You'll never have to swat another fly again.
If your home has been invaded by house flies, this guide will help you eliminate them and prevent more flies from swarming in. House flies are a common nuisance, comprising about 90 percent of flies in homes. Although they do not bite, house flies carry millions of microorganisms on their feet that can spread pathogens and food-borne illnesses. Luckily, there are safe and natural ways to prevent and eliminate house flies in your home.
In this guide, experts weigh in with their best tips to stave off these pesky insects. You can implement many natural fly remedies by using items around your house. And if you have a severe problem and the home remedies don’t work, we’ve included chemical solution options too.
Related: The 7 Best Fly Traps of 2023
Understanding House Flies
Biology and Behavior
House flies—musca domestica—are an insect in the family Muscidae and order Diptera. They have gray or black bodies, large red eyes, and two nearly translucent wings. Their bodies are around 0.2 to 0.3 inches long. House flies have slightly hairy bodies, and females are larger than males.
House flies are attracted to decaying organic matter, and females lay batches of about 100 eggs on food waste, rotting meat, and feces. The eggs hatch quickly, in 12 to 24 hours. The hatched flies are legless and white, called maggots, and they develop into pupae, then adult flies. On average, adult flies live just two to four weeks but can reproduce rapidly.
Although they do not bite, house flies can be detrimental to human health because they carry pathogens on their bodies and in their feces. They can also spread food-borne illnesses through their contact with food.
Causes of House Fly Infestation
House flies are attracted to decaying food and organic matter. They assemble and lay eggs in areas with poor sanitation with fecal matter, such as pet waste and uncovered trash. According to entomologist Peter Irenicus, founder of The Holy Habibee, the three leading causes of house flies are:
Food: Flies are attracted to organic materials on which they can feed. This includes food scraps, garbage, excrement, and decaying organic matter. Uncovered trash, pet waste, and compost can all attract flies.
Breeding sites: Flies lay their eggs in moist organic matter, such as garbage, manure, compost, or rotting vegetation. If your home is near fly breeding grounds like a farm, garbage dump, or slaughterhouse, you may become an unwelcome host to many house flies.
Openings in homes: Flies can enter homes through unscreened windows or doors or other unsealed openings in search of food or warmth.
How to Get Rid of House Flies
If you have a house fly problem in your home, take solace—there are many ways to eliminate the pesky critters. The good news is that you can get rid of house flies with items you probably already have lying around your home.
There are many eco-friendly natural ways to deter house flies in your home. Try these natural remedies to get rid of flies for good:
Mix apple cider vinegar and dish soap. Use equal parts dish soap and apple cider vinegar, and put the solution in a bowl or jar. Sprinkle sugar on top to further entice the flies. The dish soap will break down the flies and kill them, while the vinegar attracts them. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, try stale wine or beer, says Irenicus, as the aging scents attract flies.
Plant herbs near doorways and windows where flies have gathered, advises Irenicus. Herbs such as basil, mint, bay leaf, tansy, and rue repel house flies and offer a natural deterrent to make your home an unattractive place for flies.
Essential oils from plants such as lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, and lemongrass can act as fly repellents. Place the essential oils in diffusers or mix with water and spray in areas of your home where flies congregate.
Fly paper is an easy way to trap and kill house flies. Hang the two-sided sticky paper in places where flies gather, and it will attract and trap them. You can dispose of the strip of dead flies once you’ve got them all or periodically put up a new strip if you have more left to catch.
If you’re having a persistent fly problem that won’t go away, chemical-based solutions can be a fast way to get rid of house flies. “Chemical solutions for controlling house flies involve different compounds that are designed to target and get rid of these pests effectively,” says entomologist Michel Johnson, founder and owner of Ciao Bedbugs.
Some common insecticides for killing flies include pyrethroids, which are synthetic versions of natural insecticides found in chrysanthemum flowers, Johnson says. These chemicals inhibit flies’ nerves when they touch them, causing paralysis and death. Imidacloprid is another chemical often used in bait traps. It also targets the flies’ nervous systems and kills them.
Light traps are another way to get rid of house flies. These work by attracting the flies to light in the back of the trap and trapping them or using an electric zap to kill them.
The best way to get rid of house flies is to prevent them from entering your house in the first place. Make sure your home is secure with the doors and windows sealed. Ensure that your screens have no holes or rips.
Inside your home, you can make your house less attractive to flies by cleaning up all food waste and crumbs (from humans and pets), securing all garbage in trash cans with liners and lids, and emptying your garbage and recycling frequently. If your pet uses a litter box or indoor area for a toilet, clean the area often.
Keep outdoor areas clean by picking up pet waste and food and putting tight lids on your garbage. Perform regular inspections of your outdoor spaces to ensure there are no house fly breeding grounds, Irenicus says.
“Periodically check for potential breeding grounds such as rotting food or stagnant water and address them properly,” he says. “This also goes for the home gardeners with a compost pile: Turn it regularly to discourage flies from laying eggs.”
Lights can also attract flies, so limit your lights at night, turning off unnecessary lights. Also, consider using yellow bug lights to repel house flies, Irenicus says.
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