YES! But How? :: Getting Rid of Pesky Flies

If you’re looking for practical ways to live sustainably, just ask us.


The pleasure of the cohabitation from which the housefly draws its name does not belong exclusively to the winged ones. We depend as much on flies for decomposition as they do on us for shelter. Nonetheless, most of us prefer to have our flies do their work outdoors. Here’s how to keep them there.

  • Clean up. Wash everything: garbage cans, sink and tub drains, even the dog and his backyard deposits. Seal everything: Put fruits and veggies in the fridge and cover any food left out.
  • Barriers. Caulk every crack in the house and cover all vents with fine mesh. Garden with fly-repelling plants: marigolds, geraniums, mint, basil, purple coneflowers, Russian sage, tansy, and garlic. Burn eucalyptus leaves. Aim fans at open entrances to irritate the fly’s sensitive leg hairs. Fill a zip-top plastic bag with water and hang it above the doorway to reflect the sun: Flies’ compound eyes are sensitive to focused light.
  • When gentler measures fail. If you find yourself hanging a sign that says “No Flies Allowed,” mass flyicide may be your only hope. Introduce natural predators: carnivorous plants, spiders, dragonflies, mantids, frogs, or lizards. Catching flies is easy, and no need to chase them with a swatter. Use cabbage like a drug: it attracts flies and makes them sluggish enough to pick up by hand. Use sweet-smelling bait like fruit or wine to draw them into your choice of many traps: an open wine bottle, a plastic tub with a tiny hole cut in the lid, or a commercial bug trap. A spray bottle with water and detergent works as a weapon. For homemade, non-toxic fly paper, boil water or cider vinegar with corn syrup, adding sugar until the mixture is thick and sticky, then spread it on strips cut from a brown paper bag. Soon, your home will be fly-free, and you can rest with the knowledge that your winged friends are happily decomposing things outside.

—Mary Richter

Send questions to YES! But How?, 284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 or to [email protected]

Our Issue 50 Researchers:
Mary Richter wrote this article as part of The New Economy, the Summer 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Mary, on the left in the photo, represents an unlikely collision between punk and hippie, wont to fling red paint on her own leather jackets. If her journalistic aspirations deflate alongside the economy, she hopes to spend her life digging holes.
Photo of Mary Richter and Catherine Bailey
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