The many, many ways to get rid of pesky flies

When you take these steps, you'll finally be able to enjoy a fly-free home all summer

By Camryn Rabideau

Published May 10, 2022 5:51PM (EDT)

 (Rocky Luten / Food52)
(Rocky Luten / Food52)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

One thing I wasn't prepared for when I moved from a nice, modern apartment into an old farmhouse were the bugs. There are just So. Many. Bugs. In our first year of homeownership alone, we were unlucky enough to deal with drain flies, stink bugs, the occasional house centipede, and big black flies that invaded our windows during the summer.

The latter is a common pest during the warmer months of the year, as they often sneak into your home looking for a place to lay eggs. That whole "house flies only live for 24 hours" concept is a total myth, by the way — in fact, these pesky bugs can live up to a month, according to Orkin, giving them plenty of time to pester your pets and slowly drive you to the brink of despair. (Don't even get me started on fruit flies, which can live even longer and produce hundreds of offspring!) If you need to get rid of flies quickly, here are all the ways you can trap them, repel them, and ultimately just keep them away from your home.

Get rid of what attracts them

To successfully get rid of flies, you have to think like a fly. Maybe that's a little dramatic, but it does help to understand why they're in your home to begin with.

You see, house flies are looking for places to lay their eggs, and they're attracted to decaying organic material and waste, such as garbage, dirty drains, old produce, sugary spills, and even pet food. They're also attracted to heat and light, which is why you can often find them hanging out in your windows.

To make your home less attractive to flies, Ehrlich Pest Control recommends cleaning up food waste immediately — aka, no leaving half-eaten sandwiches on the counter all day — as well as investing in a covered trash can and cleaning up pet food and waste regularly. By removing these breeding areas, you can prevent flies from reproducing in your home.

While somewhat gross, it's also worth mentioning that flies will happily lay their eggs in the bodies of dead rodents — something I learned the hard way last summer. We had a mouse that dragged a trap away in our attic, only to die in a secluded corner, and we didn't realize what happened until it was too late. We had big, ugly flies zooming around the house for a week, and now I'm extra diligent about keeping track of all our traps. In fact, now I put them in shoeboxes with a little hole in the side so mice can't drag the traps away.

Make DIY fly traps

But what about the pesky fellas that are already inside? There are a few ways to make DIY fly traps to capture and dispose of house flies, the easiest of which involves a soda bottle.

You'll want to clean out a 1- or 2-liter plastic soda bottle, then cut off the top one-third of the bottle — basically from the label up. Fill the bottom of the bottle with a few inches of sweet liquid, such as soda or sugar water, then flip the top upside down and place it in the base, creating a funnel. Flies will be attracted to the sugar, and once they crawl down into the bottle, they won't be able to find their way out again.

Another option is to fill a shallow dish with apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar, and a generous squirt of dish soap. Place the dish near where your flies hang out, and they'll get stuck in the sweet mixture. This is also a tried-and-true method for capturing fruit flies.

Additionally, you can use clear fly traps to capture the bugs who hang out in your windows, and when in doubt, a fly swatter will do the trick — you just have to be quick! (Rhyme not intended.)

Other ways to kill flies

I'm guilty of chasing flies around the house with my handheld vacuum, trying to suck them out of the air, but it's definitely one of the least-effective methods of killing the pesky insects. For an inexpensive yet effective solution, you may want to invest in a pack of fly swatters, which are ideal for smacking down flies mid-flight.

Or, if you want to feel like a fly-fighting ninja, check out the Bug-A-Salt, which was recommended by one of our readers. This unique device actually shoots table salt at bugs — yes, really — effectively using the little pellets as high-speed projectiles to kill flying insects. It sounds crazy, but just take a look at all its rave reviews.

Other options to exterminate flies in your home include window sticky traps, a zapper racket, or even a pet-safe aerosol spray.

Use plants to keep flies away

Once you've gotten rid of the flies in your home, you may want to take steps to keep them from coming back, and luckily, you generally don't need to use pesticides. There are a number of plants that naturally repel flies, including: 

  • Basil 
  • Bay leaf 
  • Lavender 
  • Nasturtiums 
  • Mint 
  • Marigolds 

By planting the flowers near your doors or as herbs in window boxes, you can keep flies away from the places where they commonly get into your house. Plus, you'll also have lovely blooms and fresh herbs to cook with. Win-win!

Keep flies out of your home

If you want to do everything possible to keep flies and other bugs out of your home during the summer, there are a few more steps you can take.

  • Start by inspecting your screens and patching any holes. If the screen is in bad shape, you may want to replace the whole thing. You can also add weather stripping to your doors and windows to seal off any cracks through which bugs can gain entry.
  • You'll also want to clean up dead leaves and other yard waste, including pet waste, and if you have an outdoor compost pile, place it at least 20 feet away from your home.

When you take these steps, you'll finally be able to enjoy a fly-free home all summer.

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Camryn Rabideau

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