There are many species of biting flies in the United States, which can make it difficult to identify a particular pest that’s bothering you.
Biting flies are not only annoying, but they can also be harmful to your health. These pests typically feed on both human and animal blood and can even transmit harmful diseases. Some types of biting flies can also cause serious allergies to flare up in sensitive people.
In today’s article, we are going to talk about how to identify and get rid of biting flies around your property.
But before we begin, let’s start by talking about some of the most common biting flies you might be coming across.
How Many Types Of Biting Flies Are There?
There are thousands of fly species and countless flies that bite.
As we mentioned above, there are a number of species of biting flies in the United States, so identifying the ones “bugging” you could be tricky. Luckily, we’re here to help. Some of the most common biting flies that are prone to biting humans include:
- Deer Flies
- Biting Midges
- Black Flies
- Stable Flies
- Sand Flies
- Yellow Flies
- And Horse Flies
Let’s take a moment to learn a bit about each of these frustrating pests.
Deer flies are a small species of fly that are often confused for bees thanks to their unique black and yellowish coloring and striped bodies. They feed on the blood of humans and cattle and bite using mouthparts that are formed like scissors. Though these pests are smaller than horse flies, their bites can be just as painful.
Deer flies are attracted to bodies of water, the carbon dioxide released from our breath, and movement.
Some people don’t realize that mosquitoes are in the fly family, but alas it is true. These pests are some of the most formidable when it comes to biting flies due to the number of serious diseases they can transmit to people and animals. Some of these illnesses include the Zika virus and West Nile virus.
Mosquito bites don’t always hurt initially, but most people can have an itchy and sometimes even painful reaction to the bite later on. Like Deer flies, mosquitoes are attracted to water sources and carbon dioxide.
Also known as no-see-ums due to their small size, biting midges are one of the most prevalent biting fly pests in the United States. While they often attack people, they are most dangerous to animals and particularly cattle and sheep.
Biting midges are known to transmit a disease to animals known as Blue Tongue Fever. This illness is prominent primarily among sheep and does not affect humans.
There are many species of gnats in the United States and not all of them bite. However, those that do belong to our group of biting flies you’ll want to stay away from. They are very small and often travel in large groups known as clouds.
Though this species of biting fly can cause painful and annoying bites to people and animals, the good news is that they are not generally known to transmit diseases.
Gnats are attracted to fruits and sweet smells. They are often found congregating around decaying organic matter like garbage and meat.
Black flies, also known as blackflies or buffalo gnats, are a common biting fly in the United States that tend to pester both humans and animals. Though these insects are smaller than the average house fly, black flies are a species of biting fly that can cause you to bleed and itch.
With that being said, their bites do not cause illness or disease. They are most common near running water sources like streams and rivers, where they often breed and lay their eggs.
As their name suggests, stable flies are common barn, stable, and ranch flies. These pests bite both animals and people and are known to spread diseases including anthrax and EIA or Equine Infectious Anemia.
They are highly attracted to the carbon dioxide released in our breath as well as blood. The most commonly bite people on their lower extremities like their legs, ankles, and the backs of their knees. Their bites are quite painful and highly irritating.
Sandflies are small, brown pests that bite both people and animals and feed on blood. Though they are quite small, these pests can transmit serious diseases including a parasitic virus known as Leishmaniasis.
These biting flies are attracted to areas where humans congregate and live, though they are also found in caves and near rock formations, which is one of the reasons they are known as sandflies.
Yellow flies are related to deer flies and horse flies. Only the female yellow flies bite, relying on iron in the blood to help them breed and lay eggs. Male yellow flies are actually considered beneficial pollinators as they feed on nectar and pollen from surrounding plants.
Female yellow fly bites can be painful and lead to itching, swelling, and irritation. However, unlike many of the biting flies on our list, these pests are not known to carry or transmit diseases to humans.
Horseflies are very large and can deliver a painful bite. This may be one of the reasons they are the most infamous of the biting flies on this list. As their name implies, horse flies are an incredible annoyance to horses.
