Natural Homemade Fly Spray #1

Remember how one of the 10  Egyptian plagues in Exodus was massive amounts of flies?

Well, when I was younger, I always thought “Well, that one wouldn’t be THAT bad…”

I take it back.

We had massive amounts of flies last year. It was a constant battle to keep them off of my animals, out of my food, and off of my baby… (It got so bad, I even got bug nets for the playpen!)

Of course, the typical solution is to use hardcore chemicals and sprays to drive them away.

I just don’t feel good about doing that anymore.

I need to find a solution before our cow freshens next month. The flies are already driving her crazy, and I can just imagine how that will effect the milking process.

I know from experience with my horses, whenever you apply fly spray, it gets everywhere. On your hands, on your clothes, in your mouth. I don’t want those harmful chemicals anywhere near my lovely raw milk.

So let the experimentation begin!

Last year I tried a few white vinegar/dish soap/mouth wash concoctions. While they sorta worked, I wasn’t super impressed with any of them.

I’ve been using this new recipe for a few weeks now. It’s so natural, you could drink it! (not that I would recommend that…)

Natural Homemade Fly Spray

  • 1 quart Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (I suppose you could use regular ACV from the store, but I think using the real stuff adds an extra punch. I get mine from Azure Standard for a fairly reasonable price.)
  • 20 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 20 drops melaleuca essential oil
  • 20 drops lavender esssential oil

(These are my absolute FAVORITE essential oils! I use them every single day)

Mix together in a spray bottle. Apply to the animals frequently (give it a good shake before applying). And be careful, it smells strong. Whew!

The final verdict?

It works. But if you are expecting it to be like the conventional fly sprays that last for several days, you will be disappointed.

From my observations, it repels the flies, it doesn’t kill them. I had to apply several times over the course of the day, but at least it provided temporary relief. I will definitely be using it before milking.

But, I’m going to keep experimenting and researching.

Watch out flies- This is war! ;)

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  1. I will have to try this one out on our little goat and my horse! Do you have any ideas on homemade fly TRAPS though? There are tons around our place lately, so much so that the store bought (and rather expensive and not re-usable) traps get filled to the brim within a few days! Ack! So gross…

    • I made a homemade fly trap last year out of a milk jug, but it didn’t really work. I can’t remember exactly what I put in it. It caught a few, but not as many as I’d hoped. Might be worth trying again, though! I’ll let you know what I find!

    • Apparently, if you hang a zip lock bag full of water with a couple pennies in it then it is supposed to repel flies from the whole barn … I haven’t tried it yet but you never know it might work!

      • Tammy Cedo says:

        Don’t do that trick…it doesn’t work very well. We had flies ALL over our enclosed back porch, tried putting pennies in water in a zippie…hung them up where the sun could shine on them…nothing…nada…zip…flies did not go away. Sorry.

        • I have tried this…though I have to admit, I was very skeptical…. but it was cheap enough that I didn’t have anything to loose! I hung the baggies with water and pennies inside by my front door, back door, garage doors, etc and YES!!! IT DID WORK FOR ME! Both my husband and I were AMAZED at the difference in the fly population! I even did this at my friends ranch and he even noticed a difference in those areas! I don’t know what the difference is or how it works but for us, we swear by it!!

          • Brian Mendenhall says:

            This works because it makes the area around the bag seem like it is real busy to them. they may come around but they won’t stay.

      • The pennies in the zip~lock does not work, I tried it last summer. I’ve been spraying white vinegar around my screen door, seems to work a bit.

  2. I will definitely be trying this! The flies are horrible around here, and YES it messes with milking time something awful! Poor cow can’t stand still very long with all those flies biting her. And then get on me, and I get bit and swished by her tail, and the whole nine yards! It’s not so bad since we’ve started machine milking, but still she’s covered in flies when she comes in, and at times her teats are so sore and even bloody from fly bites. Both my milk cows will definitely be appreciate of this remedy! :)

  3. That does look handy. I am not on a farm but have a huge mosquitoe problem. Would it repel them too? Also, have you ever tried adding Diatomecuous Earth (DE) to their feed or whatever they might eat besides grass (not a livestock person)? I use it for my dogs and read that it deters or reduces flies population because they can’t lay eggs in the stools. I know it is sold in some natural horse supplements like Bug Check. I was wondering if it really worked.

