Ask anyone who lives way out in the country, and especially anyone who owns livestock, and they will tell you that flies can be an absolute nightmare.
Much of the time they are just an annoyance, pestering animals and you. But many kinds of flies, particularly horse flies, can be dangerous and have powerful bites that are prone to infection. Some flies are parasitic and can actually lay their eggs on animals!
Flystrike will make your animals miserable and ill, and accordingly, that’s going to make you miserable.
There are plenty of effective bug sprays out there that can kill flies and repellents that can keep them from landing on you or your animals, but they tend to be very pricey and can be toxic.
A better option I think, and one keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteading is to just make your own. It’s a lot easier than you think, and I’m willing to wager these sprays are way safer than the chemical concoctions you get at the store. I’ll tell you about seven of my favorite recipes below.
Before we go any further, you’ll need a few things if you want to make use of these recipes. I’ll bet you’ve already got them on hand in your home, shed, or barn at the moment.
Jug/Bowl: a large jug or bowl is useful for mixing ingredients and also for storing larger batches of spray.
Spray Bottle: a common spray bottle is good for making a batch of repellent that you can use to treat your home and spray exposed skin with. That is, for human usage. They get very tiring, very quickly, for treating large areas or herds of livestock.
Garden Sprayer: a better bet for using a large batch of spray is a common garden sprayer, whether it is handheld or backpack-worn. These will easily allow you to treat large swaths of your property and buildings, and also spray down many animals without wearing your hand out like you would with a spray bottle.
Car Washing Wand: one of those long-handled tools that has a cluster of rags on the end, helpful for cleaning boats and cars. You can use this to mop on the solution where it is needed, especially handy for treating areas around your home, sheds, and barn.
Funnel: if you’re mixing up a larger batch of spray, you can use a funnel to more easily pour it into your sprayer. This prevents waste and mess.
Stirrer: any long-handled kitchen tool, or improvise tool, they can help you stir all of your ingredients together when mixing.
And that’s all you’ll need. Time to get to the recipes…
The Best Budget Homemade Fly Spray
One of my very favorite homemade fly sprays, and frankly one of the very best I’ve ever used. You’ve probably got most of the ingredients on hand right now, but you might need to snag the tea tree oil. Don’t leave it out!
Tea tree oil is a natural and potent insect repellent and insecticide, giving you a good double whammy against flies and other insects of all kinds. Best of all it is very cheap to make, and this makes it ideal for treating large herds or just saving money over the long term.
- 1 cup Liquid Dish Soap
- 4 cups Distilled White Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Mouthwash
- 1/4 cup witch hazel
- 4-6 capsules Vitamin E or3 tablespoons Mineral or Olive oil
- 12 drops Tea Tree Oil
Combine all ingredients except dish soap. Stir thoroughly for at least 30 seconds to incorporate, then add the liquid soap. Stir for an additional 30 seconds and you’re finished.
Cap tightly to store, or pour into a sprayer for immediate use. Can be mopped on as needed safe for animals and people as a repellent.
If the mixture has sat for a while, make sure you shake it thoroughly prior to reapplication to incorporate all the ingredients.
You can see the pics and video of the recipe here.
Super Fly Spray Recipe
This next entry on our list is another one of my favorites, and I go back and forth on this and the previous recipe depending on what I have on hand at the time. It’s basically a supercharged version of the prior recipe and I truly don’t think there is a better DIY formula on the net.
If this recipe has a downside, it is only that it asks for several different kinds of essential oil.
This makes your upfront investment a little bit expensive, but the trade-off is that it’s even more effective, smells pretty good and can still yield a gallon of spray for about 10 bucks. That’s hard to beat!
Also, because of the mix of strong vinegar and many different potent essential oils, do not apply this to broken skin, injured animals or children, though it’s safe to use on people and animals otherwise. It’s so strong it can kill some insects on contact!
- 5 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Mineral or Olive Oil
- 15 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
- 15 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil
- 10 drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil
- 15 drops of Basil Essential Oil
- 2 tablespoons of Blue Dawn Dish Soap
Mix all ingredients except dish soap in container. Stir thoroughly for about 30 seconds before adding the liquid soap and stirring for another 30 seconds. Pour into sprayer or cap and store. Remember to shake it prior to use if it has been left sitting for a while.