They can carry equine infectious anemia or swamp fever, which is life-threatening to horses. When it comes to humans, however, horse flies do nothing worse than delivering a painful bite.
Are Biting Flies Dangerous?
Some biting flies are simply annoying while others can carry and transmit serious diseases.
Although the majority of biting flies can cause pain and discomfort when they bite, not all of them are considered medically important to humans.
However, there are a few biting flies that are considered dangerous to both people and animals, as we mentioned above.
The most dangerous biting flies from our list above include flies like:
- Sand Flies
- Deer Flies
- And Stable Flies
With that being said, other biting flies on our list can lead to a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis in sensitive people. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that leads to breathing difficulties, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, collapse, and loss of consciousness.
This is a medical emergency that can come on suddenly after a bite and requires expert attention.
The good news is that most people bitten by flies will not develop an illness or an allergic reaction. Instead, the most common reaction from a fly bite in the United States tends to be itching, redness, and irritation.
If you are bitten by a fly, it is best to clean the area thoroughly and apply over-the-counter medications that contain antihistamines to the affected skin. Refrain from scratching at the bite, as this can lead to irritation and secondary infections.
How Do I Get Rid Of Biting Flies?
The method you use to get rid of flies will depend on the type of fly you’re dealing with.
Whether or not the biting flies on your property are dangerous, they are still certainly annoying. These uninvited pests can ruin outdoor gatherings and cause anxiety, stress, and discomfort to families, guests, and pets.
Luckily, there are a few products you can use to get rid of biting flies, though keep in mind it is important to identify the type of biting fly you are being pestered with before implementing a proper pest control routine.
If you’re wondering about which products we would recommend for getting rid of biting flies, we have listed some of our favorites below.
Bug Ball Delux Kit
Biting flies are irritating, but so are fly traps that come with a nasty odor. One of the things we like about the Bug Ball Delux is it is an outdoor bug trap designed specifically to attract and capture biting flies like horse flies, blackflies, greenhead flies, deer flies, and more.
The product works without the use of electricity or ingredients that are dangerous for children and pets, which is always a plus.
It is designed to be hung about four to five feet off the ground and can be anywhere biting flies are causing problems. The product is weather repellent and can help protect up to one acre per ball.
Farnam Home and Garden Starbar Bite Free Trap
No products found.
This product is specifically for stable flies. It works to target these biting and disease-spreading pests without the use of pesticides or harsh chemicals. It works using an adhesive surface and this surface captures and holds up to 8,000 flies at a time.
For the best results, experts recommend hanging this fly trap about four feet above the ground. The order includes instructions on how to use it and accessories for hanging it as well.
Absorbine UltraShield Insecticide Spray
Because horses and dogs, (and other animals) are often the most common victims of biting flies, we recommend looking into a product that is specifically made to protect them. While insecticide and pesticide sprays do contain chemicals that can be harmful to people, pets, and the environment when used as directed they are generally safe and effective.
They may also be your best option for severe fly problems. The above product by Absorbine is an insecticide called Ultrashield Ex. It’s a formula designed to last up to 17 days and is meant to protect horses, dogs, and other animals from biting flies like mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies, gnats, and even other pests like ticks and fleas.
The product comes ready to use in a water-based solution and is ideal for spraying in dog runs and around barns and ranches. You can also spray this directly on pets and the product contains sunscreens and even conditioners for a healthy coat.
Wondercide Outdoor Pest Control
For a more natural remedy to get rid of biting flies, we recommend using Wondercide Outdoor Pest Control Spray. This spray uses plant-based ingredients that are safe for people, pets, and the environment and provide long-lasting protection from a variety of pests including mosquitoes, fleas, gnats, midges, and other biting insects.
It works using essential oils like peppermint oil, rosemary oil, cedarwood oil, and eucalyptus oil to repel flies and insects. There is no spray and wait time and the product is gentle enough to spray directly on the garden.
