Say Goodbye to Outdoor Flies with These Tips

Flies are one of many insects that come alive in the spring and persist throughout the year until winter. Not only are they a nuisance to homeowners, but many types of flies carry harmful disease-causing organisms that pose a risk to your family and pets. 

There are several methods you can use to get rid of flies outside and keep them away for good. Methods to get rid of flies outside naturally include the use of oscillating fans, generating fly-repellent odors, or making your own DIY fly trap. To kill flies outside, you can use more active measures like setting up fly traps, fly zappers, or fly paper.

To then keep flies away outside, you’ll need to remove the attractive conditions that are drawing in the flies in the first place. In this article, we explain what these conditions are, along with a range of options to get rid of flies from outside your property for good.

When Are Flies Most Active?

In the US, flies are most active from spring until fall, with activity typically peaking during the summer. In terms of the time of day, they are most active during daylight hours as this is when they go out hunting for food. Fly activity tends to slow down during the night when the sun goes down and temperatures drop. 

The reason for this behavior is that flies prefer warmer temperatures and sunlight. They tend to be most active when air temperatures reach around 80 to 90°F. They go back to their resting state when the sun goes down, or when temperatures drop below 45°F. 

black fly on a leaf

Why Are There So Many Flies Outside My House?

Depending on the species that you’re dealing with, there are several types of matter that could be attracting flies to your property. Generally speaking, flies are attracted to any matter outdoors that they can either eat or lay their eggs in. This includes:

  • Food waste in trash cans, especially sugary foods or rotten meat
  • Dirty trash cans
  • Compost piles
  • Fallen fruit and berries from trees or shrubs
  • Animal feces and manure
  • Dead animal carcasses
  • Areas of standing water
  • Some types of organic fertilizer

Basically, flies are attracted to anything that a human would consider a terrible smell, finding no rancid scent repelling. Bright outdoor lights may also attract flies to your yard. 

Are Flies Harmful?

Again, depending on the species, some types of flies can pose a risk to human health. Many species carry harmful viruses and bacteria that can spread disease to humans and animals. Some of the diseases that some types of flies can spread include:

  • Food poisoning pathogens i.e. E. coli, listeria, salmonella
  • Cholera
  • Typhoid fever
  • Tuberculosis
  • Dysentery
  • Infections of the eyes

Refer to the information in the next section to identify whether you’re dealing with a harmless or disease-carrying fly species. 

Identifying Common Types of Flies

There are many different species of flies, with some being more prone to spreading disease than others. Below we have listed some of the most common types of flies found outside in the US. 

Bluebottle Fly

Bluebottle flies are so-called due to their iridescent metallic blue coloring that appears similar to a colored bottle. They are scavengers by nature, being most attracted to decomposing animal feces and carcasses; in your outdoor spaces, you will likely see this species flying around your trash cans. Bluebottle flies are a species that are known to be potential carriers of disease.

Cluster Fly

Cluster flies have dark grey to olive-colored bodies that are covered in small golden-brown hairs. They tend to settle in quiet, undisturbed areas, as they need somewhere warm to hibernate throughout winter. Cluster flies pose no risk at all to human health as they are not known carriers of disease. 

House Fly

House flies are grey in color and have bodies covered with small hairs that act as their taste organs. They like to feed on all types of matter, including human and pet food, animal feed, rotten food waste, and feces. House flies are known to be major carriers of disease. 


Horseflies are a distinctive species as they’re relatively large compared to other types of flies, measuring up to 25mm long. They have black to dark brown-colored bodies and eyes of black or green. These flies are most commonly found around livestock, as the females have a nasty bite and go after livestock animals relentlessly. Male horseflies instead feed on pollen and nectar. Horseflies also bite humans; while the bites don’t spread disease, they can be very painful and irritating. 

Fruit Fly

Fruit flies have red eyes and tiny bodies that have yellow-brown or mottled coloring. They are most attracted to sugary matter, typically being found in fruit orchards, vegetable plots, and pubs and breweries. In your yard, you will find fruit flies hovering either around your bins or around any fallen fruit or berries. Fruit flies are capable of spreading diseases that cause food poisoning in humans, such as listeria and salmonella. 

How to Get Rid of Flies Outside Naturally

This section outlines the methods you can use to get rid of flies outside naturally. These include using oscillating fans, burning citronella candles, hanging bags of vodka, and making your own DIY fly traps. 

Use Fans

You can use the strategic placement of some fans as a straightforward way to repel flies from outside your property. Flies are weak fliers up against the powerful airflow of an oscillating fan. By placing several fans and angling them away from your property, you can blow the flies away without harming them. This is a particularly effective natural method to get rid of flies from your patio. If your outdoor space such as your patio has an overhead structure, consider installing a permanent overhead fan. 

Burn Citronella Candles 

Citronella candles are made of aromatic oils from distilled lemongrass which is a known repellant of flies and mosquitoes. The scent and smoke that a citronella candle produces will help to get rid of flies naturally from your outdoor areas. With that said, you may need to light a few of these candles at once to get the full repellent effect. This is another good method to get rid of flies from a patio.

Hang Bags of Vodka

Vodka is another substance that gives off a fly-repellant odor. Flies dislike the smell of vodka and will avoid areas where they can smell it. You can therefore get rid of flies outside by hanging bags of vodka around your porch or other recreational areas. Fill several quarter-gallon freezer bags with vodka and tie them to your guttering or property exterior using string. Any cheap brand of vodka will suffice for this method. 

