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How to Repel Flies at Cookouts

A girl at a barbecue
Juice Dash/Shutterstock.com

As the weather gets warmer, many of us look forward to hosting cookouts and barbecues with family and friends. Unfortunately, flies seem to like cookouts just as much as we do. These pesky insects can quickly turn a delightful outdoor gathering into an annoying experience. Here are seven ways to discourage flies from taking over your next barbecue.

Burn Citronella Candles

A Citronella candle

Citronella candles are a popular choice for repelling flies and other insects. The distinct fragrance of citronella oil masks the attractive scents of food, confusing and repelling flies in the process.

Grab a few candles and place them strategically around your cooking and dining areas to create a barrier of protection. It’s important to note that while citronella candles can be effective, they won’t eliminate all flies, especially in larger outdoor spaces. However, they can be helpful for smaller gatherings.

Opt for Natural Fly Repellents

A lavender plant

For those who prefer a natural approach, certain plants possess fly-repelling properties. Many herbs, including basil, lavender, and mint, contain strong fragrances that deter nearby flies. Consider planting these in your backyard or near the spot you like to hold cookouts.

The strong aromas emitted by these plants act as natural repellents, discouraging flies from hovering. You can also crush some of the leaves and scatter them on the table near the food for added protection.

1400 English Lavender Seeds for Planting Indoors or Outdoors

Plant your own lavender plants around your home.

Set Up a Fan

A fan set up outside
Waraporn Chokchaiworarat/Shutterstock.com

Flies are weak fliers, and a simple but effective method to keep them at bay is by utilizing a fan. The constant breeze created by even a small fan will make it difficult for flies to find your food and land on it. The breeze can also blow away some of the smells that attract flies to your food.

If you’re able, position a fan near your cooking and dining areas to create a continuous flow of air. Not only will this help repel flies, but it will also provide some relief from the heat on hot summer afternoons.

Keep Things Clean

A family at a barbecue
Dejan Dundjerski/Shutterstock.com

Flies are attracted to odors emanating from food and garbage. One of the simplest ways to repel flies is to keep your cookout area as clean as possible before and during your event.

Clean up spills and food scraps promptly, and make sure everyone disposes of their garbage in sealed containers. If you’re hosting a large event, you may want to put out multiple garbage cans to ensure that nothing overflows and attracts bugs.

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These garbage cans look nice and hold a lot of waste.

Use Fly Traps

An outdoor fly trap
Evgeniya Sheydt/Shutterstock.com

If natural repellents aren’t working, fly traps can be an effective way to control flies outside. These traps come in many different varieties, but all use some sort of bait to lure flies onto a sticky mat or into a container that they cannot escape.

Hanging or placing these traps away from the main dining area can help reduce flies around you. Just keep in mind that you will need to check the traps regularly and replace them when they begin to get full in order for them to remain effective.

RESCUE! Outdoor Disposable Fly Trap, Green, 2 Pack

A sure-fire way to get rid of flies.

Cover Food and Drinks

Food on a barbecue table
Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock.com

A simple yet often overlooked method for repelling flies is to cover your food and drinks. Using mesh food covers or tents creates a physical barrier and prevents flies from landing on your hot dogs, burgers, and potato salad.

You can also use plastic covers, foil, or any other type of cover over your food. While it’s a little annoying for guests to get their food this way, everyone will have a more enjoyable time at your cookouts if the food isn’t crawling with flies.

Anpro Food Cover

Keep flies, bees, and other bugs off of your food.

Embrace Fly Screens

A mosquito net outside

Installing fly screens or mesh curtains around your entire outdoor space can be an effective long-term solution to repel flies at cookouts. These screens create a physical barrier and prevent flies from entering the dining area while still allowing fresh air to circulate.

This tip works best in smaller gathering areas that are surrounded by structures, like gazebos or porches. Make sure that the screens are properly fitted and do not have any gaps or openings that flies can get through. While installing fly screens requires some initial effort and investment, it provides a comprehensive and reliable defense against flies throughout the entire cookout season.

Mosquito Netting 39x10Ft Garden Mesh Netting

Keep bugs away from a large area.

Flies can quickly turn a fun cookout into an annoying afternoon of swatting away bugs. These tips will help you create a fly-free paradise and enjoy barbecue after barbecue.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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