It comes in a 32-ounce container and when used correctly should help treat and prevent pests like biting flies. However, you may need to use this product in conjunction with fly traps or other products on this list for the best results when it comes to biting fly control.
Flowtron Electronic Insect Killer
Electronic bug zappers have also become quite popular when it comes to managing biting flies and other pests. This bug zapper has the appearance of a lantern and works against a number of flying pests. It can protect up to one acre and works without the use of harsh chemicals or offensive odors to attract flies.
It is also designed not to clog with dead flies and works simply by attracting the biting flies to the light and then killing them. While we do like this method for fly removal, we still recommend using it in conjunction with other methods including sprays and repellents.
Best Bug Sprays To Prevent Biting Flies From Biting
Bug spray that contains DEET can help deter pests like mosquitoes and other flies from biting.
Along with controlling biting flies around your property, it’s also important to take steps to protect yourself and your pets from these annoying pests.
Mosquitoes especially are considered dangerous biting flies, and many products you buy at the store or order online are designed to prevent them from biting.
When it comes to bug sprays that repel biting flies, most experts recommend a formula containing DEET. DEET is a chemical agent proven to effectively keep pests like mosquitoes, biting midges, and other biting flies at bay.
However, there are also other products you can use to help repel biting flies that contain natural ingredients like essential oils.
Let’s take a moment now to look at some of the best bug spray products for keeping biting flies at bay below.
No Natz Biting Fly Repellent Spray
Trapping and spraying biting flies around your property is an effective pest control method, but it won’t always stop a few stray flies and pests from biting you. Because some of these pests can cause diseases, we recommend investing in a quality bug spray to help repel them.
One of the bug sprays we like for biting flies is No Natz Bug Repellent Spray. This spray is free of DEET or other chemicals and works using plant-based ingredients and essential oils like lemongrass, citronella oil, and rosemary oil to repel pests like biting gnats, midges, mosquitoes, and more.
It is also non-greasy and even hypoallergenic, so it’s a great bug spray for those who are sensitive. This product is small enough o bring with you camping and hiking and is family-friendly. You can even use it on children and pets.
Absorbine UltraShield Natural Fly Spray
Absorbine does make a wide coverage insecticide spray, but it also makes an all-natural spray you can use that is made with plant-based ingredients for spraying directly on dogs and horses.
This product is eco-safe and proven effective against flies, mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, and other biting pests. It works using seven different essential oils and comes in a water-based formula that is safe to use every day.
We recommend that you use this product in conjunction with other fly repellent products including traps and sprays for the best results.
OFF! Outdoor Insect Repellent
Last we recommend OFF Insect Repellent. This Product is made with 25% DEET and can help protect you against biting flies including mosquitoes that carry serious viruses like West Nile, Zika, and Dengue.
The product works for several hours and goes on dry and smooth. It does not leave an offensive odor and the order comes in a pack of two. Be sure to use this spray only as directed, especially when using it on children.
Please note this spray is not designed to be used on dogs or horses.
Home Remedies For Biting Flies
Some essential oils can help repel and reduce biting fly problems
If you’re in a pinch and looking for a quick fix for your biting fly problem, you’re in luck. Not only can you run to the store or jump online and find a number of products to get rid of biting flies, but you can also make your own remedies for biting flies by using household ingredients.
In fact, many of us already have products in our homes that could deter biting flies on our property. You may even have products in your medicine cabinet or pantry that you can use to protect yourself or your pets from biting flies.
Try Using Essential Oils
Flies have a fabulous sense of smell, and they are often attracted to the scent of carbon dioxide we breathe. This odor tells them a blood meal is nearby, so one of the best ways to deter biting flies is to muddy this smell.
To do this, we recommend using essential oils like peppermint oil, citronella oil, rosemary oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, or tea tree oil.
You can dab a bit of this oil directly on your pulse points to keep pests from biting, or you can make your own essential oil bug spray.
