5 Effective Tips to Keep Flies Away From Food Outdoors

Introduction to Outdoor Dining Challenges

Understanding the Risk of Flies on Food

Dining outdoors brings with it the joy of fresh air and picturesque views. However, it also introduces the challenge of keeping flies away from food. Flies are attracted to meals due to their strong sense of smell, being particularly drawn to strong odors and sweet or fermented foods. This attraction is not merely a nuisance but poses significant health risks. Flies frequent unsanitary areas and, as a result, can carry bacteria and pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella. When they land on your food, they can transfer these harmful organisms, potentially leading to foodborne illnesses.

Importance of Keeping Flies Away

Ensuring a fly-free dining experience is crucial for both health and enjoyment. The presence of flies can severely diminish the joy of eating outdoors, turning a pleasant experience into an annoying, and sometimes stressful, endeavor. Beyond the discomfort and irritation, reducing the risk of food contamination is a paramount concern. Flies have the potential to spoil food quickly and spread disease-causing bacteria, which can lead to health issues ranging from mild stomach upsets to more severe food poisoning.

A dining environment without flies enhances the quality of the outdoor experience, allowing diners to focus on the food and company without the constant distraction of shooing away pests. It creates a more hygienic, appealing, and relaxed atmosphere, conducive to enjoyable outdoor gatherings. Maintaining a fly-free zone is not only beneficial for the individual’s well-being but also contributes to the overall public health by minimizing the spread of contaminants.

By recognizing the importance of these challenges, one can take proactive steps toward protecting their food, health, and outdoor dining pleasure from the nuisance of flies.

Outdoor dining setup with string lights at dusk

5 Effective Tips to Keep Flies Away From Food Outdoors

Use Food Covers and Mesh Screens

One of the most straightforward and effective methods to protect your food from flies while dining outdoors is the use of food covers and mesh screens. These barriers physically block flies and other insects from landing on the food, significantly reducing the risk of contamination.

Recommended Types of Food Covers and Mesh Screens:

  • Pop-up Mesh Food Covers: These are highly convenient as they can be easily opened and closed, providing quick access to food.
  • Plastic Dome Covers: Ideal for covering individual plates or smaller dishes, these covers provide a clear view of the food while keeping it protected.
  • Net Umbrella Covers: Perfect for covering larger areas such as serving platters or entire tables.
Mesh food cover protecting a picnic spread

Incorporate Natural Fly Repellents

Nature provides several effective solutions to repel flies without resorting to harsh chemicals. Herbs like basil, lavender, and lemon have natural fly repellent properties. Placing these around your dining area can help keep flies at bay while adding to the aesthetic appeal of your setup.

Natural RepellentUsage
BasilPlant basil in pots and place them around the dining area or directly on tables.
LavenderSmall bundles of lavender can be decorative and functional around the eating space.
LemonPlace slices of lemon or lemon peel around the food to deter flies.

Opt for Essential Oils and Candles

Essential oils and candles not only create a pleasant ambiance but can also serve as an effective deterrent against flies. Certain scents, such as eucalyptus, lemongrass, and peppermint, are known to repel flies.

Effective Essential Oils and Candle Types:

  • Citronella Candles: Their scent is widely recognized for repelling not just flies but mosquitoes as well.
  • Eucalyptus Oil: A few drops in a diffuser can help keep the area fly-free.
  • Lavender Oil Candles: Besides repelling flies, they can add a relaxing scent to your outdoor dining experience.
Citronella candles on an outdoor table at dusk

Maintain a Clean Dining Area

Flies are attracted to food and food waste. Keeping the dining area clean is essential in not attracting flies in the first place.

Outdoor Dining Cleaning Tips:

  • Immediately clean up spills and crumbs.
  • Cover trash and food waste containers tightly.
  • Clean table surfaces before and after meals with a vinegar-based solution.

Employ Fan or Wind Blowers

Creating a slight breeze with fans or wind blowers can be surprisingly effective at keeping flies away, as they have difficulty flying in strong winds.

Fan Placement StrategyDescription
Position fans at the perimeterCreate a barrier that flies will find hard to cross.
Use ceiling fans if availableA downward breeze can prevent flies from descending onto the table.
Small personal fans pointed upwardsDisrupt flight patterns and keep flies from landing on your food.

