A couple of months ago, I had small flies in my house. Didn’t they know who I am?! I am the editor of a pest control magazine! I felt like Rodney Dangerfield. I was getting no respect.

For the life of me, I could not find the source of the flies. But that’s nothing new to you, right? There’s a reason articles about small flies are frequently titled “Small Flies, Big Problems.” Pest management is a tough job. Even when your staff does everything correctly, difficult infestations can sometimes persist.

When I started seeing the flies I assumed there was a rotten piece of fruit somewhere. So I put all the fruit that had been on the counter into the fridge. Still had flies. I scrubbed the garbage disposal and emptied the trash every night. No help. I checked the dog’s bowl and food storage. Nada. I looked under the sink for a leak. Nope. On the advice of Stoy Hedges, PCT’s technical adviser, I put glasses over the kitchen sink drains to see if I could catch any flies coming up. No luck. If they weren’t in the drains, where were they coming from?

Then, one night, I had a moment of brilliance. (Like many of you, since my family has been home most of the past nine months, we’ve done some home improvements. We’ve hung new pictures, took down the swing set in the backyard and removed an old sanitary tub out of our mudroom. We only used the tub for storage [hats, gloves and dog toys…isn’t that what you keep in your sink?] so it made sense to pull it out. To make better use of the space, we put in a storage cubby for coats, shoes and the kids’ book bags.)

What if the dried-out pipes from the sink had something to do with the flies? Even though we had capped them, I KNEW these pipes were the source. I KNEW IT. I was excited for my technician to come over so we could discuss my theory. Of course, I was most excited for him to confirm the source and eliminate the flies. I was really tired of smacking the counters day and night to kill them by hand. Great IPM…bad for the food on the counter.

My technician, who’s been treating our home for several years, arrived. I explained to him the failed drain trick and he inspected the kitchen thoroughly. I also showed him a napkin with my smushed fly, which he ID’d as a phorid fly. He explained about phorid flies and where they are most commonly found. Then I told him my theory. He headed into the mudroom and said that he did indeed see more flies in there than in the kitchen. He told me I needed to cap those pipes professionally since if there was still moisture in there they would attract flies. He applied an insecticide and told me to call him in a couple days if things weren’t better. I was ecstatic. I KNEW the flies were headed to their final resting place. YES!

Later that day when I got home from running a few errands, my son said, “Mom, we figured out where the flies were coming from.” I told him yes, our technician had come over earlier in the day to treat for them. “Nope,” he said.

Oh no.

My son had gone in the mudroom and smelled something funny. So after digging around, he called his sister in and together, they found the source. My daughter had left a lunch from her July summer camp in her backpack, which was hanging IN THE NEW CUBBY.

It was October.

They opened the book bag, saw hundreds of flies and larvae, and ran the entire thing — contents and all — to the trash can outside.

For almost four months, flies had been feasting on her rotting lunch just feet away from my kitchen. And I had missed it. Ugh. That’s the bad news. The good news was that we saw fewer flies in the kitchen almost immediately.

So what did I learn from all this? I learned that I was not the Sherlock Holmes that I previously thought. I learned the customer is not always right. (I actually did already know that…I just confirmed it to myself.) And I learned that my kids can sometimes be more observant than me. And that definitely deserves some respect.

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season. And as far as 2021, I am hoping we all have a better — and a fly-free — New Year!

The author is editor-in-chief of PCT.