Flies can be more than just a nuisance, they can actually be dangerous to you, your animals, your garden and your crops. There are dozens of types of flies that can mean trouble, but fortunately, it is no trouble to take simple steps to control all sorts of fly populations around your property.
The Problems With Flies
There are many ways that flies can be a problem in your home, yard, garden, barn, pasture or fields. Not every type of fly causes the same issues, but common problems include…
Disease Transmission – As biting insects, flies can easily transmit a wide range of diseases, not only to humans but to pets and livestock as well. Typhoid fever, cholera, anthrax, leprosy and tuberculosis are just some of the more serious diseases that can be transmitted by flies.
Food Contamination – Flies are attracted to moisture and will crawl on and suck fluids from different foods, including produce and meat. They may lay their eggs in food, and newly-hatched larvae feed on the organic material as they grow.
Plant Damage – Some flies feed primarily on vegetation, and may skeletonize leaves, damage roots or suck sap from plant stems either in their adult or larval forms. This can dramatically reduce harvests or cause wilting and even plant death.
Animal Irritation – Flies seek out the soft, moist tissues of animals' mouths, eyes and ears, causing itching and irritation that can lead to stressed or anxious animals. Those animals may not work as well, could lose weight or may lash out aggressively.
- Sore Infections – If animals, both pets and livestock, have open sores, flies may lay their eggs in the moist tissues, leading to more severe infections or blood contamination. Even small scratches or blisters could become breeding grounds for flies.
While just a few flies do not pose a large risk of severe problems, greater numbers of these airborne pests can cause significant difficulties. When flies are numerous, it is best to take steps to control their populations and minimize their numbers.
Whether you have noticed increased numbers of flies in your home, around your urban garden, on your small farm or at your large, commercial agricultural operation, the steps to control flies are the same.
Keep It Clean
Flies thrive in decaying material, including trash, compost, lawn thatch, grass clippings and manure. Cleaning up these materials will help keep fly populations minimal. Keep trash cans tightly closed and sanitize them regularly, and use bins for composting or relocate compost and manure piles to more out-of-the-way, isolated locations where flies won't be as bothersome. De-thatch lawns to removed decaying grass, and either bag grass clippings or use a mulch mower setting so the finer clippings will decay too rapidly to attract flies. Clean up other decaying organic material around your property as well, such as windfall fruit or spilled grain.
Dry It Out
Flies need moisture to nurture their eggs and larvae, and the drier your property, the less welcoming it will be for these pests. Check all faucets and spigots for leaks, and tighten them as necessary. Remove stagnant, standing water such as dirty bird baths or water collected in plant saucers, and be sure rain gutters are aligned properly to drain quickly. Check your property's overall drainage and make corrections as needed, and adjust irrigation to be sure you are watering properly without making swampy areas or puddles.
Treat Animal Injuries
If your pets or livestock have open sores, scratches, wounds or blisters, treat those injuries and wrap or cover them as needed to keep flies out. This will not only prevent flies from laying their eggs in moist tissues or feeding on the sores, but will also help keep your animals healthier and more comfortable. If the injuries do not heal, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and ongoing treatment to prevent additional infections.
Screen Them Out
If flies inside buildings are bothering you the most, invest in good quality, appropriately sized screens to keep the bugs out. Screen all windows and doors, and make sure the screens fit snugly so they will not inadvertently swing open. At the same time, attach screens over vents or chimneys to prevent more flies from entering. Check for cracks, splits or other holes that could admit flies, and caulk, patch or repair them as needed.
Plant Fly Repellants
Let your landscape help take care of fly problems with fly-repellent plants. Many aromatic plants, particularly those with citrus-like scents or rich herbs, help discourage flies. Basil, citronella grass, lavender, mint and lemongrass are all effective options. Work these plants into your garden and landscape, or plant them in containers to strategically position anywhere you want to minimize fly populations.
Opt for Traps
There are a variety of fly traps available, from simple sticky strips and homemade traps to more sophisticated traps with commercial chemicals or ultraviolet light to lure flies into jars or tubes where they cannot escape. While traps have a very limited range of effectiveness, they can be useful in barns, near doorways or anywhere multiple flies have been causing problems.
If a fly infestation is severe, it may be necessary to use stronger chemicals and insecticide sprays. Read all warning labels and application instructions carefully, and use these products only as much as needed to control flies without contaminating food produce, animals' drinking water or other delicate areas. When in doubt, consider calling professional exterminators to apply chemicals safely.
It will be impossible to eliminate every fly from your property, yard and farm, but if you use several control techniques simultaneously, it is possible to minimize fly populations and the risks they can pose.