In 2020, a bizarre news story described a man in France who, while in pursuit of an annoying fly, apparently ignited leaking gas with a spark from an electric flyswatter and destroyed part of his home in the resulting explosion.
My mother also detested flies. While she wielded the traditional plastic flyswatter with laser-like precision, she was not opposed to emptying half a can of fly spray in the dining room, killing both the fly and our sense of taste with a cloud of insecticide.
The commercial flyswatter originated in 1900 when an Illinois man patented a consumer version. A Taiwanese inventor in the mid-1990s takes the credit for the high-tech electric swatter.
The wheel, the printing press, and the electric light bulb may be among humanity’s best inventions, but you can’t take down a single house bug with any of them.
Despite my mother’s aversion to fancy gadgets, when electric swatters became popular in the late 90s, I bought several and presented her with one for Christmas.
A simple device delivering up to 3,000 volts, the low current makes them harmless to humans (although they can deliver a surprising jolt). Shaped like a mini tennis racket, all you do is push a button on the handle and then make contact with the aerial invader. Zap! It plummets earthward on its scorched dying descent.
Mom toyed with her new device a few times that Christmas, but after accidentally zapping other family members, the shock was too much. So, we encouraged her to resume her traditional insect-massacring methods.
Although contemporary models include a safety mesh preventing human contact with the wiring, I continue to brandish my original electronic bug slayer with delight and still consider it one of the most ingenious household inventions.
I rarely use mine for flies, which only make sporadic appearances around mealtime. They have no taste for my cooking. But I have found the electric swatter quite helpful on larger airborne pests such as wasps, immobilizing them to make removal quite efficient. They are also effective on cockroaches, notoriously tricky to catch as they speed skate to elude capture.
Let’s suppose you’re fast enough and can always impede a roach’s progress with a regular flyswatter or another heavy weapon in hand. The pesky cockroach tends to explode when whacked, discharging a mass of insect entrails that can turn even the most robust stomach. But after one touch from the nifty zapper, the stupefied roaches can be quickly scooped up for disposal.
While bugs may be less common in December, that hasn’t prevented me from giving more of these electric wonders as Christmas gifts over the years. Except for my mother, most recipients have safely added them to their bug-fighting arsenal throughout the year.
We lost Mom some time ago, but she would have surely applauded that Frenchman’s dedication to fly eradication (while scolding his failure to recognize gas seepage). And if there were flies in heaven when she arrived, it’s a no-fly zone, now.
About the artist Shannon Parish:
Shannon is a creative life coach and retired minister. She created the original artwork for this story Learn more at www.shannonparish.com.