  4. I ditto the DE (diatomaceous earth). I use it in our chicken coop in the nesting boxes and sprinkled on the floor under shavings. Make sure it is FOOD GRADE only—the other kind is toxic.
    It works for barns, horses, goats, and any animal. You can read about it at (just search it)…for more information on it.
    Also, it’s VERY powdery. I wear a paper mask when initially applying it.

    • I have played around with DE a little, but haven’t really fed it to my horses or cow, yet. Think it’d be worth a try, though!

      • Barbara Grant says:

        I feed it to my goats and dogs as wormer. I add it to the goat’s feed, and for the dogs I mix a little in with some raw hamburger. When I think of it, I put a little in the chicken feeder. I have observed worms in the chicken manure afterwards!

  5. I am interested to see your progress on this! I have tired many homemade fly sprays too, but like you say, none as good as the conventional fly sprays. I too hate spraying the horses down because it gets all over me and I don’t want it on the baby :/

  6. My family has a couple of gorgeous Jersey milk cows, and the flies can make milking miserable! We found that Crystal Creek’s No-Fly ( is AMAZING. It’s not cheap, but it’s very concentrated and works so well it was worth the price for us. We liked the water based formula best, and after diluting it, put it in a pump sprayer. Lovely. =) And it even smells good!

  7. We started using DE and even with three cows we have had zero flies. By this time last year we have had at least one hatch but none so far. (cross my fingers)

  8. My folks always use the milk jugs with water in them and then they throw in some fat and banana peels it stinks so you don’t want it close to your house but works great. they hang them in the trees. it kills tons.

    • Oooh… fat and banana peels- never thought of that! I tried homemade traps last year, but don’t think they were stinky enough!

  9. That looks like my kind of spray!
    I have recently tried a bug spray recipe that I found on-line as well!
    I hate all of the chemicals in regular bug spray.

    Let me know if you try the ice cream recipe. We love it!

    Love, Kristin

  10. Definitely trying this for the poor cows and horses!!

  11. Great idea! We desperately need something to keep the pesty things away from our house, too. They drive me crazy in the house. blech!

  12. I’m mixing up some of this today. We’re butchering chickens in the morning and I’m hopeful to keep the flies down using this around the “whacking” area and the cutting table. Thanks for the recipe!

  13. We used to feed our horses 2 cups ACV with their water (100 gal), they start giving off a faint scent that the flies don’t like. Worth a shot!

  14. I was wondering if DE would kill off all of your benificial critters too? We did not have a real winter this year and the bugs are all ready getting bad. Thank you for the spray recipe, will have to give it a try!

    • Hi Tracy, yes– DE will kill off the “good guys” too, so use it with caution!

  15. Following the cows with chickens is helpful. Chicken eat the larva from the cow pies. If you rotate pasture so that your cow is in one pasture that is then followed by your chicken being on that pasture, with a cow moving to a new pasture. Natures way of keeping down flies is to keep the cattle moving.

  16. I meant to say followed by your chickens. One chicken wouldn’t do it.

  17. Have you noticed your milk tasting funny? I always had that problem with the chemical stuff it’s like it soaked in and passed through the milk yuck! I’ll have to try this and see if I notice any taste difference in my milk. Oh try setting up a fan next to the stand seems a little silly I know but it really helps to keep the flys off my girls (not to mention they seem to appreciate the nice cool air- yeah my goats are spoiled lol)

    • Nope- never noticed funny tasting milk with this recipe. Really like your fan idea, too!

  18. I use a fan too when milking my goat – it helps both of us – I turn it on as high as it can go. Diamond (my goat) will stand in front of it when she gets the chance. Thanks for the recipe. I’ve sprinkled DE but haven’t put it in their food – I have a bucket of it and the chickens use it as a dust bath. I’ve been planning on using clove essential oil and water (or alcohol) – mix before each time I spray. I hear that they hate the smell of cloves – the water or alcohol will evaporate and just leave the cloves. If that doesn’t work I’ll track down some citronella oil.

