How To Get Rid of Flies
19–22 minutes to read | Updated for 2018
Flies have few peers when it comes to pests.
The most common fly species, is found throughout the U.S. and around the globe, can transmit more than 100 dangerous illnesses. Even those that don’t typically spread disease are more than capable of delivering painful stings to humans and animals.
Knowing which type you’re fending off can help you determine the degree of the threat.
Common Species of Flies
While not harmful to humans, carpenter ants can wreak havoc on property by consuming damp, rotting wood. Unlike termites, which can destroy any available wood, carpenter ants can only eat wood that’s already vulnerable and water-damaged. Make sure you stay on top of any leaks or weather-exposed areas in your home.
How To Identify:
- 1/4 to 1/2 inch
- Reddish black
- Found throughout the U.S.
- Can destroy wet and decaying wood
- Pose a serious structural threat; consider seeking professional help immediately
When near livestock, these flies steer clear of people and feed on cattle. Yet certain areas of the U.S. – including New Jersey, the shores of the Great Lakes, and much of the Gulf Coast – have seen stable flies pester humans.
How To Identify:
5-7 mm and lighter in color than the housefly
Common throughout the world
Checkerboard pattern on their abdomen
Persistent when seeking a human or animal target and may ignore swatting
While you might associate these bloodsucking insects with places such as horse farms, they can irritate a variety of animals and also humans with painful bites that may lead to allergic reactions. Because they’re active during daytime, intrusions from horseflies can make outdoor activities more difficult.
How To Identify:
½” to 1 ¼” long
Black or gray bodies with green eyes
Attracted to movement, shiny surfaces, carbon dioxide, and warmth
May be attracted to swimming pools due to the shine from the water and the movement of people
For professionals in forensic science, this species can actually play a helpful role related to establishing time of death. In healthcare, greenbottle flies are sometimes used in wound treatment.
How To Identify:
Metallic green or copper green color
Found throughout the world
Depending on where you live, these pests may be called “turkey gnats” or “buffalo gnats.” Their feeding habits can be painful to the skin of livestock, poultry, and humans. However, black flies do not transmit diseases to humans.
How To Identify:
Found throughout the U.S.
Often pose a problem for outdoor recreation in the Upper Midwest and Northeast
Effects of their bites vary from small skin puncture to golf ball-sized swelling
These flies are thought to have made the journey from Europe to the U.S. by hiding onboard ships. Their behavior is similar to stink bugs, as they prefer to fly indoors as temperatures cool during fall. Cluster flies live up to their name by gathering in large numbers on a warm, sunny wall. They tend to fly sluggishly, making them an easier target for a homeowner’s fly swatter.
How To Identify:
Slightly larger than the housefly
Not known to carry diseases
Clean Up and Survey
Because flies are attracted to heat, light, garbage and waste, any trash cans or open areas with decomposing or exposed food will invite them. Even spills of liquids and standing water are enough to bring these unwanted guests. Simply put, cleaning up and taking out the trash makes a difference.
Animal droppings will quickly attract flies to an area – and may lead to the spread of insect-carried illnesses. Removing fresh manure from your property makes it less desirable to pests. While outdoors, take a walking tour of your fence line, pet food area, bushes, and any compost piles. A clean exterior to your home will be less conducive to fly activity
Check for any broken or tattered screens of crevices in the structure of your home. Even damaged weatherstripping and holes for cable or meter attachments are virtually open doors to houseflies.
Inspect inside the house – It’s common to find flies resting on edges of common household items during the day. Take a close look at your walls, windows, drains, and light fixtures. At night, flies prefer to be near a food source and well off the ground – even as high as 5 to 15 feet.
How Weather Affects Flies
A hot, humid environment with daytime temperatures in the 80s (think late spring and summer) brings peak housefly activity. In fact, the warmer seasons may even encourage houseflies to complete their life cycle within 7-10 days.
Having a brief life expectancy also spurs reproduction. The female may lay five or six groups of 75-100 eggs in warm weather. Hotter temperatures cause the eggs to hatch within 12-24 hours.
Like many insects, flies enter a state called diapause in the cooler months. This is especially true for the cluster fly species, which likes to enter homes and find a secluded place to escape the chill. Diapause isn’t exactly hibernation, but the development and appetite of the cluster fly will slow down during this time.
If you or your family have concerns about using insecticides, fly traps can be a smart solution when you’re facing a large population of flying pests. This DIY method attracts female flies and prevents them from escaping after first contact. For best results, place the traps at least 30 feet from your home in a sunlit location. Be sure to change out the traps as needed.
The fly is one of the most common types of household pests you’ll find around. Unlike most insects, which “go dormant” during the cooler months of the year, some types of house flies actually remain active all year, emerging during warm spells in colder seasons to once more lay eggs. Flies perform important roles in promoting decomposition and even in pollinating some types of plants. But when they come in droves or find their way indoors, they can become both a pest problem and a serious health threat. At that point, it can be difficult to get rid of them in any permanent fashion.
