The nightmare on Hyde Park Road
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
Lou Taylor and his wife Laurene moved into Harrogate North - 55-and-over community on the outskirts of Landenberg -- in 2007, and for the first three years on Hyde Park Road, life couldn't have been more perfect.
For the Taylors, moving to Harrogate North was the right move -- a comfortable and close-knit neighborhood of active seniors, complete with a resplendidly-appointed "clubhouse," and close to their son and daughter in Delaware, as well as a quick drive from Laurene's family near Honey Brook.
In 2010, the Taylors began to detect the appearance of a particular kind of insect throughout their home. Curious to find out what was happening, Taylor sent samples of the insect to a Chester County environmental agency, who identified the insect as a fungus gnat. The insects wouldn't go away, however, and from the months of September to the time the first frost would arrive in December, the Taylors avoided their home whenever they could. The flies had invaded thier home, and they still had no answers. In 2013, Taylor sent more samples to sent samples to an environmental engineer at Penn State, who identified them as phorid flies.
"He asked me, 'You're close to mushroom houses?'" Taylor said. "I told him that I was. And he told me, 'That's probably where they're coming from.'"
Within weeks of his conversation with the engineer, Taylor had another exterminator double verify what he and Laurene already knew: that the insects were phlorid flies. They put bleach and boiling, hot water down in all of their home's drainage areas, in an effort to hold the insects back, but no matter what stop-gap solutions the Taylor's did, the insects kept coming, every year, in swarms so thick that they were clearly visible from the home.
In 2014, a plumber resealed what he could throughout the Taylor home.
"Then he went into the attic, and when he came back down, he had this look of horror on his face," Taylor said. "He looked at me, and said, 'There are millions of them in your attic.' I went up to the attic to see it all for myself. He was right."
In 2010, the Taylors were the first residents to report an infestation of the phorid fly. In a recent survey taken of Harrogate North residents, nearly all homeowners hav reported a problem.
If there is an elected offical or environmental group whose responsibility it is to oversee the health and welfare of the citizens of southern Chester County, chances are that they have received a letter or a phone call from Taylor: State Senators Andy Dinniman and Chris Ross, the Department of Environmental Protection in Philadelphia, New Garden Township -- the list is long and the leters and phone calls have not ended.
Sometimes, Taylor feels as if he has been the lone voice of a community that has been terribly reticent to speak up about what many feel is a problem not of health and safety, but one of embarassment. On many mornings, he visits the nearby Hockessin Starbucks, laregly because it's a place to go to that allows him to leave the infestation behind for an hour or so. Recently, Taylor saw that one of his Harrogate North neighbors had been frequenting the same coffee shop.
"So I asked him, 'Why are you here every morning? It's the bugs, isn't it?'" Taylor said. "He answered me, 'Yes. My wife is home, crying.' I then asked him 'Then why haven't you said anything about it?' I have a problem with that.
"The problem is that you need to organize the people to be able to do anything, and our problem has been there's only voice hollering - me -- and that's not going to work," he said. "I was a production manager for 36 years, so you could say that I've had a target on my back all of my life, but you're not going to rattle me, and if something's wrong, I am going to mouth off."
While he and Laurene wait in hope that the solution to the infestation that has enveloped their home and their community, they live a life largely in the dark from September through December. They keep the lights off and the shades pulled down. Every morning, they eat a quick breakfast and stay out all day, either at the Newark Senior Center, or with their son or daughter.
"Then at the end of the day, we come back, and we vaccum up the flies that have accumulated," Taylor said. "Then we go to sleep and wake up, and vaccum up the flies the next morning that have accumulated the night before, all over again. We do that nearly every day.
"I am 75 years old, and my family has a life span of about 80 years," Taylor added. "If I have to spend the next five years of my life killing flies, there's something wrong with that."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.