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Nature / SIC may take closer look at flies if they return in high numbers next year

SHETLAND Islands Council may look to carry “formal identification” on flies next summer if they return in high numbers in a bid to explore ways to tackle the problem.

Many local residents reported their houses being besieged by flies earlier this month, and it even caused the closure of the cafe at the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

It is not the first time flies have flocked indoors in numbers greater than usual, with the issue experienced in recent years too.

Gulberwick was one area hit by flies this summer and local community councillor Bob Skinley has been on the case to the council’s environmental health department.

He said it was now a “known problem” that needs dealt with. It has previously been suggested that the increase in flies could be related to the dump in Lerwick, but the council believes this year’s surge was not connected to waste.

Environmental health is now saying that if flies return en masse next year staff may look to have the flies properly identified to try to learn more about the creatures.

Team leader David Robertson also suggested that as the UK climate warms some insects appear to be gradually moving further north.

“Whether this particular fly phenomenon we have is climate change related or due to a preventable local issue that could be treated in some way, I am not sure at this point,” he said. “Hopefully we will find out in due course.”

But Skinley believes that by the time problem potentially re-emerges next year, it will be too late.

“My reasoning is that if we can quickly identify the flies concerned then we can then understand their life cycle – particularly their breeding cycle – and their preferred habitat and breeding locations, we can take effective, targeted control measures to prevent this from happening again,” he said.

“My feeling is that this has been happening for at least three to four years now and is therefore a known, recurring problem and it’s about time it was tackled.”

Skinley also said the impact on local businesses, such as on the Unken Kaffee at Sumburgh, is another reason why it needs a proactive approach.

Scottish Natural Heritage’s Jonathan Swale, meanwhile, was unable to offer any explanation about the increased number of flies.