The Dangers of Flies
Flies not only invade yards and gardens, but also come in regular contact with people, pets and frequently-touched surfaces like countertops and tables.
A female fly can lay about 100 eggs each time she breeds. Most females breed up to five times, with a total of 500 offspring. These offspring hatch first into larvae (usually called maggots), and then mature into adult flies which then breed again, repeating the cycle.
As if their mere presence wasn’t enough of a reason to get rid of flies in your home, these insects also spread disease, primarily by vomiting on food and leaving droppings. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that they are carriers of all sorts of pathogens, including those affecting the gastrointestinal tract, skin, eyes, and other organs. Flies don’t leave bites, but they spread disease in two ways:
1. Flies like garbage, flesh, excrement, and perspiration. When they crawl around these substances looking for food, they can pick up germs and disease-causing organisms on their bodies and on the little hairs that cover much of their body’s surface area. When they land on another surface, they carry those pathogens along with them, contaminating those objects (including food items and your own skin) along the way.
2. Because their feeding habits put them in contact with a dizzying array of harmful germs, an adult fly can pick up a lot of bacteria and other harmful pathogens while eating. These germs can stay alive inside the fly for several days, which means flies can transmit diseases long after they’ve feasted on the initial source.
Flies can spread a wealth of diseases, including:
- Cutaneous diphtheria
- Skin infections
- Eye infections, including conjunctivitis and trachoma
Common house flies also carry many types of bacteria that can cause intestinal symptoms like diarrhea, upset stomach, and nausea.
The more familiar you are with flies’ habits and where they like to congregate, the easier it will be to get rid of them. Several easy household habits will greatly reduce your chance of a fly infestation. These tips will also help you keep other insects out of your home and property.
1. Get Rid of Standing Water
Many species of flies breed in standing water, and all of them require water to feed. Make sure your gutters are effectively moving water away from your house and other areas where you hang out outdoors. This may require cleaning them out regularly to be sure there aren’t piles of leaves or other debris that soak up water and retain it. Like most insects, flies like damp, moist areas, so address those areas first.
2. Eliminate Points of Entry
If you already know there are abundant flies around your yard, and especially during warmer seasons, be sure to exit and enter through doors quickly. Never leave your screen door open for an extended period of time. Replace ill-fitting screen frames and repair any holes. Close any kitchen doors while you’re cooking and don’t leave overripe fruit sitting out. Seal up small crevices around other moldings, as well as air vents and openings in your soffit, where flies can get into interior wall spaces and attics. Do all your sealing by mid-August, a time when some flies look for warm areas to hibernate.
3. Clean Up After Your Pet
Animal excrement is a popular breeding site for plenty of types of flies, especially the ever-present house fly. It’s also a source of bacteria and other pathogens which flies can pick up and spread during and after the breeding process. So be sure to clean up any waste in the yard and use spray disinfectant on any accidents inside the house. This will also keep away other pests like ants and mosquitoes.
4. Keep Your Trash Cans Clean
You may not pay much attention to your outdoor trash cans since they’re outside, but letting everything build up inside them over time creates a very inviting environment for flies. Use a powerful disinfectant to get rid of residue or any matter trapped around the lid, and get in the habit of rinsing out your can every couple of weeks. Strong-smelling antiseptic solutions discourage insects from using your cans as a breeding or resting spot. Fix any cracked or loose-fitting lids on garbage cans. Empty cans can harbor standing water or attract flies from the garbage odor if they aren’t sealed properly.
5. Clear Decay
If you have fruit trees, pick up any fruit that falls on the ground. Clear away piles of decaying vegetation. Pay special attention to organic matter that gets trapped in gutters or other areas around the house exterior.
6. Use Well-Rotted Manure or Processed Fertilizers
Dung and fish meal that aren’t completely or properly processed can attract flies looking to breed, and these flies could eventually make their way into your house.
7. Keep Your Cesspool or Pit in Good Working Order
Malfunctioning sewage lines or pits are usually obvious. But depending on where they are located, you may not notice a problem right away. Keep an eye on these areas and have them maintained regularly to make them less desirable for flies.
8. Inspect and Clean Indoors
Take a close look for places that may attract flies, including sluggish drains, overflowing or smelly garbage pails, and even perpetually-damp houseplant soil. These can cause even more problems than flies, and serve as the perfect breeding ground for gnats. Extra-ripe fruit can be especially attractive to flies (and not just tiny fruit flies), as can a steak or poultry left on the counter, or residues of soda, wine, apple cider vinegar, or other sugary liquids on counters and tabletops.
9. Regularly Wipe and Sweep Up After Cooking and Eating
Maintain a regular cleaning schedule for your kitchen. Just as we recommended cleaning your outdoor garbage cans, you’ll want to do the same with your cans indoors. These areas often become sticky with spills.
