The summer scourge of blow flies, house flies and cluster flies will soon be upon us. Insect sprays are an option, but not always the best choice for other good insects (such as bees), pets and humans – so here are some handy, natural tips to keep your cool and be less hassled by flies this summer.

Clean up: Remove things that will attract flies. Clean kitchen surfaces, and cover food. Keep the garden clear of decaying matter, animal droppings and blocked drains. The idea is to remove or reduce breeding areas and food sources.

Create barriers: One solution is to keep your doors and windows closed, but that is not very practical in summer. Net screens on windows and net doors can go a long way to help keep those pesky flies outside. Flies also dislike wind and varying airflow, so a fan blowing towards the door could discourage them from entering, and an oscillating fan could keep them away from certain areas.

Gentle dissuasion: Peppermint, mint, basil and lavender plants near doors and windows can discourage flies from the area. Lemongrass essential oil in a diffuser or dabbed onto cotton wool balls and left around the house can also keep your house smelling fresh and relatively fly free. Peppermint, lavender, citronella and eucalyptus oils will also work, but lemongrass is likely to be the most effective.

Flies also dislike the smell of cloves. Six to 12 cloves stuck into lemon halves is another effective deterrent, and clove essential oil is also very effective.

Citrus peels can also deter flies, as can hanging a plastic bag half filled with water outside doors and windows. The refracted light is believed to deter flies. Crystals hanging in your window can have the same effect.

Vodka-based homemade repellents are also said to be effective. Flies dislike the smell.

Light and temperature: Flies like hot weather but they don’t like rooms that are too hot (above 38 degrees Celcius) or too cold (around 9 degrees or below). Flies are also naturally attracted to light. Closing and opening different curtains or using tints on windows can also help make rooms less attractive.

Trap them: Sticky flypaper looks ugly, but it is a good way to catch flies that get through your other natural defenses. Homemade (or purchased) fly traps are another safe and chemical-free option to consider for outside use.


This article first appeared in the November 2016 edition of The Oxford Observer.