How to Get Rid of Flies: Quickly, Easily and for Good.

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How to get rid of flies? Well, flies come in a variety of shapes, sizes and temperaments.  The fly we will be dealing with today is the ubiquitous house fly…which happens to be precisely where you don’t want to see it. Beyond the conventional fly swatter, there are other solutions to the question of how to get rid of flies.

Although the name “house fly” suggests refinement and domestication, these repulsive yet common flies are anything but that.  House flies are most commonly associated with hovering around and feeding upon feces–that’s right, poop.  Indeed, house flies are not for the faint of heart. Research at Penn State University cites that house flies are strongly suspected of transmitting at least 65 diseases to humans, including typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, and a slew of others. Because they’ve adapted well to feeding on garbage, they are a common occurrence just about anywhere people live.

So how do we get rid of flies, particularly those house flies buzzing around our home?  We go to battle against them.  And like any battle tactic, there are two basic approaches.  There’s the offensive approach and the defensive approach.  We’ll cover both of these, but let’s begin with the most effective of these which of course is the defensive approach.

How to get rid of flies:  The defensive approach       

Keep your house tidy–inside and out.  It’s as simple as that.  This basic, common sense advice is the most effective measure in keeping house flies from infesting your home.  Leaving moist, decaying organic matter (of any kind) in your home for extended periods of time is an invitation not only to house flies but to vermin in general.

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You see, house flies can and will feed on just about anything moist, decaying and organic. They’re like Doc’s Delorean in Back to the Future–they can run on just about anything.  The only difference is that they can’t time travel and they’re built on a basic fly chassis.  When it comes to eating, house flies have disturbingly gross table manners.  

They walk on their food, spit on their food, and poop on their food.  Then they fly away and repeat the process on another food source, i.e. your hot dog bun.  Not only do house flies feed on all things decaying and organic, but they also lay their eggs in it as well.    These eggs will hatch within a day into small maggots.  From there it is just a matter of time.

Research from Texas A&M cites that it can as little as 8 days to go from egg to adult fly. Furthermore, 12 generations can occur within a summer.  With that said, flies cannot breed in large numbers if their food sources are limited. In addition to that, there are a number of things that you can do to discourage house flies from ever even entering your home in the first place. Here are some great defensive tips for how to get rid of flies, namely house flies, and keep them out and away from your home:

Tidy up your yard and keep compost buckets covered:

Flies not only breed in manure “and all things poopy” they will also breed in things like decaying piles of grass clippings or compost piles.  So if you do keep a compost pile, make sure that it stays covered when not in use.

 If you have a yard, don’t wait until you practically need a bush hog to mow it.  Do so will likely lead to those big grass heaps which in turn will lead to flies.  Keep outside trash cans clean and tightly covered.  Be careful not to wash garbage cans where the rinse water might drain into the soil; flies can even breed in soil full of organic matter.

Give the kitchen a thorough cleaning:

Flies will hang around a kitchen that has open and accessible food sources, so make sure that it is tidy.  To help you with this process, make a habit of doing the following while in the kitchen or any other rooms where you might be keeping food:

  • Wash dishes immediately after use.
  • Scrape crumbs and leftovers into the bin or in-sink disposal after eating.
  • Put rotting food outside or in a compost pile.  As noted earlier, flies will not only eat this but they’ll lay their eggs in it as well.
  • Keep pet food covered or remove uneaten pet food from bowl, particularly if it is wet pet food.
  • Teach your kids to clean up after themselves while in the kitchen.
  • Keep all bins covered. This includes the diaper bin or any other refuse bin.  Always shut the lid and if it’s stinky enough for you to smell it, then it’s probably time for you to dispose of the garbage outside.  Remember to make sure your outside cans all have tightly shut lids.

Plant an herb garden:

do herb gardens repel flies

In addition to keeping your yard tidy, you might want to consider picking up gardening as a hobby–particularly herb gardening.  Keep in mind that flies have an extraordinarily strong sense of smell.  Fortunately enough, there are a number of herbs that give off subtle odors that are naturally repulsive to flies, including house flies.  Here are a few:

