Homemade Horse Fly Spray: Natural Repellents That Work.

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Horseflies.  They are ravenous.  Who doesn’t loathe them?  

Today we’ll discuss “all things fly repellent” with a special focus on homemade horse fly spray.  

We know that your typical store bought spray (OFF for example) is effective at repelling most manner of flies, mosquitoes and other pests.  But OFF uses the chemical DEET as its active ingredient.  Now, DEET works great.  However, it’s not the best for your skin.  While DEET is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it still can cause harm.  The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) has this to say about Deet: 

“When products containing DEET get into the eyes, they may cause irritation, pain and watery eyes. People that have left DEET products on their skin for extended periods of time have experienced irritation, redness, a rash, and swelling. People that have swallowed products containing DEET have experienced stomach upset, vomiting, and nausea. Very rarely, exposure to DEET has been associated with seizures in people. Most of these reactions have happened after drinking products with DEET in them or using the products in ways that do not follow label directions.”

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If you’d like more information on DEET, check out the fact sheet provided by the NPIC.  Moving on.  We’ve established that DEET is not the greatest for your skin so let’s discuss ways to make your own “DEET-LESS” OFF, or homemade horse fly spray– if you will, out of non-chemical (we’ll call this “natural”) ingredients.  First, let’s take a look at a list of oils that have natural insect repellent properties: 


Natural Oils that have insect repellent properties:

  • Catnip Oil–Make mosquitoes wish they never met you.  According to research at Iowa State University essential oil found in the herb catnip is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. 
  • Lotus–New research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine shows that lotus is an effective mosquito repellent and also helps kill mosquito larvae. 
  • Citronella Oil–The classic standby for natural mosquito repellent.  Use only pure essential oil of citronella–not fragrance oil.  Oils purchased in bulk for burning are NOT what you want to apply to topically to your skin.  That stuff is petroleum based and designed to be burned inside your tiki torches–not on your skin.
  • Organic Soy Oil-The New England Journal of Medicine reported that natural repellents made of soybean oil are just as effective as  DEET-containing repellents.  Soy oil is inexpensive and easy to find, making it  an excellent choice.  Plus, it is an excellent body moisturizer.  As an aside,  research shows that an ingredient in soy can slow the growth of body hair when  applied topically.  Choose organic soy oil if possible.
  • Eucalyptus Oil–mosquitoes
  • Geranium Oil–flies, mosquitoes
  • Lavender Oil–This is great for repellent of mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, fleas, and flies.  It’s best diluted in a carrier oil like apricot kernel, sweet almond, or coconut oil.  Check out the dried lavender insect repellent recipe from Wikihow.   
  • Lemongrass Oil–mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, fleas, flies
  • Litsea Cubebamosquitoes
  • Patchoulignats
  • Peppermint Oillice, spiders, ants
  • Rosemary Oil–fleas, ticks
  • Tea Tree Oil–mosquitoes, lice, ants

Although found in many lists of repellents, one should avoid pennyroyal because of its potential toxicity.
Also, it is best to use essential oils diluted with water. Don’t apply them directly to the skin in full strength.  That’s a nish-nish.

Recipes for homemade horse fly spray:

 Let’s go through a list of some popular homemade recipes for repelling insects, including those ever so loathsome horseflies.

Recipe #1: 

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 T. aloe vera juice
  • 2 tsp. favorite conditioning liquid oil (soybean, olive, castor, etc.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. essential oil blend

Combine in a spray bottle and shake before each use. These oils have less staying power than chemicals such as DEET so they need to be reapplied about every 30 minutes or as needed.

Recipe #2: U.S. Forest Service Bug Spray

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup Avon Skin So Soft Bath Oil
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1 tbs. Eucalyptus oil (found in health food stores)
  • Optional: few tablespoons of citronella oil.


Recipe #3: Essential Oil Insect Repellent Spray

  • 2 ounces distilled or boiled water
  • 1.5 ounces witch hazel or vodka
  • 30 drops citronella essential oil
  • 25 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 1 teaspoon of jojoba oil* (optional, if you add this, add only 1 ounce of vodka or witch hazel)


Recipe #4:  Essential Oils Bug Blend 1

  • 10-25 drops essential oil. Try lavender, rose geranium (for ticks), coriander seeds, peppermint, cajeput and citronella
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel (optional)

Combine the ingredients in a glass jar; stir to blend. Dab a few drops on your skin or clothing.

Recipe #6:  Essential Oils Bug Blend 2

  • 2 tbsp of either Jojoba oil or Sweet Almond oil (These are carrier oils–i.e. what you dilute the essential oils with)
  • 10 drops rosemary 
  • 7 drops cinnamon 
  • 3 drops cedarwood 

Shake super well.  

Keep in mind that essential oils are not recommended to be used on the skin in full strength on their own. That is why you  need to incorporate a carrier oil that easily absorbs into the skin.  Two great carrier oils that can be diluted with essential oils are Jojoba and/or sweet almond oil.

Recipe #5: Homemade Fly Spray for your animals

  • 1 quart Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 20 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 20 drops melaleuca essential oil
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil 

Mix together in a spray bottle.  Apply to the animals frequently (give it a good shake before applying).  And be careful, it smells very strong.  Also, you’ll need to apply it throughout the day on your animals for continued effectiveness against flies.

And there you have it.  Hopefully one of these recipes will work as a homemade horse fly spray.   

Is Vinegar a fly repellent?

Yes, vinegar can act as a natural fly repellent. You can fill a jar with some apple cider vinegar. Place a small funnel on top of the jar to attract flies. They will get trapped once inside the jar.

What is a natural fly repellent?

You can use basil, cloves, mint, cinnamon and apple cider vinegar as natural fly repellents.

Does white vinegar kill flies?

White vinegar doesn’t actually kill the flies but it can make them to fly into a trap easier.

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