    • Hmmm… I’m sprinkled DE in my coop, too, but never tried the dust bath idea. I like that!

  19. I saw a trap online that was homemade with a 50 gallon barrel and PVC pieces in the side. The idea is to put something good and stinky in the bottom that the flies will go after. They fly in the PVC pipes that have an elbow in them that prevents them from flying back out. For the lid of the barrel, you cut out the top and put something clear on it so that the flies fly towards the light once they’re in the barrel. They eventually wear themselves out and drop to the bottom where they make their own stinky smell after awhile. Seems pretty cool to me although I’ve never tried it. Great blog…I’ve been reading off and on all day!

    • A 50 gallon barrel sounds right up my alley… A lot of the homemade fly traps I’ve seen are just milk jug size, and with the amount of flies in my barn, that fills up in no time!

  20. I find a plastic bag filled with water with a penny in it works great!!!!

  21. Rebekah says:

    I would also try adding Tea Tree oil and Lavender oil to the mix…bugs don’t like either :) and it would smell good too! Peppermint is another one bugs don’t like….but I would check on all those oils and make sure they are ok with your animals first of course… I use a spray of water, lavender and tea tree oil and spray it around our windows and doors and we haven’t had a bug problem this year :)

    • Yes– definitely! When I originally posted this recipe, I wasn’t into essential oils yet. But now I’m addicted to them, so you can bet I’ll be adding lots to my concoctions this year!

  22. Have you tried making a fly spray with TerraShield? I’m looking for a good recipe for my dairy cow.

    • Yes– I did use TerraShield last year– about 20-30 drops in a quart of water. Worked well!

      • Our beautiful cow, Butterfly, has zillions of flies and her skin is swollen from the bites. Do you think the TerraShield and water would work on the cow or have you only tried it for people? Any suggestions for other oils to add to the TerraShield or do you think it is enough by itself for the livestock? Many thanks…..

        • Try mixing witch hazel and basil,add some mineral or essential oil for longer duration. Keeps mosquitoes and flies from biting you too!

  23. Shelli Listing says:

    What about if you have nursing calves? Would it be safe on the utters for the calves?

    • Christy D says:

      It should work just fine. The essential oils aren’t poisonous so the calves should be okay with that. Plus, you may not need to even spray the udder because the scent of the oils would carry over at least that far.

  24. Hi, we crush LEMON BALM leaves, stems and all, in our hands and rub it all over ourselves and our goats, cows, dogs, cats, pet chickens and turkeys. Keeps flies and sketters away all day. It is safe, non toxic and grows like crazy.

    • Rachelle says:

      Where do you get Lemon balm?? I would like to grow n try it if it works…. My poor horses are welted! and kids and the rest of my fur family are getting eaten alive!

  25. We use lavender oil on the hot spots our dogs get (they have double coats). It keeps them calm and dries up the hot spot really fast. I’m going to try the lavender oil and the cloves stuck in apples (like the Christmas clove & oranges) when I go up to dog & horse sit at my friend’s 44 acres this weekend – the flies drive me crazy up there. I’m also going to make those fly traps using a 2-litre pop bottle. I use DM around the foundation of the house to eliminate earwigs, and also dust the dogs coats with it and rub it down to their skin to keep fleas & ticks away.

  26. I have been trying DE adding 2% of it to the amount of feed I am giving my horses. I have been doing this for 2 weeks now and have had no results yet as to reducing the number of flies on them. I have spilled some on the ground and it does keep ants away. The lady at the feed store says it is also a good dewormer for the horses which is why I originally bought it but it does not yet seem to affect the fly population.

    • By the way, it is VERY important that you use food grade DE only. Even people eat this stuff. However, non food grade DE can cause many problems including cancer… This is very powdery stuff and be sure you do not breathe it in,

    • Hi Joel,
      From the reading I’ve done, DE works by supposedly cutting up and drying out bugs- so there isn’t any chemical constituents in it that will repel flies. I have heard of some folks raving about its use as a dewormer for internal parasites, but using it in that form won’t have any bearing on whether or not your horses repel flies. I like to sprinkle it on the ground in my chicken coop to reduce the amount of flies hanging out in there, but unless you apply it topically to your horses, it probably won’t be a great repellent. (There’d be nothing wrong with applying it topically, just might be hard to get them evenly covered.)

