How To Get Rid of Campsite Flies

By Alexis Chateau \

How To Get Rid of Campsite Flies

Several weeks ago, my mom and I stayed at a Boondoocker’s Welcome spot in Willcox, AZ. We’ll never know whether it was the horses or the monsoon rains, but the flies were a menace. It was so bad that when I called the owner to tell him I left my fly trap by accident, he responded, “Thank you! We need it!” Without that fly trap, we wouldn’t have known a moment of peace. Are you currently battling a similar problem? Here’s how to get rid of campsite flies!

Identify the Type of Fly

Before looking for remedies, you first need to understand what you’re up against. Are you dealing with fruit flies? Are these regular flies or the enormous ones that make you want to run inside and call animal control? There are different repellants and remedies for various types of flies, so knowing who the culprit is, is crucial:

  • Fruit flies: These small, dark-colored flies are attracted to overripe fruit and vegetables. They might also seek out your garbage cans.
  • House flies: These common types of flies are gray or tan and have four dark stripes on their thorax. They’re attracted to food waste, dog poo, and anything else that’s decaying.
  • Stable flies: These are similar to house flies but have a pointed snout (the long “beak” that they use to suck blood!). Stable flies are attracted to the same things as house flies, but they’re also drawn to the CO2 we exhale.
  • Horse flies: These large, dark-colored flies are the bane of any horse owner’s existence. They’re attracted to movement, so they’ll go after both people and animals.

Use Bug Spray or Bug Lotion

The main problem at our Willcox stay was that the flies didn’t just swarm us. They also came ready to bite! Mom was the first to ask whether flies could bite because she had never encountered this before. Luckily, I had bug spray and bug lotion for us. Using these will not eliminate all bites, but it’s a great start.

So, precisely which flies are the biters? You likely already know the stable flies are on the list because they’re out for blood. The Illinois government website recognizes these additional biters:

  • Biting midges
  • Horse flies
  • Black flies
  • Deer flies
  • Sand flies

Bug sprays you aim at the flies are also helpful. Using them outside is a waste, but using them indoors can solve your fly problem in seconds. Be sure to turn on the vent, open the windows and set the bug screens in place before spraying. Some people are sensitive to the spray and might need to wait outside or in the car.

Research Home Remedies

Once you have a good idea of what you’re dealing with, you can start looking for solutions. You can often find easy-to-make remedies that reduce the presence of flies indoors. My favorite solution requires two simple ingredients you likely have on hand: dish soap and apple cider vinegar.

The Healthline website provides several home remedies for house flies, including the vinegar and soap method. I have had great success using this for fruit flies in the summer too. Use a disposable cup or bowl, as it gets pretty gross once the flies get in. You likely won’t ever want to eat or drink from that thing again.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Fill the container you choose with about an inch of apple cider vinegar.
  2. Add a few dabs of dish soap.
  3. If you’re feeling extra crafty, toss in a bit of sugar to make it more appealing.
  4. Stir the concoction and place it where you’re least likely to knock it over.

You can make several of these. Continue to top them up during your camping trip, as they do dry out over time. Depending on how many flies you catch, you might also want to toss the disposable cup or bowl and start a new batch every day.

Get a House Cat

Cats are adorable. Mine adds a layer of comedy and cuteness to my travels, making all the hassle worth it. However, most of them are also serial killers. You probably already know this. Your friends have likely told you about the “presents” their feline fur babies bring home to show off their hunting skills.

Not all cats will hunt flies, but many do. I have watched mine take them down with a brutality that knows no bounds. Better the flies than me! My cat has not had any health issues from eating flies, but you should check with your vet to see if that will be true for your cat as well.

Pull Out the Fly Swatter

Not all fly swatters are created equal. Some people love the old-school swatters. One wha-pai! and there goes the fly. Other people prefer the electric swatters that kill bugs on impact. These are useful if you’re not as quick as these ninjas with wings.

I prefer the mouse pad. Yes, the one at my “desk”. I never miss. My mom thinks this is hilarious, but I promise you. If there’s a fly next to the dinette while I’m working, it won’t make it.

Find your weapon of choice and stick to it. If it’s effective and comfortable to use, you’ve found the right one. Be sure to have a plan for cleaning up the mess afterward!

Invest in Fly Traps

My first encounter with campsite flies was at Lake Mead in October 2020. I spent a month experimenting with everything under the sun. Only one thing worked, but it has a dark side: it smells awful! That was the same type of fly trap I left in Willcox by accident.

The trick is to move it far enough away from camp, so you don’t smell it. But, keep it close enough, so the flies prefer it over you. I recommend using tiny bungee cords to hang it in a tree or on a post somewhere.

Be mindful of your neighbors. For example, you don’t want to put it close to a trailhead. Everyone who walks by it would get a severe assault to the nose. Nevertheless, this is the best solution I’ve found for flies.

Now you know how to get rid of campsite flies!

Flies are more than just pitching and biting nuisances. They also carry diseases that can lead to food poisoning and dysentery. Knowing how to keep them away from your travel trailer ensures you have an incident-free trip that will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Have a fly-free trip!