horrible smelling stuff that has been around a long time.  Turns out you can still purchase it!  The complete name of the product is “Ole Time Woodsman Fly Dope”.  I’m not sure it still contains all of the original  ingredients (I’m thinking creosote was one of them). However, if you read the reviews as most of us do these days, you’ll see that people think it still works even though it also still smells bad.  I’m planning to buy some soon, so that I can show people in Ohio that there really is such a thing, and that my Mum didn’t make this one up.

You know how a lot of people call facial tissues Kleenex?  Well, Kleenex is a proprietary eponym………. just googled that and I am feeling rather smart right now.  (Google has become a proprietary eponym verb kind of word, right?)  A Mainer’s proprietary eponym for “insect repellent” is “Fly Dope”.

Even bug season (yep, bug season is really a term) is still a wonderful time to be in Maine. If I only have a week or two to go back would I go between Memorial Day and Fourth of July? Nope. What bugs am I actually talking about? I bet you assumed I was talking about mosquitoes.  Wrong.

They are called black flies. I still remember living in New Mexico in the 70’s, and horrifying a rancher who had just killed a couple of rattlesnakes by telling him about black flies in Maine. Even after being away for 20 years, I still can barely talk about black flies. I suggest you google it if you really want to know more.  🙂

And if you do go to Maine between Memorial Day and Fourth of July, get some Ole Time Woodsman Fly Dope. Then pitch your tent on the shore of the lake, hope for a good breeze and pray that maybe you get to see this:


9 thoughts on “Fly Dope

      1. I’m jealous – I lived in the northern hemisphere for several years but never saw the northern lights. Now back in New Zealand we can see the southern lights from the very south of the South Island but I’ve never seen that either. It has always fascinated me – an amazing playing of colour and movement and forms which dance so beautifully for those who will watch!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I TOTALLY relate to the dread of the black fly. That’s why we don’t go to our cottage in Canada until mid to late June and then we aren’t always free of them.

    The Fly Dope, however, is a new one! :0) We use head nets and Deet.


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