  27. Thank you, Jill. Guess I was given incorrect information on the part about repelling flies.

  28. This works for fruit flies so it may work for barn flies also. I take a container, cut small holes on the sides, and put water and jam inside. The sweets attract the flies but they can’t find their way out. Being there isn’t anything to sit on, they get tired and end-up drowning in the water on the bottom. This is something you would leave out all the time and empty periodically. You might have to put something other than jam to attract the flies into the container. Mine sure works for fruit flies and its not expensive either.

  29. The ONLY thing that works for me and the animals is this –> Just add water to the line and it works like a charm. Keep it a slight distance from where your back door is because it will have a scent. But those flies love it and keeps everything in control. I put another bag in the barn and it’s good for the entire Spring/Summer beginning of Fall season. Check the water level weekly or every couple of days if there is extreme heat.

  30. We don’t have farm animals (yet), but we do have a huge fly problem out at our property. You said this spray “smells strong..whew”…would you say it’s suitable to spray on ourselves as a repellant, or is the smell too powerful? Is it stronger/more unpleasant than conventional mosquito spray, for example? Thanks!

  31. Everyone has such wonderful ideas. I love the community that is going on at this website! Jill: I have tried many different recipes for fly spray, and find that adding some mineral oil may keep the ingredients on the animal longer, as well as provide moisturizing. Experiment with the amount, too much will cause your sprayer to clog, not enough, and it is not oily enough to linger. Marnita: I am going to try your idea for the fat and banana peel traps. I’ve heard we are supposed to have a record high mosquito pop. this year in FL. Any ideas for mosquito traps?

  32. Jacqueline Manley says:

    How about adding a small amount of mineral oil to help the spray stick to the coat longer.

  33. jerry newman says:

    The best thing for your animals to keep flys off is to use WD40 works great and harmless

  34. Laura Schneiderjohn says:

    We use vanilla extract and water and it works great!

  35. Drake Iverson says:

    People, PLEASE be careful when using essential oils of ALL kinds around cats. These oils–even if smelled–can cause serious liver damage or even KILL a cat!

  36. I have wiped this fly killer mix over my kitchen counter and the flies immediately left, so I know it is very effective. Thanks for sharing!

  37. Melanie Hol says:

    1/3 vinegar
    1/3 dettol or an other desinfectans
    1/3 bubble water.
    In a spray bottle, good shake and ready to use. It works about 8 hours. And best of all, cheap!!

  38. I never tried WD40 Jerry thanks for the suggestion. I was looking for a fly spray that kills flies when directly sprayed on them. White vinegar seems to work very well but I was wondering if anyone had found anything else thats better.

  39. courtney says:

    what if instead of using melaleuca oil i used spanish sage oil?
    reason i ask is because i don’t have melaleuca.

    and is this safe to spray on horses face?

    • I don’t have spanish sage, so I can’t say for sure-but it might be worth a try. I would avoid spraying on their face, as you don’t want to get it in their eyes. You can wipe it around their ears, though.

  40. Hey! Wat if don’t have rosemary? What could you use instead?

  41. Dicey Riley says:

    Cedar oil is great for killing bugs. There is a commercial product called Cedarcide, and I have used it on my cats for years for fleas. It makes the bugs shut their respiratory system, and they suffocate themselves. It is also safe for puppies. I am sure you could probably make your own mix with essential oils, but never tried it. I love the smell, and I use it when I go camping. It also makes skin and fur very soft.

  42. I don’t know if this will work or not, but we get the “greenhead” flies and what we do around here is make a wood box with the bottom open and add legs. Paint it black. Make a hole on top and place a glass jar over it. The flies go up into the jar and can’t get out.

  43. Lorelei says:

    Jill just would like you to know that rosemary oil is toxic when ingested and im guessing when the cows lick themselves they are ingesting the rosemary.
    I had a cat that died from rosemary oil licking it out of the oil burners that i had left out when i was done with it not knowing it was toxic.