“My homestead brings all the flies to the yard…”
Well, it certainly feels that way. Pests are inevitable and to pets, livestock and family a little thing such as a fly used to be annoying but a way of life. Now it can be deadly with all the super strains of bacteria and disease that can be transmitted by that little bug.
What illnesses can flies transmit?
Although just considered a pest by many, the fly can actually carry life-threatening and fatal diseases a recent study by the University of Florida reports. The study documents up to 11 pathogens collected from houseflies and flies near restaurants and food sources. Five more bacteria caused illnesses showed up over the known pathogens already linked to the common house fly that included those linked to respiratory infections and food poisoning. The analyzed findings were extracted from the DNA and fatty acids of the flies, and were a lot more serious than previous reports that named up to 200 bacterium carried by flies. Researchers predict even more in the future as testing gets more advanced.
The more serious illnesses carried by flies include:
- Parasite eggs
- Eye, ear, nose infections like trachoma or epidemic conjunctivitis
- Chronic skin infection conditions like leprosy, poliomyelitis, or cutaneous diphtheria
They carry the bacteria or parasitic eggs on their little legs via the hair and it is transferred when they touch or land on the surface of things, or when they use saliva to wet and liquefy any solids before feeding and it going through the digestion process on the collected materials including offal.
The shocking thing is that when flies ingest the bacteria, they can survive several days in their gut and be transmitted with simple contact by touching or crawling on a person or their food. The scariest thought for me is since bacteria are invisible, you do not know if a fly has touched upon a surface you may use and therefore even if you do not SEE any flies you can still be a victim of this little nuisance.
What is the main food for flies?
Without water they can die within 48 hours so they stay close to water, thereby increasing the chances of tainting outside water sources and contamination can spread quickly throughout a herd or with person-to-person contact. As most of the named ailments and disease strains that a fly can carry also can be spread from the affected person or animal by them touching or preparing food, touching another, breathing too close, or any type of direct contact (even something as simple as money being handed to you, food in a bag, mail, touching a door knob or toilet flush, etc it is pretty frightening if you think on it).
Flies need to eat up to 4 times a day depending on their energy requirements. Besides the essential need for water, according to the WHO (World Health Organization) the most common food sources are all common to human homesteads, houses, and settlements:
- Meat broth
What are the most common breeding sites for flies?
All flies enjoy organic materials in the decaying and decomposition process so their eggs can have warmth and be protected in the soft, moist environment. Houseflies are the most common fly and make up about 92% of all flies. They prefer animal or vegetable refuse, especially heaping piles of it, while the blowfly and fleshfly species prefer to breed in carrion or meat waste.
- Garbage, especially byproducts from home, restaurant and commercial cooking
- Food processing waste
- Underground cesspools and cesspits
- Sludge and organic waste in liquid or solid form
- Organic manure such as that on fields
- Fish meal
- Accumulation of plant materials
- Decaying grass mounds or clippings
- Compost heaps
- Rotting vegetable or plant matter
- Food market waste
Homesteader breeding sites of flies:
- Poultry houses
- Feed lots
- Dung heaps
- Animal lean-tos or weather sheds
- Cat holes
- Latrines, outhouses, toilets
- Organic refuse
- Fertilized fields
Who are more likely to catch illnesses from flies?
For the most part, healthy immune systems can fight off the pathogens. But in times of duress or extreme stress to the immune system, even healthy adults can be infected. Those with compromised or immature and underdeveloped immune systems are at serious risk for health problems to develop, such as:
- The elderly
- Pregnant women and the unborn child
- Those who have had a recent illness
- Those whose immune systems have been stressed, such as with chemotherapy treatments
- Animals who fit the criteria above may be affected also
I used to spend a lot on heavy duty chemicals that just seemed to be more harmful using them with their risks than any supposed benefits they provided. I have collected a few tried and true all natural and organic ways to get rid of flies that are safe to use around the home and just costs a few cents make and to use. With a homestead and lots of places flies would love to hang around, anything that is low cost and easy to produce while doing the job is music to my ears!