Implementing these strategies can significantly enhance the enjoyment of outdoor dining experiences, helping to keep your meals fly-free and healthy.

DIY Fly Repellent Solutions for Outdoor Dining

Homemade Fly Repellent Spray

Creating a natural fly repellent spray is an easy and effective method to keep flies away from your outdoor dining area. Using common household ingredients, you can whip up a solution that’s safe to use around food and people.


  • 1/2 cup witch hazel
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 40 drops of essential oils (eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, lavender, or peppermint)


  1. Mix the Witch Hazel and Apple Cider Vinegar: Combine the witch hazel and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle.
  2. Add Essential Oils: Add your chosen essential oils to the mixture. A combination of different oils can be more effective.
  3. Shake Well: Ensure the cap is tight and shake vigorously to blend the ingredients thoroughly.
  4. Apply Liberally: Spray around the dining area, focusing on the table edges and any nearby plants or features. Avoid direct contact with food.
  5. Reapply as Needed: Depending on the duration of your outdoor event, you might need to reapply every few hours for maximum effectiveness.

Creating Fly Traps

Fly traps can be an effective complement to repellents. These DIY traps use recycled materials and are simple to make.

1. Vinegar and Dish Soap Fly Trap


  • A jar or plastic bottle
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rubber band or string


  • Prepare the Container: Cut the plastic bottle in half and invert the top part into the bottom part if using a bottle. If using a jar, keep it as is.
  • Add Vinegar: Pour enough apple cider vinegar to fill the container about a quarter full.
  • Add Dish Soap: Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to the vinegar. The soap breaks the surface tension, causing flies to sink.
  • Cover and Secure: If using a jar, cover the top with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Poke small holes in the plastic. For a bottle, the inverted top acts as a funnel.
  • Place Strategically: Position the trap near the dining area but not too close to where people will be eating.

2. Sugar and Water Fly Trap


  • A bottle or a can
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Paper to make a cone


  • Prepare the Solution: Mix sugar and water in the container. The sugar attracts flies, while the water traps them.
  • Create a Funnel: Roll a piece of paper into a cone shape and insert it into the container’s opening, pointing downward. Ensure there’s space at the bottom for flies to enter.
  • Position the Trap: Similar to the vinegar trap, place it near but not too close to the dining area.
Recycled bottle turned into a DIY fly trap

Implementing these homemade solutions offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way to enjoy your meals outdoors without unwanted guests. The combination of repellents and traps ensures comprehensive protection against flies, enhancing the overall outdoor dining experience.

Additional Strategies for a Fly-Free Experience

Timing Your Meals

Understanding the activity patterns of flies can significantly improve your outdoor dining experience by allowing you to schedule your meals when these pests are least active. Generally, flies are most active during the warmer parts of the day, particularly mid-morning to late afternoon. Their activity tends to decrease as the temperature drops or during very high temperatures at midday when they seek shade.

Ideal Dining Times to Avoid Flies:

  • Early Morning: Enjoy breakfast outside just after sunrise, when the air is still cool.
  • Late Evening: Plan dinners around or after sunset. This is when temperatures begin to cool, and flies are less active.

Aligning your outdoor dining plans with these times can minimize the presence of flies and enhance your enjoyment of the meal.

Food Selection and Presentation

Certain foods are more attractive to flies than others. Sugary foods, fruits, and fermented items are particularly appealing to them. Being mindful of the food you choose to serve outdoors and how it’s presented can play a significant role in keeping flies at bay.

Food TypeLevel of Attraction to Flies
Sugary Foods & DrinksHigh
Meat (especially when raw or cooking)High
Fermented FoodsHigh
Dairy ProductsModerate to High
VegetablesLow to Moderate
Bread & GrainsLow

Tips for Food Presentation:

  • Cover Until Served: Keep all food covered until it’s time to eat. Opt for covered serving dishes if available.
  • Limit Sweet Beverages: If serving sugary drinks, consider using containers with lids or serve them indoors.
  • Prompt Cleanup: Immediately clean up any spills and leftovers to avoid attracting flies.

Understanding and applying these strategies can considerably reduce the nuisance of flies, making outdoor dining a much more pleasant experience. By carefully selecting and presenting your food, and timing your meals to avoid peak fly activity, you can enjoy the beauty of eating outdoors without the bother of uninvited guests.