  • Basil–Flies hate the smell of basil leaves.  In sunny fly infested areas, you might want to use potted plants of basil to deter flies.  You can also use them near external doorways.  When watering your basil plant, be sure to water it at the root and not on the leaves as this will produce a stronger fragrance and thus operate as a stronger deterrent to house flies.  If you don’t have a green thumb or aren’t in to gardening then basil might actually be the plant for you.  It is readily available at the grocery store and can be bought dried.  Keeping dried basil leaves in a sock or muslin tea bag is often enough to keep house flies away.
  • Bay Leaf–Bay leaves also produce a scent that flies hate.  Other insects like moths, roaches, earwigs and mice also hate the smell of bay leaves.  Growing bay plants in infested areas is a great deterrent but using dried bay leaves in muslin tea bags are equally as effective.
  • Lavender–Lavender is a sweet smelling herb that many people find to be calming and relaxing.  Flies however, do not.  If you one who enjoys the smell of lavender, then hanging some dried lavender in your kitchen might be good fit for you.
  • Mint–This is also another fairly inexpensive herb that you can buy from the store either fresh or dried.  Or…you can grow your own.  
  • Tansy–This herb looks like marigolds  and should be grown outside.  Tansy is also effective against moths, ants, mice, mosquitoes, roaches and bedbugs.  Tansy should be kept outside as it’s oil can sometimes irritate people’s skin.
  • Wormwood
  • Rue–This bluish plant can grow up to 2 feet tall and is quite effective in repelling flies.  As with Tansy, be careful when dealing with this plant as it is also known to cause mild skin irritation in some people.

Use oils over doorways and window sills:

There are several things that can be rubbed around entrance areas that will help to deter flies.  However it should be noted that these methods need frequent reapplication, and you should always spot test an inconspicuous area first to ensure that the surface won’t be ruined by whatever you’re applying.  

I suggest using lavender, citronella, or eucalyptus oil.  Tip drops of your desired oil onto a cleaning cloth and rub this around windows and doorways where flies tend to enter.

Use Clear Plastic with water:

Some people have reported to deter flies by using a transparent plastic bag half filled with water. They say that flies have compound eyes, which means that they have around 8000 lenses.

This gives them a great ability to detect movement and changing light patterns. A bag of water reflects light in all directions and flies do not like to be near such a thing.  The drawback with this method is that it could only be used during the day time. However, you can use an artificial light source during night time but then it doesn’t works that well.

Exclude them from your home using screens and air curtains over doorways:

Flies can be kept outside of homes by the use of window and door screens. Make sure screens are tight-fitting without holes. Keep doors closed with no openings at the top or bottom. There should be no openings around water or gas pipes or electrical conduits that feed into the building.

Caulk or plug any openings. Ventilation holes can be a way for flies to enter a building. Ventilation is important to maintaining adequate air circulation within the building, but screening must be used to exclude flies.  If you’re really serious about keeping house flies out of your home, or you own a restaurant or home where the outside doors are constantly being opened and closed, you might want to invest in an air curtain.

Air curtains blow air out of the doorway to create enough turbulence to keep flies from buzzing in when doors are opened.  However, they’re a bit kitsch, so if you’re going to use air curtains make sure that they suit your sense of decor!

How to get rid of flies:  Going on the offense       

There  is no end to the ingenuity displayed in the control of house flies.  Let’s briefly discuss some of these methods:

fly trap

Fly paper:

This method for getting rid of flies dates back to antiquity.  

Fly paper, also known as fly ribbons, are simply sheets of paper or plastic coated with a substance that has a sweet fragrance along with strong adhesive properties.  These papers are an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to get rid of flies in your home.  One drawback to using fly paper is the fact that you have to change the papers fairly often.  If left out after a few days of use, the dead bodies of flies stuck to the paper will begin to smell.  

Also, fly paper ribbons are really gross and ugly.

Ultraviolet light traps:

Ultraviolet light traps are another way people combat house flies, particularly in commercial buildings. To be effective though, light traps need to be properly placed. This type of trap should be placed where it cannot be seen from outside the building, no more than 5 feet above the floor (where most flies fly), and away from competing light sources and food preparation areas. Bulbs should be changed at least once per year.  Most UV light traps will effectively clear a 2,000 to 4,000 square foot area of flies.

Click here to see an effective light trap on Amazon.

Disposable fly traps:

Disposable fly traps contain some fly attractants inside a bag, which only get activated when you add water to it. After adding water to it, the attractant dissolves in the water producing a sweet smell which flies love. Flies get inside the bag and are drowned by the water inside it. Here are instructions on how to make your own fly trap.

The good old fashioned fly swatter:

Need I say more?

A note on the use of insecticides and chemicals:

There are an array of chemicals, both adulticides and larvicides that have been deployed to battle flies in your home.  However, flies are ridiculously quick to develop mutations that make them immune to these chemicals.  The catch is that humans don’t have this luxury and can sometimes be adversely affected by these chemicals.  I suggest staying away from chemicals when dealing with house flies.


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