Place Cloves in Outdoor Areas

Another odor that repels flies naturally is that given off by cloves. You can get rid of flies from your porch or outdoor areas by placing cloves around these areas. This is a useful method if you’re hosting an outdoor event and you wish to deter the flies from landing on your food. 

Make a DIY Natural Fly Trap

While commercial fly traps are available for purchase, you can make your own DIY trap at home using natural ingredients. In a shallow dish or saucer, mix cornmeal and molasses together into a thick paste. Place the dish somewhere away from your patio or outdoor recreational area. The sweet taste of the molasses will draw the flies to the dish, where they will get trapped in the mixture’s sticky texture. 

How to Kill Flies Outside

The following section details methods on how to kill flies outside, instead of just repelling them. 

Kill Flies with Fly Traps

You can trap the flies using special fly traps to intercept them outside and prevent them from making their way to your property. These traps contain a strong-smelling bait substance that attracts the flies into the trap. Due to its conical shape, the flies are unable to leave once they enter the trap. The only caveat with this method is that the bait substance often has a very foul smell, meaning you’ll have to place the traps far away from your property. 

Kill Flies with Flypaper

Flypaper is a type of fly trap that is essentially, as the name suggests, a strip of sticky paper. These traps are coated in a chemical substance that behaves as an attractant and an adhesive; the attractant on the paper draws the flies to the paper, where they get stuck by the adhesive. You can get rid of flies outside by placing several strips of flypaper around your outdoor areas and property exterior. 

Kill Flies with Fly Zappers

Fly zappers kill flies by drawing them in with a light, before zapping them with an electrical current. These are effective devices you can use to kill flies outside in your outdoor recreational areas. The biggest thing to note with fly zappers is that you must take care when setting them up; make sure to place the zapper well above the area so that it would be impossible for someone to run into them. Although the electrical current in a fly zapper isn’t enough to electrocute a person, it would still give them a painful shock.

Grow Carnivorous Plants

There are a few types of plants that are carnivorous and will actually eat flies, as opposed to simply repelling them. Carnivorous plants include Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, and monkey cups. Plants such as these eat a range of small insects and will help to get rid of flies and mosquitoes from your yard.

mosquitoes flying in forest

How to Keep Flies Away Outside

Follow these tips to keep flies away outside for good. 

Get Rid of Standing Water

Many fly species breed and feed in areas of standing water. You should get rid of standing water in your yard or lawn to remove this attraction for flies. Make sure that any gutters you have on your property are free of debris, cleaning them out regularly as needed. Keep your cesspool or sewage pit well-maintained and in good working order. If standing water is gathering on your lawn or garden, you may need to level the soil to improve its drainage.

Mow Lawn Regularly

Flies love areas with tall grass and piles of overgrown brush. If you let your grass grow too long, this creates an inviting environment for flies. Keep up with a regular mowing schedule, mowing the grass to the best height for your grass species. Regularly trim your shrubs and never leaves piles of grass clippings, leaves, or brush on the lawn. There are a number of ways you can repurpose grass clippings, such as using them as grass clipping compost. You can also mow leaves into the lawn to create a leaf mulch. 

Clean Up Fruit Waste from Ground

If you have fruit trees or berry-producing plants, make sure to clear up any fruit that falls onto the ground. Decaying fruit or berries are highly attractive foods for many types of flies and will draw them into your yard. To avoid providing this food source, remove fruits and berries as soon as possible after they drop from your plants. As an extra tip, avoid putting food waste such as this on your bird feeders too.  

Choose Fertilizer Carefully

Organic fertilizers are made up of entirely organic materials and are much better for your lawn or garden than chemical formulas. However, the decaying organic matter in organic fertilizer can be very attractive to flies. You should avoid using fertilizers that contain fresher matter like manure or fish meals. Instead, opt for well-rotted or processed fertilizers to avoid attracting more flies to your yard. 

Keep Trash Cans Clean and Well-Sealed

The strong smells that come from trash or rotten food outside are highly attractive to flies. Make sure that your trash cans are well-sealed and that you keep your general trash area clean. Place your trash cans as far away from your property as possible to avoid drawing flies near to it. 

Maintain Compost Bin Properly

If you have a compost bin, you need to take care with its maintenance to avoid creating an attractive environment for flies. Your compost bin is filled with the decaying organic matter that flies love to feed on and lay their eggs in. You should keep your compost bin as far away from your property as possible. Maintain it properly so that it’s constantly ‘cooking’, as doing so will ensure that it’s too warm for fly larvae to survive. Also, take care to not make your compost pile too moist. 

Pick Up Animal Waste

If you have any pets or animals that frequent your yard, make sure to pick up their waste as quickly as possible. Not only is pet waste attractive to flies, it also contains high levels of nitrogen. As the waste decomposes, it releases this nitrogen into the surrounding soil; too much nitrogen on a lawn from a source such as this can cause your grass to turn yellow or brown. Pick up animal waste as soon as you spot it, placing it in a sealable bag before disposing of it.

Encourage Presence of Natural Fly Predators

Lots of different animals and insects feed on flies, so encouraging the presence of these creatures can help keep fly populations low. Encourage more birds to spend time in your garden by setting up a bird bath and bird feeders. If you don’t mind the presence of other types of insects in your yard, consider increasing the populations of fly predators such as wasps and ladybugs. Also, don’t get rid of non-dangerous spiders from your yard and leave their cobwebs intact to act as natural fly traps. 

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