face flies near a cow's eye

Flies are a pesky nuisance during the summertime, but on the homestead, they are much more than a simple frustration. Adult flies and fly larvae can be detrimental to the health of livestock if the population isn’t kept under control.

Flies can lay eggs inside open wounds of animals and cause a condition called fly strike. This is when the eggs begin to grow and feed on the flesh of the host animal. Flies can also transmit diseases & parasites, cause skin irritation, decrease grazing time, reduce egg/milk production, and cause other issues. 

Clearly, flies are an issue so let’s talk about how to get rid of them with homestead fly control options.

The Importance of Homestead Fly Control

Controlling flies around the homestead is vital to the health of your animals (and to your sanity). There are a few different types of flies to watch out for. If you identify the fly species that are infesting your property, then you can treat and prevent them more effectively.

Types of Flies

There are several types of flies that can be found on a homestead. House flies, biting stable flies, bottle flies, horse flies, bot flies, horn flies, and face flies are the most common.

Potential Issues Caused without Fly Control

Weight Loss

When animals are busy swatting off flies and dealing with pain from fly bites, they will graze less so their weight will drop. Depending on the type of flies, they also may be experiencing blood loss that can cause them to feel weak.

Skin Irritation

Fly bites can cause itching and pain as well as chronic skin conditions.

Decrease in Production

When flies are overcrowding your animals, you may see a decrease in milk and egg production due to blood loss, infections, reduced eating, and increased stress.

Fly Strike

Fly strike is a condition in which an adult fly lays eggs inside an open wound. These eggs hatch and the maggots feed on the flesh of the animal. If flystrike isn’t treated quickly, the maggots will essentially eat the animal from the inside out.

Diseases & Parasites

There are many diseases and parasites that can be transmitted from flies to livestock. Some of these diseases include:

  • Anaplasmosis
  • Mastitis
  • Pinkeye
  • Tuberculosis
  • Botulism
  • Typhoid
  • Dysentery
  • Salmonella
  • Cholera
  • Anthrax
  • Parasite eggs

How to Get Rid of Flies on the Homestead

 1. Preventative Measures

The best pest control is preventing the pests in the first place. Maintaining cleanliness around the homestead can significantly reduce your fight against flies. Keep livestock bedding cleaned out, trash cans emptied, and scrap buckets/pans cleaned regularly to minimize odors that attract flies and eliminate the decaying materials that give them space to lay eggs. 

Cleaning a stall to help prevent flies

Another preventative measure is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the barn and chicken coop floors. DE is abrasive so it will kill fly larvae (maggots) that crawl over it. It also reduces moisture and smell so flies won’t be as attracted to these areas. 

If you keep manure & food scraps for compost, make sure that the pile is away from the barn, coop, and house and that the compost is able to heat up well. The heat will make these decomposing organic matter less friendly to fly larvae.

2. Use Natural Repellants for Homestead Fly Control

Consider planting herbs that repel flies. Strong aromatic herbs like basil, lavender, mint, and sage emit odors that flies generally try to avoid. Garlic, marigolds, and nasturtiums are also good natural fly repellants. 

Plant these herbs and flowers beside the chicken coop, barn door, and even outside the door of your home to keep flies out.

You can also use the essential oils from these plants to deter flies. Soak cotton balls in the oils and place them in areas that the flies frequent. 

3. Fly Sprays and Misters

Flies aren’t just a nuisance for us, they are also an issue for livestock. When it starts to get hot out, these pesky insects cover the animals and it is our job to help. A homemade fly spray can help keep flies off of your cows, horses, goats, sheep, etc. This fly spray recipe is made with apple cider vinegar, essential oils from plants that repel flies, dish soap, and oil- a simple & natural solution. 

Fly spray misters look like the automatic air freshener sprays that you see in many offices, public bathrooms, etc. These misters can be secured above a chicken coop, run, barn stall, or run-in where they will spray a mist of insecticide on a timer. 

4. Utilize Traps and Baits

Another way to get rid of flies is to pull out the original farmhouse decor of fly strips and fly trap bags. These traps contain scents that attract flies. The bugs flock to the scent and become trapped in sticky goo or in a liquid that they can’t fly out of. While fly traps aren’t attractive, they are very effective.  Homemade fly traps can also be made with apple cider vinegar, fruit juice, or sweetened water.

fly strip covered in flies

5. Introduce Natural Predators- Fight the Bad Bugs with Good Bugs

Biological fly control through the introduction of natural predators is an effective solution to reducing the fly population without using toxic chemicals. Parasitic wasps are natural fly predators that get rid of the flies before they have the chance to hatch. 

Adult wasps inject eggs into the fly pupae. These eggs grow inside and feed off the immature fly. Instead of a fly, an adult parasitic wasp will emerge lowering the fly population and increasing the fly predator population.

parastic wasp for homestead fly control

Bats are also commonly used for insect control. You can install a bat house to attract bats that will eat flies, mosquitoes, and other bugs.

6. Deter Flies with Light Reflections

Some people report success in repelling flies by hanging different materials that reflect light into the complex eyes of the flies. A couple of ways to do this include hanging CDs by a string in the sunlight and hanging a clear plastic bag filled with water and pennies. 

While there is no scientific “proof” for this method, there is scientific reasoning. The Tennessee Farm Bureau released an article that explains how this could be effective- “The best explanation is simple light refraction going through the bag of water that confuses the housefly. A housefly has large complex eyes made up of thousands of simple eyes that don’t move or focus. The fly bases his movement by light and the refracted light coming through the water in the plastic bag confuses the fly causing him to move on to a place that is easier on the eyes.”

Homestead fly control isn’t part of the romanticized lifestyle, but it is a necessary responsibility that we carry. Reducing the fly population on your homestead can be achieved through proactive sanitation and cleanliness, natural repellants, homemade fly sprays, traps, and baits, and by introducing natural predators. Use traps & baits to reduce the adult fly population, then implement cleaning practices and introduce natural predators to keep that population down.

Mitigating Homestead Problems

Keep reading to learn more about common dangers to your homestead livestock and how to prevent them from happening.

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How to get rid of flies on the homestead | It is important to keep fly populations under control in the summer for your livestock's health. Here are 6 homestead fly control options.