Boiled Malt Vinegar Fly Repellent
Sometimes the simplest is best, and it doesn’t get much simpler than this boiled malt vinegar fly repellent. There’s just something about the aroma of hot malt vinegar that sends flies of all kinds of running for the hills.
If you prefer to keep flies at bay without actually spraying yourself or your animals with any kind of concoction, this is a great option though it requires a little more setup.
- 4-8 Cups of Malt Vinegar
Bring malt vinegar to a simmer on the stovetop. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and then carefully pour into sprayer or bucket. Mop or spray it on to fence posts and other surfaces where people or animals are located to repel flies.
You can also use rags dipped in the solution and then left in various places to form a perimeter of protection.
Easy Essential Oil Fly Repellent
If you’ve only got a little bit to work with or you just don’t want to go to all the difficulty of measuring out half a dozen ingredients, you can still get pretty good fly protection from just a couple of choice things.
A little bit of single-source oil like olive oil or almond oil and any other essential oil of your choice is all you need as long as it comes from a plant with known insecticidal properties.
- 1 ounce Olive Oil or Almond Oil
- 12 drops Essential Oil (basil oil, citronella oil, clove oil, tea tree oil, lavender oil, etc.)
Add oils together in a bowl or sprayer before stirring briskly for at least 60 seconds to incorporate. Can be sprayed on surfaces, skin, or fur safely but has a tendency to get gummy and tacky on animals and people.
All Natural, Gentle Fly Repellent
Anytime you start pouring more and more essential oils into something, you increase the likelihood of irritation for people and animals. The oils these plants were taken from evolved defenses of their own, you know!
Accordingly, if you want something that’s a little simpler and a lot gentler, you might be able to get by just fine with this recipe, consisting of nothing more than apple cider vinegar, water and dish soap.
Yes, ACV is still strongly acidic and could potentially cause some irritation, but it’s diluted by equal parts water.
- 8 ounces Apple Cider Vinegar
- 8 ounces Water
- 3 ounces Liquid Dish Soap
Add all ingredients to container or directly into spray bottle. Stir thoroughly for 30 seconds or cap and shake to mix. Apply as needed.
On animals, it works best if you ruffle their fur slightly so the solution can get down to the skin.
Skin- and Livestock-Safe Fly Spray
Another safe, simple and effective option for fly spray is this apple cider vinegar, witch hazel and eucalyptus oil formula.
Note that it uses a ton of eucalyptus oil for maximum effectiveness. It definitely has a fresh, bracing scent- assuming, of course, that you like eucalyptus!
- ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- ¼ cup Witch Hazel
- 30-60 drops Eucalyptus Oil
Add all of your ingredients to a container or directly into a sprayer. Vigorously stir or shake to combine. Apply as needed on objects, humans, or animals. Shake thoroughly before applying if the mixture has sat for a while between uses.
Quick and Potent Vinegar-Essential Oil Fly Spray
Sometimes you want maximum protection with minimum effort. If that sounds like you, this recipe which uses several of the most potent fly-repelling ingredients plus a little bit of vegetable glycerin as a carrier has high effectiveness and staying power.
This means you can apply it less often and get more protection. This is one of my favorites when flies are especially relentless or when I’m working all over the property and don’t want to waste time with regular reapplication.
- 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 cup Water
- 20 drops Vegetable Glycerin
- 10 drops Tea Tree Oil
- 15 drops Lavender Essential Oil
Mix the apple cider vinegar and essential oils together. Stir thoroughly. Add glycerin and water, and stir thoroughly for another 30 seconds. Add to sprayer and use as needed.
I recommend you apply this in a small spot to the inside of your forearm to check for irritation before you commit to an all-over treatment, and be cautious of applying it to any animals that have shown sensitivity to fly sprays.
Fly Spray Recipe With ACV
Limited time, limited ingredients or limited budget does not have to mean limited protection for you or your animals. This recipe is highly effective and very easy to mix up in a hurry.
- 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Eucalyptus Oil; you can sub citronella essential oil if you want
- 1 cup Water
It doesn’t get easier than this: just add all of the ingredients to your sprayer and then shake well to mix prior to application. This formula is gentle and effective, just make sure to shake it up prior to reapplication as the ingredients tend to separate with time.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.