Should we resign to play badminton with electric swatters all day long?
May 16, 2018 12:41 PM   Subscribe

We've had a fly problem for a few years now, that has largely been outside. While a bummer, we've learned to live with it, but a recent series of invasions has us worried. Every time we fire up the crock-pot before leaving for work, a dozen or so black flies in the house when we get home. None have successfully breached the crockpot, but it's only a matter of time.

Our neighborhood just has a lot of flies in it, apparently. There are a couple houses with messy yards that contribute, and we've done our part to try and keep contributing factors to a minimum; keeping grass alive seems to help, religiously cleaning up after the dog certainly does, we clean our municipal compost container frequently. Oddly enough we have more flies in our backyard than we do near our garbage or compost. Our backyard is pretty shady, which they seem to prefer. We hang 4 or so of this style of trap every other week; the bags get FULL and they flies just keep coming. I mean, we're possibly looking at thousands of flies caught per bag every two weeks here; are we perhaps inadvertently attracting more flies with these traps? I have tried spreading diatomaceous earth across the backyard which seemed to just make a mess and didn't curb the population. We've tried essential oils of different types around the property, but again, no love there.

We built a covered porch last year, and haven't really been able to enjoy it outside, because we're swarmed with flies at the nearest hint of food being brought outside. It's clearly reaching a tipping point if that many flies are getting inside.

As far as inside, We don't know how they're getting in and have checked every seal on every window.

We're most concerned with getting their population under control an/or repelling them from our property; if we can do that, an odd fly getting in the house isn't really an issue. It just doesn't seem to be staying constant, it seems to be increasing. Do pest control places even deal with flies? We're willing at this point to throw money at the problem, but we're open to DIY solutions, as long as they'll work. I don't expect my yard to be bug-free, but I'd rather not have 25 flies on my ass as soon as I step outside in the morning with a cup of coffee and a piece of toast.

Any gadget, plant, professional or other tactic is welcome...we're just out of ideas and don't really know what to do.
posted by furnace.heart to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
If there's that many flies out and about I would just assume they're getting in when you come in and out of the house and you're just not realizing it. If the crock pot situation has you specifically concerned you might consider putting out a homemade countertop cone trap at the same time.

Personally I have found the top low-impact way to deal with all the winged pests is with a fan. Is there somewhere on your porch you can put a ceiling fan? Or mount one in an upper corner? If you can cover your door you can also limit the incursions that way; food service places use devices called an air curtain for this purpose but any fan blowing them away from the door will help.

If you want to pay someone fly control is definitely a thing.
posted by phearlez at 12:57 PM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Bug zappers work in a lot of situations.
posted by rhizome at 1:08 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would use something like this mesh food screen to keep flies away from my crock pot or food.

I slept under a mosquito net last summer because I had a similar problem; I'm considering getting a second, more decorative net for my living room since it worked so well for the bed.

You can also chase them with a vacuum.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:19 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’d like to clarify that we can manage with the current level of incursion; we’d like to tackle the outdoor population to keep it from getting worse. Once we take the indoor ones out, they’re not a pervasive problem. We’d like to reduce the population, not cope with their presence.

Also; they sometimes come in with us, but the way our doors and house is set up, it doesn’t happen often. Two dozen flies would be noticed sneaking in with us when we got home. They’re grtting in while we’re gone and the house is sealed up.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:32 PM on May 16, 2018

The last time I lived in a house with this magnitude of fly problem, it turned out they were coming from inside somewhere. Something medium-sized (bigger than a mouse, hopefully smaller than a racoon) had gotten into our walls and died, leaving behind a lot of food for a lot of fly larvae.

There were hints that these flies weren't coming inside with us - there weren't any in the mud room off our front door but they were mostly in rooms along a certain exterior wall, for instance. The bad news is that it got a lot worse before it got better because we couldn't get their buffet out of the wall; we spent a morning killing about 200 flies in a 1200sqft house. The good news is that the fly population dropped to single digits once their food source was spent.

As a fly-phobe, thanks for helping me relive my worst July!
posted by blerghamot at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

Fly Spray. As an Aussie that survived 40 years of summer flies, FlySpray is your friend, called Flying insect spray in the US I believe. Just cover your food & wipe down your counters afterwards. The dead animal in the wall theory offered by Blerghamot is a likely cause if you can't see them coming in with you guys.
posted by wwax at 1:39 PM on May 16, 2018

The flies are probably breeding in the garbage/compost areas and migrating over to the drier yard once they're mature.

You can buy a ton of predatory fly parasites (they are apparently very small and do not bother humans or animals) and periodically release them in batches around the compost and garbage. They kill fly pupae before they have a chance to develop into adult flies. It looks like they're pretty inexpensive and they ship as eggs so you don't have to deal with a container of live insects arriving at your doorstep.
posted by castlebravo at 1:43 PM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I hate flies and all other insects and work hard to get rid of them every summer. In my experience, air is the best solution, but I am not sure how you can apply it where you are. I cross-ventilate every space several times every day. I don't need a fan to do it, but it may help if you are in a less windy region. After ventilating, I set up screens so they can't get back in. Keeping them out of the house seems to (almost) solve keeping them off the porch.
I ventilate when there is no cooking and no light on. There are always screens when the light is on. I can't always have screens when I cook, because the ventilation is insufficient, so I cook with all doors and windows open.

Also, when I was a kid I didn't understand the farmwife insistence on keeping all surfaces clean at all times and all foods contained. Now I do. In the city as well as on the farm. There will never be unwashed dishes in my house, I'm a fanatic.
posted by mumimor at 1:47 PM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

We had a neighbor who had two dogs and never picked up her yard once in the five or so years that she lived there. We were pretty much standing beside our dogs with a shovel in one hand and the hose in the other every morning but we just couldn't keep the flys out of our yard.

We tried the traps you linked, and I dare say it actually made matters worse for our doggos, as the attractive smell wafted and I'm certain we drew flys that normally wouldn't have noticed us. If you insist on keeping those traps, hang them as far away from the house as possible.

You might do better with just keeping an electric zapper on your porch. It won't attract extra flys to your yard, and hopefully will take care of the ones that do happen by.

On our back door we installed one if those screen/curtains that has magnets in the middle so it automatically closes behind you when you walk through.

We realized that our front yard plants (white licorice) which were awesome because they were completely drought tolerate but still grew taller than me every 4-5 years or so, were also very attractive to snails, and as it turns out the snail poop was attracting a fair amount of flys to our yard.

So, in the end, we ditched the fly traps, pulled out the plants, got the screen, kept our dogs inside as much as possible, and finally what really worked was that my neighbor moved and the new neighbor cleaned up the yard. If you can impress upon your neighbors with the messy yards to take some action that would probably go a long way towards helping. They might even be bothered by flys and not realize how they are contributing to the problem.

Btw, if you keep the fly traps, you don't have to keep replacing them every week or two (it can get expensive). Just add more water. The live flys will be even more attracted to funk of the dead flys in the trap.
posted by vignettist at 2:15 PM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Maybe not the same kind of flies as you have, but check/clean your drains? I had some flies pop out of a sink drain that hadn't been used in a while and needed cleaning. Once I cleaned it they stopped. That could be how you're getting them inside.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 12:09 PM on May 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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