Thunderflies are go

Lateral thinking paid off for Shropshire fireman Anthony Derricutt. Changing his cat's flea collar one day, he wondered whether such accessories might solve a seasonal problem at work.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Every summer, the station made numerous emergency call-outs in response to false alarms triggered by thunderflies (thrips), nestbuilding in automated smoke detectors. The problem had arisen in the '70s, when automatic fire detection systems were first installed in offices. Buildings close to cereal crops were colonised when the bugs fled the fields seeking shelter from the sun. Repeated evacuations cost firms thousands of pounds, and every call-out cost tax payers £300. The National Trust's Dudmaston Hall had five false alarms in just two days. If cat collars deter fleas, reasoned Derricutt, they'd do the same for thrips. He fitted 22 donated collars to fire alarms at seven thrip hotspots around the county last summer. The trial was 100% successful and 200 more collars will be installed this year. No flies on Derricutt, then.

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