10. Regularly Treat Your Drains
Spraying your drains regularly with special foam cleaners designed to remove scum and bacterial film. is one of the best ways to get rid of drain flies, which can be a pesky infestation since you can’t see where they’re coming from.
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Preventative measures are important to use whether you have a fly issue or not. Knowing where the flies are most likely to congregate makes it easier to control them. But if you do have an infestation, there are some effective treatment methods you can start with:
Fly traps are usually one of the most budget-friendly solutions you can buy at a store. Find out which type of fly trap is the best to buy for your specific situation. One of the most important things to know about traps is that not all flies are attracted to the same food sources. If you decide to use them, you will likely need to use more than one to decimate your fly population. Most traps use fly bait in a special container with a cone cap that makes it easy for flies to enter but hard to escape. Pheromone traps use special chemical “scents” to attract flies instead of relying on food-type baits. The scents mimic those that flies put off, so they’re tricked into thinking that they’re heading toward fellow flies.
“Bug zappers” can kill some types of flies attracted to light sources, and there are two types of fly-catching lights available. One uses a sticky surface or film to trap flies when they come near the light while the other type “zaps” them with electricity. This second type should not be used around food preparation or eating areas (including pet eating areas) as it can spray body parts far and wide once the flies are exterminated. Find out which zappers are the best for getting rid of your fly problem.
3. Chemicals and Insecticides
Spray insecticides can also be effective for indoor fly control. As with fly traps, be sure you’re using the right kind of insecticide for the flies that are causing your problem. Find out what some of the best fly insecticide spraysare.
Flypaper is perhaps one of the oldest commercially available types of house fly traps on the market. You can either suspend it from the ceiling or lay it along horizontal surfaces where flies are known to land. The paper is coated with a chemical attractant that is similar to flies’ pheromones as well as an adhesive that traps and kills them. You can also make your own flypaper using corn syrup, which attracts flies with its sugary scent:
DIY Flypaper Recipe
Brown paper bag
Cut the paper bag into a two-inch strip. Punch a hole at each end and attach the string. Next, mix equal parts corn syrup with water and heat the mixture in a pan over high heat. Use enough of each to be able to dunk the strips. Once this solution begins to boil, remove it from heat and let it cool. Then dunk each strip and let them sit out to dry for two to three hours. Use a drying rack if you have one, or tie them up and place paper towels underneath to catch any drips. Once these strips are dry, you can hang them around your house in fly-infested area, and they’ll act just like the flypaper you can buy at the store.
If you don’t have the time to make your own flypaper, those available at the store are still cost-effective and there are a range of top flypaper brands for you to choose form.[amazon table=”41292″]
5. Fly Repellent
These products have different formulations to be used on skin, indoors, and outdoors as a way to keep flies away. Look for a personal insect repellent product designed to repel flies, and follow the instructions very closely—especially when using the repellent on young children or pets. We’ve done the research for you to find out the best fly repellents you can use in every scenario. You can also mix your own DIY repellent with pungent- smelling essential oils like basil, clove or citrus scents. Mix these in a spray bottle with distilled water or vodka, then spray it in areas where flies like to gather.
More DIY Tips and Ideas
Let houseplant soil dry out between watering. This prevents dampness that can attract flies as well as gnats and other insects.
Trap fruit flies by filling an open cup with old wine: the flies mistake this for food and get trapped by surface tension.
Put vinegar in a water bottle with the top cut off, turn the top over to form a funnel, and this will trap the insects inside.
Other homemade traps can be baited with decaying fruit, wine, fruit juice, or apple cider vinegar. These can be effective against fruit flies, but make sure that the trap is set up to ensure that they’ll drown inside instead of feeding off the bait. Mix a few drops of dish soap with any liquid bait you choose to get rid of surface tension. The flies will slip right into the mixture and won’t be able to get out.
Don’t forget the classic fly swatter. You can buy them for as low as $1 at drugstores, and they’re always handy to have around. Using a fly swatter is one of the messier methods of treatment, but luckily flies are so small and easy to clean up. Fly swatters do come in different shapes and sizes, so it’s still a good idea to read up on the best fly swatters. These days, there are also electric swatters that make it easier to kill flies as they’re flying.
When it comes to flies and the diseases they can spread, you don’t want to waste time if it means putting yourself and your family in danger.
While traps, sprays, and other DIY solutions can be an effective way to eliminate flies in some cases, often there comes a time when an infestation gets so severe that homemade options just don’t provide the results you’re looking for. When it comes to flies and the diseases they can spread, you don’t want to waste time if it means putting yourself and your family in danger.
A licensed pest control expert can identify the places where flies may be gathering, breeding, or hibernating and devise a multi-pronged “attack”— using sprays, insecticides, and traps appropriate to the type of fly you’re dealing with — to keep populations under control and stop the life cycle from continuing. To get rid flies, larvae and maggots quickly, calling a pest company can be the best option, and a top solution for preventing fly-borne diseases and health risks.
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