Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shoo Fly: Dealing with This Year's Invasion of Pesky Flies

By Shirley Engelhardt, SC Adoption Coordinator
Reprinted from The SELR Newsletter, Vol. 2 Issue 3, June 2008

The folks who lived in our house before us had horses. On our first visit to the house (before we bought it), we noticed these bags of water hanging in the barn. Not being experienced large animal people, we asked what they were. "Oh, those keep the flies away." Well, none of our large animal friends had ever heard of these fly bags. And we were beginning to think we'd been duped by the former owners into believing such a silly notion-- that bags of water can repel flies! Well they can, at least that's what we learned from some SELR folks and a few resources I found online. Some think that maybe the reflections in the water somehow scare or confuse the flies.
According, to WikiHow (, farmers in Brazil have been using this remedy for years. Here it is:

Just fill a clear plastic bag with tap water (about 1/2 full). Tie the bag shut with string and use the string to hang the bag, but keep it away from walls so it can swing freely. Apparently adding a penny or two to the inside of the bag also helps repel flies.

Here are some more remedies that we got From the Volunteer Chat forum and some online resources:

Lynette Melton gets flytraps at Lowe's. They're a plastic bag that has bait in it. You fill the bag to a mark with water and “the flies line up to get in!" Lynette says they can "get rather rank, but are extremely effective." Thanks, Lynette.

From WikiHow: Clean out a small tin with a lid. Take a clean piece of cloth or a small piece of dish sponge able to fit into the container. Saturate it with one of the following oils:
  • Lavender oil--lavender is considered to be particularly effective against flies.
  • Citronella oil (dilute with water first)
  • Eucalyptus oil (dilute with water first)
  • Pennyroyal oil (dilute with water first)
  • Peppermint oil (dilute with water first; likely more effective against mosquitoes but also considered to work against horse-flies)
  • Lemongrass oil (dilute with water first)
Place the cloth in the tin and shut the lid. Allow to sit for 24 hours. Whenever you need to use the tin, just remove the lid and place it wherever you need it. Make as many as you want to deter flies. (Replenish the oil after each use; once open to the air, the strength weakens and needs to be topped up).

Or, try filling a quart jar with this mixture:
3 cups of water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
Mix, punch holes in the lid, and set it where needed.

From, here's a suggestion (from Paul Wade of Swan Lake Llamas in Ohio) for a do-it-yourself fly trap – “The Big Stinky:"

Using the large, clear plastic barrel from sourdough pretzels purchased at Sam's Club, punch holes in the plastic lid with a red hot nail about twice the size of a fly. Punch two more holes opposite each other through the side of the barrel for a clothes hanger handle to hang the trap on. Put some liver or fish and a pint of water inside the barrel and hang it in the sun in an area where the flies are. Flies enter the barrel through the holes but cannot find their way back out. Thousands of adult flies can be trapped per jar - and that's thousands that do not lay eggs and multiply! Just dispose of it when full--never getting your hands dirty.

I also found a product available for sale called the Big Stinky. It uses attractants and pheromones to capture flies. You can buy one at

Here are some more spray-on or wipe-on remedies that I borrowed from 

  • White wine vinegar, water and any combination of eucalyptus, lavender, sandalwood or tea tree oils. Mix a few drops of each essential oil into a little washing up liquid and add to the vinegar and water. Shake well before using.
  • Take a large lemon with a thick rind and slice thinly. Place in a bowl with a few sprigs of rosemary and cover both in boiling water. Allow to steep overnight and strain the mixture the following morning. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake before applying. A similar response seems to be had by doing the same with leaves, stems and flowers from Elder bushes.
  • Mix one part crushed garlic to five parts water. Shake the mixture and leave overnight. Strain and pour liquid into a spray bottle.
  • WD40
  • Mix Skin So Soft with either 6 caps to 1 cup white vinegar + a squirt of Ivory liquid soap or 4 oz + 1 oz citronella oil + 12 oz vinegar + 12 oz water or 1 cup + 1 cup water + 2 cups vinegar + 1 tbs. Eucalyptus oil (Optional: a few tablespoons of citronella oil)
  • Mix 2 cups light mineral oil + 1/2 cup lemon juice + 2 tsp. citronella oil + 2 tsp. eucalyptus essential oil + 2 tsp. lemon dish soap (Do not use this spray before a show as it attracts dust). Most folks would agree that keeping the area clean of manure is probably the most effective in fly control remedy. Consider these additions--Nancy Sottosanti uses diatomaceous earth on manure piles, while Deb Logan applies lime to main pellet piles and/or on places where she's just cleaned. Natural predators can also be beneficial in the reduction of flying critters. Deb gets fly predators from Spaulding Labs, although you have to be careful with these if you have dogs. Her dogs ate everything—including the wood chips packed in with the predators. Barn swallows and purple martins both eat flying insects, as do bats and lizards. Kathy Patterson ordered some solar flytraps (let us know how they work, Kathy) and Randall and Monty Gooding use a fly mister that "works GREAT! Cost is about $1,200 but well worth it."

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