Nobody likes flies, except for maybe a hard-core entomologist. But even insect-enthusiasts get overrun with the buzzing pests from time to time and find themselves wondering how to get rid of flies.
Those airborne nuisances get into just about everything. They love flitting back and forth between food and trash, and yet they and seem to have a supernatural ability to avoid getting flattened by a swatter.
Fortunately, there are better ways of dealing with flies. The two main categories of how to get rid of flies are repellents and traps. Here, we'll lay out our favorite of these methods for how to get rid of flies. We’ll list the repellents and traps we find most useful in dealing with insects.
FAQ | Flies
To understand how to get rid of flies, one must understand flies. The insects belong to the order Diptera, which use a single pair of wings to fly, possess multifaceted compound eyes and prefer to eat decaying food. An estimated one million species of flies exist in the order Diptera, but the common housefly (Musca domestica) is the center of our focus, as it is the type most commonly encountered in human living quarters.
Flies lay their eggs in organic matter that has begun to decay such as food, waste, carrion or feces. (We will explore how to use their attraction to fermentation against them later in this article.) These eggs hatch into maggots (which are possibly even less fun to find an infestation of than the flies themselves).
Once the maggots have eaten enough of the temporary home they were placed in (usually about 2 to 5 days) they begin their process of metamorphosis. First, they become rust-colored pupae, and then the pupae hatch into adult flies after maturing. This period can be as short as 2 to 6 days if it is suitably warm or as long as 20 days or more if it is cool. Adult flies don’t live too long (typically two to four weeks,) but this lifespan can be dramatically extended by entering into hibernation in the winter.
In any case, if you’ve got a fly infestation you won’t want to wait the month it'll take them to die. Letting the fly infestation “play out” will only allow them to lay more eggs and create more flies. Fortunately, many of the solutions we found can be implemented with little cost to you. Odds are you have the components for our devices lying around your house.
What Causes Flies in the House?
The trouble with preventing flies is right there in their name: they fly. If you’ve got windows or doors on your house, then you’ve got openings that flies can exploit to set your house up as their new breeding ground. You may notice the problem intensifying over time: last week there were two flies, today there are several dozen. That’s because flies are prolific breeders; all that flying around is them getting busy to get busy, if you catch our drift.
Flies especially love sugary or decay-laden liquids and semisolids (aka goops and slimes and smears), so sanitation is key to keep them off your property. Seek out any places something might have spilled and avoided clean-up (hard to see corners of the kitchen or eating space are great places to start.) These can easily become fly breeding grounds.
Ultimately (and without getting too existential), flies cause flies in the house. If they’ve begun to breed, you can easily be overrun with flies and no amount of swatting will compete with their prodigious reproductive strategies. Fortunately, the traps and repellents we’ve reviewed will.
Tips on How to Get Rid of Flies
Two main categories of fly-eradication exist: repellants and traps. Generally, repellants produce a field of effect that keeps flies away or, at least, greatly dis-incentivizes them from hanging around. Traps lure flies into them and kill them. A good trap can easily clear out your fly problem in a few days since, thankfully, flies don’t learn from their neighbors' mistakes.
Repellants give less visual feedback that they’re working, but the methods we tried did keep us fly-free. Combining methods from both categories will produce the best effects, keeping new flies away while simultaneously killing those bold enough to venture near.
Let’s start with the repellants.
Flies taste using the hairs on their legs, meaning they are extremely sensitive to landing on certain surfaces. They love leg-tasting feces and spilled soda, but there are many things they can’t stand to land on. These chemical compounds make up the basis of how to get rid of flies through repellants and, fortunately, many of these solutions are natural.
1. Basil and Other Fly-Repelling Herbs
Luckily for us, many of the smells that flies hate, we adore. Basil — that leafy sprinkle that takes pizza from good to great — can be emanated to keep flies away. The effect works while the plant is alive, so maybe your fly invasion just became the perfect excuse to grow basil in your window.
You also can purchase oils made from basil that you can spread through the air in diffusers. Companies like Mrs. Meyers sell basil candles that smell incredible while keeping those pesky flies at bay. Basil is one of the cheaper fly repellants, but flies also hate wormwood, lavender, mint, bay leaf and tansy, if you prefer to grow any of those.
2. Essential Oil
Many essential oils do a great job of repelling flies. You can purchase essential oils at just about any health-conscious grocery store nowadays. Also, the oils provide a myriad of other benefits. Flies have shown a special aversion to eucalyptus and lavender essential oils, which is great, because both smell wonderful to us. Just sprinkle these wherever you wish flies not to be or add them to a diffusion pad to waft the fly-repelling field throughout your space.
3. Plastic Water Bags with Pennies
You may have been eating on the porch of a barbecue joint when you looked up to notice plastic baggies filled with water hanging from the awning. These bags may look like hoodoo charms to keep spirits away, but they actually are clever tricks that play on a fly's compound eyes and repels it.
Because flies see a wider spectrum than we do, these bags of water reflect water in any number of directions confusing and disorienting them. A few pennies added to the bag will increase the reflections and thus the confusion. All you’ve got to do to make one is zip up water and pennies in a bag and hang that bag in a corner.
4. Orange and Clove
Citrus is among the yummy smells that flies hate. Leaving cut oranges around the house might seem like a way to attract flies, but it actually does the opposite since those little buzzers hate citrus so much. The only problem with leaving oranges out is that humans love oranges, and so if you’ve got any of those living with you, they’re likely to eat the fruit. One solution is to stick 10-15 cloves into the orange. This will not only potentiate the repellant (flies also hate clove) but it will make the fruit look like an old-school Christmas decoration and thus make it less likely to get eaten by one of your fruit lovers.
Sometimes, just keeping flies away isn’t enough. Sometimes, they need to die. Don’t worry, you can learn how to get rid of flies easy, because most trap methods are easy to build.
1. Vinegar Trap
Flies love vinegar, so use it against them. You probably have vinegar in your pantry. To kill flies with it, all you have to do is:
- Pour a little bit of vinegar into a small glass
- Cover the glass with a plastic bag (or something comparable like cling wrap)
- Puncture a hole in the plastic for the flies to get in
- Place the trap near the suspected source of the flies
The flies will come for the vinegar, swoop into the hole, but be unable to get out once they’ve drank their fill. This trap will soon fill up with the bodies of flies.
2. Homemade Flypaper
Flypaper is a type of sticky tape coated with chemicals that attract flies. You can buy flypaper at many stores if you don’t want to make it yourself. But it is rather easy to do yourself.
- Cut some brown paper or card into strips
- Combine 1/4 cup of golden syrup with 1/4 cup of sugar
- Paint the mixture onto the strips
- Let strips dry
- Hang strips around the house
3. Wine Trap
It turns out, for all their nastiness, flies have one refined side: they like wine. Red or white, it doesn’t matter. To turn this against them, simply follow these steps to create a wine trap:
- Pour wine into a glass
- Add dishwashing liquid to the wine (this acts as poison)
- Roll up a piece of paper to create a funnel
- Place the funnel in the mouth of the glass
Flies will fly in, get poisoned, die, and somehow their corpses will not deter other flies.
Flies can be a nasty, annoying, and persistent problem. However, we are confident that with a few natural ingredients you can create a trap or repellant that will keep them out of your hair, out of your house and out of your mind-space. Now that you know how to get rid of flies, go forth with orange, basil, wine, and vinegar. Live your fly-free life!