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The town is buzzing after hearing that entomologists have discovered “coffin flies” in Saugus.
Tony Kiszewski, an entomologist and professor at Bentley University, was originally brought in to investigate the town’s fly issue as a part of a WBZ I-Team investigation, which was prompted when residents complained about the insects causing a nuisance on Pemberly Drive near Fiske Brook.
Town Manager Scott Crabtree stated that the town and the health department have been investigating this issue for about six weeks. The town started looking into the matter following the news report and has enlisted Kiszewski as a consultant.
“Any town issue like this is pretty serious,” said Crabtree. “We’re working with the state and obviously a consultant we have brought on board to help us assist in trying to identify the source of what’s creating this issue.”
A resident told WBZ-TV that they have found the flies — which go by multiple names including scuttle flies — in their food and drinks, and have even breathed them in while sleeping. The issue has been so dire that residents don’t even feel comfortable eating in their own homes.
As part of his investigation, Kiszewski took samples from residents’ homes and the brook. The fact that these flies are in Saugus caught the entomologist off guard because they are usually found in tropical climates, Kiszewski said.
“My first encounter with them was as a U.S. Navy entomologist working in Okinawa, Japan with the USMC’s 3rd Medical Battalion,” said Kiszewski. “I once discovered larvae and pupae of this species infesting ketchup bottles (in) a Marine mess hall on Camp Hansen. Their larvae can exploit a wide variety of substrates, but they are particularly well known for infesting animal carcasses and human corpses.”
Town Director of Public Health John Fralick mentioned that the area by the brook is a heavily-wooded area with “a high instance of coyote activity.” Fralick also told The Item that his department is looking for possible ruptures in sewer lines.
“We’re working very closely with the DPW (Department of Public Works) to verify no organic matter is leaking out of the sewers and we’re working on a plan of attack in terms of investigating the surrounding area, not just the brook now, to see if there’s any dead or rotten carcasses to speak of that might be causing it,” he said.
Fralick also stressed that the town’s health department is going “as fast as they can” to try to find a solution. He said the town has to identify and eliminate the source of the flies before releasing a timeline to the public detailing when the effects could possibly die down.
Residents should be on alert, Fralick said, explaining that Kiszewski has warned that the flies can cause “a heightened health risk.”
“Just in the fact that they can lay eggs in food and what-have-you and they can cause gastrointestinal distress and things of that nature,” said Fralick. “So, obviously this is a situation we’re trying to rectify as soon as possible and we empathize with the people it’s affecting.”