I try to stay as chemical free as possible around my animals (including the hubby), but I do not want to sacrifice any effectiveness of its use. I want it to work as well, if not better, than store bought pesticides without compromising anyone’s health, having to worry about tainting my food sources, or hurting the environment or groundwater.
Here are my top picks for the many different ways you can get rid of these nasty little flying bacteria traps!
Best topical application for pets and livestock:
Animal and plant friendly fly spray:
- Mix one cup of marigolds (flower, stem, and leaves) in a blender with 2 cups of water.
- Cap and let it sit for 2 days, shaking twice a day.
- After 2 days strain with a cheesecloth or rag.
- Take the mixture and mix it with 6 cups of water.
- To give it some grip, add Ivory soap as its plant safe and nontoxic to animals.
This is a great spray for your plants, especially tomato as it kills hornworms too. The best use for me was as a topical fly spray for those tender spots on your animals- around the eyes and inner ears. Just soak a piece of cloth and pat it in these areas. Flies can chew away the moist flesh as they drink the moisture and lay eggs in it!
Note: cat safe
The Best Hanging Fly Deterrent:
Redneck Water globe
Or Pennies sent them to Heaven…
Maybe the most strange and art project-y, but proven effective and economical.
- Take a plastic sandwich baggie, any size but we used a gallon size for the most visible ie covering the most area.
- Add a handful of pennies. The brighter and shinier, the better.
- Hang in an area with direct sunlight and these are usually seen in doorways.
- We hung it in the coop’s entrance.
I saw this in an outdoor restaurant once in Scottsdale, Arizona. As the wind and sun hit it, reflections and shadows were cast everywhere and it was so pretty to be from humble materials. It seems Mexico and the west used this method with anything shiny to repel flies and bugs in schools and anywhere crowds gather, and now it’s caught on here in the south and renamed “The Redneck Water Globe” as many thought it just décor and not a functional agricultural trick.
The science says that with a fly having big compound eyes, the refracted light confuses him or may resemble a body of water and that’s how an area is protected. The Tennessee Farm Bureau has a nice article about it here applauding its merits.
Note: great chicken coop helper
The Best dual function fly repellant:
Plant Survival Garden herbs that repel flies
One great way to naturally repel flies that will blend in and not be obvious is to plant fly repelling herbs in your surrounding gardens and survival garden. This way you can camouflage all the work the plants are doing by keeping your animals and family safe from these disease carrying pests, while growing some useful herbs to use in seasonings, canning, and drying for winter.
The fragrance will also freshen up the grounds and make a lovely touch of scent when the breeze carries it. In our next section on sprays, many of these herbs can provide essential oils that have a multitude of purposes. Check out our article on using ground covering edibles in a survival garden here.
The most effective herbs and plants to repel flies are:
- Sweet basil
- Sweet woodruff
- Citronella grass
- Bay leaves
- Lemon balm
The Best DIY Fly Sprays:
Homemade fly sprays
Chicken coop spray
Mix a squirt of dish soap and 1/3rd cup vinegar in water and fill a spray bottle to make an easy and nontoxic insect repellant that’s safe for baby animals and food producing gardens and livestock.
Chicken coop spray #2
2 cups each of water and vinegar in a spray bottle with 2 tablespoons of vanilla and 45 drops of essential oils. I like mint.
For the chicken coop spray, you can mist the animals and then spray all around places where flies may land like the doors or windows. Be generous in spraying the environment. Your chickens will smell delicious too.
When used as part of fly repelling program and mixed with a few other techniques, sprays can help eradicate flies and keep your homestead safe from contamination and threat of insect borne diseases.
We listed many of the herbs that fly avoid above. There are a multitude of essential oils that can be used to repel flies and other nasty and biting flying insects.
- I like to use ¼ cup of fabric softener, but to keep it all natural you can opt for vinegar or Ivory soap, but something slippery to use as a medium for the oils to stick to when sprayed.
- 2 cups of water
- 45 drops of any mixture of essential oils.
The best essential oils for your DIY Fly Spray
Thanks for reading and let us know if these work for you, we will cover making your own sticky traps in our next installment of the war on bugs!