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Controlling Flies Outdoors

One part of the summer warm weather season that no one looks forward to is the return of nuisance flies and other flying and crawling insects. Good outdoor fly control takes some effort, but it is important, not just for your fly problems, but also for outdoor control of other pests.

No one wants their cookouts, picnics, and other outdoor fun ruined by pesky flies and other pests. General tips to help get rid of flies focus on sanitation, other controls (e.g., mechanical, chemical), and exclusion (to help keep flies from coming indoors) to help you keep flies under control.

Identifying Flies

The Diptera insect order comprises the “true flies,” and it is one of the largest groups of insects. Diptera species are distinguished with their one set of two wings, versus other flying insects that sport two pair of wings. 

We can categorize filth flies into two groups, based on their appearances and food preferences. Flies like the Housefly, Blow fly, and Flesh fly, are relatively small, with notably large eyes. Other flies, like Drain flies, Fruit flies, and Phorid flies, have smaller bodies. 

Large Filth Flies:

Adult large filth flies (Houseflies, Blow flies, Flesh flies)  are known for their stout bodies and short legs. Their larvae are maggots, and for food they primarily prefer garbage, feces, and other rotting organic material, like dead animal remains.

Small Filth Flies:

Adult small filth flies are known for their smaller, slender bodies, and longer legs, and their larvae are also maggots, or worm-like. They primarily feed on scum, sludge, and organic debris found in drains, and on rotting plant material.

Why Do I Have So Many Flies Outside?

The first step in outdoor fly control is to thoroughly check your property to determine where flies are breeding and living, and then to determine how they are getting inside your house. If you have a presence of flies in your patio or yard, something is attracting them, whether it's pet feces or garbage. 

  • Observe where flies are landing or resting, and verify what is attracting them.
  • Identify the species of fly you're dealing with. Are they Houseflies, Blow fliesCluster flies, or another type of fly? Where are they breeding? This will help determine what type of management tactics will be necessary.

Common Flies

Types of flies

  • Housefly - feeds on/breeds in: discarded food, garbage, compost piles, animal feces  
  • Blow fly - feeds on/breeds in: damp garbage, animal carcasses, meat scraps 
  • Flesh fly - feeds on/breeds in: animal carcasses, meat scraps, animal feces
  • Cluster fly - lays eggs in damp soil, earthworm burrows 
  • Fruit fly - feeds on/breeds in: decomposing organic fruits and other organic materials, vegetables, damp rags, wine and beer remnants in containers, pet food, leaks 
  • Black fly - feeds on/breeds in: human and animal blood; larvae and pupae live in flowing water before emerging as adults
  • Bot fly - larvae are internal parasites of mammals 
  • Phorid fly - feeds on/breeds in: Decomposing plants, garbage, broken sewer lines, animal carcasses 
  • Drain fly - feeds on/breeds in: drain scum, decomposing organic materials found in sink traps, sewers, etc.
  • Horse fly - breeds in: wet soil close to bodies of water. Horse flies are typically found in woodlands or forests. They are most evident on windless, hot, sunny days. 
  • Fungus gnat - feeds on/breeds in: decaying vegetation found mostly in moist flower pot soil
  • Midge - feeds on/breeds in: water, particularly still water, as well as soil where garbage has leaked or where garbage cans are rinsed 

Though spot-treating and killing adult flies will reduce immediate, visible fly activity, you won't gain full control of the problem until you can find and eliminate the source. If you are seeing an abundance of flies, there is likely a breeding site either on your property or a nearby one. If need be, you can most likely contact your municipal or state health department for assistance. 

How Do I Get Rid of Flies Outdoors?

Sanitation to Get Rid of Flies

So, you now know where the flies are coming from and what they are attracted to. Now you can begin controlling them.  

To reduce what flies are attracted to and areas where they breed: 

  • Clean up any and all sites with fly activity (lingering and breeding), and any attractants (food, animal feces, etc.). House flies can complete their full life cycles within a week, so wet garbage, manure, and other organic materials need to be cleaned and/or removed regularly (at least twice a week) to help disrupt their breeding.
  • Keep dumpster areas and trash receptacles as clean as possible, and keep all trash as far away from your home as possible. Use tight-fitting lids and If you use plastic bags, make sure they are well sealed.
  • Scoop up pet feces regularly, and get rid of dead or decaying plants. Avoid leaving uneaten pet food around, and keep food and water spills wiped up. 
  • As much as possible, reduce areas of pooling water, still water, and other leaks around the yard. This will help you reduce mosquito populations, as well. Keep compost piles as far away from your home as possible. 

By consistently implementing the above sanitation practices to help with fly reduction, you can help keep fly activity populations  (as well as other pest problems) way down. Monitor your outdoor area again in 1 to 3 months. You may also need to use some other methods. 

Mechanical Methods to Get Rid of Flies

Like spot-treating, fly traps can have some temporary, limited effect on reducing fly populations outdoors. If you are cooking and/or eating outdoors, traps may help mitigate any fly problems. Ideally, you would set traps around the perimeter of an area to help prevent flies from coming near you, your family, and your guests. Consider the following:  

  • Inverted cone traps packed with fly attractants. As long as the areas surrounding trap placements are kept clean, these traps are easy to use and effective. Fly attractants have an unpleasant smell, so keep them as far away as possible. 
  • Flypaper can be placed on the inside of trash receptacles and their lids to trap flies that might get into trash. 
  • UV light traps are somewhat effective and can be strategically placed (especially near pet areas) to help attract and kill flies. 
  • Citronella oil and candles - Burning a citronella candle or citronella sticks not only repels flies but also mosquitoes. You can also purchase pre-mixtures of citronella oil to apply directly to your skin as a fly and mosquito repellent. You don't need to apply citronella more often than personal insect repellents.

Get Rid of Houseflies Naturally With Herbs and Flowers

There are some plants that can help repel Houseflies away from your garden and patio. Planting herbs and flowers in your garden and in indoor planters in your kitchen can help keep flies away. These herbs and flowers include:

  • Basil
  • Marigold
  • Lavender
  • Bay Leaves
  • Catnip

How Do I Get Rid of Flies Indoors?

You may have first noticed a fly problem inside your house. If you are seeing adult flies inside your home, it's more likely than not that they got indoors from outside. If you are concerned about flies indoors, measures to help prevent their access into your home are your next line of defense:

  • Ensure that door and window screens are in good repair.
  • Caulk all cracks, crevices, holes, etc. around windows and doors where flies might get in.

What is the Best Outdoor Fly Repellent and Fly Killer?

Pest Control Products

Pest control products would ideally not be used until all other methods have been implemented and you're still seeing a fly problem. 

Try an effective plant oil-based outdoor fly killer for spot-treatment, like Maggie's Farm Home Bug Spray, or Maggie's Farm Flying Insect Killer. Plants don't like flies and other bugs any more than you do, and the natural oils they produce to protect themselves are amazingly effective at killing and repelling bugs of all sorts. For effective personal protection against flies (and mosquitoes), try plant oil-based Maggie's Farm Natural Insect Repellent.

For longer term, more thorough coverage, you can treat wider areas of your lawn with effective hose-end plant oil-based pest control products like Maggie's Farm Yard Bug Spray

Find more information here:

The Best Indoor Fly Killer Spray

Tips for a Bug-free Cookout

How do you control flies in your yard, patio, and home? We want to hear your tips and tricks! Leave us a comment below!


For scientifically-tested, effective fly control in your home that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.

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