To make your own natural bug spray to deter biting flies, simply combine two cups of water and 15 to 20 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Mix this solution in a spray bottle and spray it on your body as well as around the areas you’ll be congregating outside.
Make Your Own Fly Trap
There are two ways you can go about making your own fly trap to capture and dispose of biting flies.
The first way includes using a mason jar, a slice of fruit and a piece of paper rolled into a funnel. Place the fruit into the jar and put the funnel-rolled paper with the small side down into the jar. This will allow the flies to get into the jar but will keep them from getting out.
The fruit inside the jar will act as an attractant to flies, so put this jar away from the area you will be congregating. The lure should help to attract flies and keep them from biting you while simultaneously capturing them.
Another biting fly trap that works well requires the use of honey and construction paper. Coat a piece of construction paper with sticky honey and leave it outside in areas away from where you will be. Flies will be attracted to the sweet smell of the honey and become stuck.
Home Remedies For Soothing Fly Bites
Along with using do-it-yourself methods for biting fly control, you can also use home remedies to soothe fly bites.
Some of the best household ingredients that can help soothe fly bites include:
- To use oatmeal to soothe a bug bite from a biting fly, combine the dry oats with a bit of water and mix it into a thick paste. Then apply the paste directly to the affected area. The oatmeal contains soothing properties that can alleviate itching and help to reduce inflammation.
- Aloe Vera
- Aloe vera is a natural plant-based substance that is incredibly healing and soothing. Most of us know it’s great for sunburns, but it can also help reduce itching caused by bug bites. This includes bites from biting flies. Simply dab a bit of aloe vera on the affected area and repeat the process as needed.
- Witch Hazel
- Witch hazel is a plant that is often used to make medicines and toners. It has healing properties that can reduce inflammation and irritation, making it a natural remedy for biting fly bites. To use this method, apply witch hazel to a cotton ball and hold the cotton ball on the affected area.
- If all else fails and you’re struggling with an annoying fly bite, try applying ice to the location. Ice will help reduce inflammation and can even temporarily numb the area to stop the itching. Do not hold ice on your skin for longer than a minute, however.
- Over The Counter Antihistamines
- Many antihistamines you may already have in your medicine cabinet can work for bug bites and fly bites. These include antihistamines like Benadryl and Lotradine.
Expert Tips On Preventing Biting Flies In The Future
Keeping flies from biting will take a combination of pest control and self-protection.
Controlling biting flies and getting rid of biting flies goes hand-in-hand. In fact, successful pest control is primarily about being proactive and working to stop a pest problem before it begins.
If you live in a region where biting flies are prevalent, it’s a good idea to take steps to implement a proper pest control routine early on and year-round to keep these insects from getting out of control.
Some of the best tips and tricks for preventing biting flies, according to experts, are listed below:
Remove Their Breeding Ground
Many biting flies are attracted to water sources, but the types of water are different for different species. The mosquito, for example, is attracted to stagnant water sources while the black fly is more prevalent around running water sources like rivers and streams.
Other types of flies are attracted to decaying organic matter like garbage, debris, pet waste, or clutter.
To reduce the number of biting flies in your area, you must know your enemy and work to remove their breeding ground.
Invite The Predators
Flies have many natural predators and you can use this to your advantage when it comes to getting rid of biting flies. Some of the most common predators of biting flies include:
- And Spiders
Try Companion Planting
As we discussed briefly above, flies have a great sense of smell. Not only can essential oils help keep biting flies at bay, but so can strategically companion planting specific plants around your garden.
Some of the best plants that are known to repel pests include plants like:
- And Catnip
Keep Your Yard Clean And Tidy
Last but not least, be sure to keep your yard clean and tidy. This could include routine landscaping, cleaning up pet waste, refraining from leaving food outdoors, removing debris, and raking up leaf litter.
And remember, not all biting flies are dangerous, but most biting flies do hurt and cause discomfort. Prevention is key when it comes to keeping biting flies at bay.
With all that noted, we hope this has been a helpful guide on how to keep these pests from “bugging you” once and for all!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.