Enjoying the warm glow and gentle breezes of summer isn’t always as easy as it seems, particularly when pesky houseflies and blowflies seem determined to undermine your efforts. These flying insects are more than a buzzing nuisance in your ear.
“They can carry a range of pathogens for such things as intestinal disorders and eye infections on their restless journeys,” according to extension entomologist Lee Townsend in the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service’s pamphlet “Fly Control Around Horse Barns and Stables.”
Fortunately, many safe means of controlling these pests are available.
1. Clean Up
The most effective way to combat flies is good sanitation. Flies prefer warm, moist environments, such as fermenting organic matter, manure, rotting hay and garbage. The key to controlling their populations is to minimize these conditions by cleaning out animal bedding at least once a week and manure at least twice a week.
2. Grow Fly-Repellent Plants
You can extend your wards by planting flowers and herbs, including artemisia, mint, basil, lavender and marigolds, which repel flies. Situate plants near areas where you like to relax, as well as around your outbuildings and livestock areas. Just be sure the plants you choose are safe for the livestock or pet species frequenting the area.
3. Attract Fly Predators
Just as in your vegetable garden, parasitic wasps occur naturally in and around animal housing; these little guys serve as natural biological controls by laying eggs inside fly pupae, which then eat and kill the developing fly. You can jump-start your population by purchasing these wasps online or from a local supplier.
4. DIY Fly Sprays
Many commercial sprays are available for livestock and human use but might not be considered safe across all species. If you’re looking for an inexpensive and eco-friendly temporary deterrent, a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water might be right up your alley.
Combine this solution in a spray bottle to spritz directly on people, pets—except cats, which can have adverse reactions to vinegar, causing illness even in diluted form—livestock and the areas you frequent. Reapply as needed.
You can also spray patio or deck areas, furniture and doorways to help repel flies from those areas. Be sure to spot test the solution before applying liberally as vinegar can damage some materials such as marble, resulting in fading, bleaching, peeling and blistering.
5. Homemade Fly Paper
If the thought of using standard, hardware-store fly paper has you backpedaling and reaching for the old, standby fly swatter in lieu of potential unknown ingredients, less-than-appealing aesthetics or potential pet entanglements, don’t despair. Make your own! The following fly-paper recipe uses basic materials most likely to be found around the average farm, but feel free to experiment for the solution that best suits your needs.
- heavy paper (i.e., scrapbooking paper, paper grocery bags, card stock)
- hole punch (optional)
- parchment paper or old towels
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons water
Cut paper into desired shapes; I opted to make a small bunting so that it could serve as a decorative addition to the room or patio—at least until covered in flies—for parties and holiday celebrations. Use a hole punch or scissors to make small holes for threading the twine. String the twine through the holes, and set aside. Spread an old towel, drop cloth or parchment paper where you’ll be hanging the tape to dry to help catch drips and prevent a sticky mess on the surface below.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine honey, sugar and water. Stir until the sugar fully dissolves; add more water if it’s too thick. If it’s too runny, it won’t stay on the paper; if it’s too thick, it won’t easily cover the paper. Remove from heat, pour into a shallow dish or bowl, and dip the papers in the sticky solution, coating evenly on all sides. It’s OK for the twine to get coated, as well, just be sure to keep the ends clean so you have something to hold and hang them by. Suspend over an old cloth until dry but tacky. Throw your cloth in the wash to use again for the next round.
Display fly-trap bunting in areas where flies frequent but out of reach of pets and livestock.