Outdoor dining table set for a late evening meal with minimal fly attraction

Maintaining a Long-Term Fly Management Strategy

Regular Cleaning and Garbage Management

Effective long-term control of flies is heavily dependent on maintaining cleanliness and proper garbage management. Flies are attracted to food waste and decaying organic matter, making garbage bins a prime target. Implementing a strategy for regular cleaning and diligent waste management can significantly reduce fly populations and prevent them from becoming a nuisance in your outdoor dining areas.

Best Practices for Garbage Management in Outdoor Areas:

  • Secure Lids: Ensure that all trash bins have tight-fitting lids to prevent flies from accessing the waste.
  • Frequent Disposal: Empty and clean garbage bins regularly, especially after social gatherings or meals outdoors.
  • Separate Organic Waste: Consider separating organic waste, such as food scraps, and dispose of it more frequently.
  • Cleanliness: Regularly clean and disinfect trash bin areas to remove residues that may attract flies.
  • Location: Keep garbage bins as far away from dining areas as possible to reduce the likelihood of flies migrating towards food.

Garden and Plant Management

The types of plants you grow and how you manage water sources in your garden can also impact the presence of flies. Some plants naturally repel flies due to their scent, making them excellent companions for outdoor dining areas. Conversely, certain water management practices can attract flies, such as standing water, which provides breeding grounds for them.

Plants That Repel Flies:

  • Basil: Known for repelling house flies and mosquitoes.
  • Lavender: Its fragrance deters flies and can be placed around seating areas.
  • Marigold: Contains Pyrethrum, a compound used in many insect repellents.
  • Lemongrass: Contains citronella, widely recognized for its mosquito-repelling properties.
  • Mint: While great for repelling flies, be cautious as it can be invasive.

Plants to Avoid:

  • Water Lilies and Water Hyacinths: These may attract flies if you have a pond or water feature.
  • Sweet Fennel: Tends to attract wasps and other insects.

Water Management Tips:

  • Eliminate Standing Water: Regularly check for and remove standing water in pots, trays, or anywhere else in your garden.
  • Proper Drainage: Ensure your garden has adequate drainage to prevent accumulation of water which may attract flies.

Implementing a comprehensive fly management strategy involves a commitment to regular cleaning practices, thoughtful waste management, strategic garden and plant management, and careful water source monitoring. By adopting these practices, you can enjoy your outdoor spaces with minimal interference from flies and other pests, ensuring a pleasurable and hygienic environment for dining and relaxation.

Herb garden with plants that naturally repel flies


Throughout this article, we have explored comprehensive strategies to ensure a fly-free outdoor dining experience. Understanding the risks associated with flies on food and the importance of keeping them away lays the foundation for implementing effective measures to protect our health and enhance dining enjoyment. From the utility of food covers and mesh screens to the natural defenses offered by certain plants and essential oils, each recommendation serves as a vital tool in our arsenal against flies.

Emphasis on maintaining a clean dining area cannot be understated, as it is a critical factor in preventing fly attraction in the first place. Moreover, innovative DIY solutions, ranging from homemade repellent sprays to easily constructed fly traps, afford us additional means of control with the convenience of using everyday household items. Strategic meal timing and careful selection and presentation of foods further contribute to minimizing fly interruptions. These efforts, coupled with long-term strategies for waste management and garden maintenance, create a formidable defense against the intrusion of flies into our outdoor living spaces.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Implement Physical Barriers: Use food covers and mesh screens to directly protect your food.
  • Natural Repellents Work: Incorporate plants and essential oils that naturally deter flies.
  • Cleanliness is Crucial: Regular cleaning and proper garbage management significantly reduce fly attractants.
  • DIY Solutions are Effective: Homemade sprays and fly traps are easy to make and can be highly effective.
  • Strategic Dining Enhances Enjoyment: Plan meals around times when flies are less active and select foods that are less attractive to them.

For the best results, consistency in applying these tips is paramount. Creating a fly-free zone is an ongoing process that requires regular attention and commitment. By consistently employing these strategies, you can enjoy the pleasures of outdoor dining, picnics, and gatherings without the annoyance of flies and with the peace of mind that your food and health are protected. Let’s embrace the great outdoors, armed with the knowledge and tools to keep our dining experiences enjoyable and fly-free.

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