Farmhouse38 Fly Control

As seen in the June/July issue of From Scratch magazine:

Pretty DIY Fly Strips from Farmhouse38

Ah, chickens….so much joy in such small, fluffy, feathered packages.  So many eggs, so many antics, so many….flies.  I am well aware that our tiny suburban homestead fly population pales in comparison to that of a real farm, but our tight proximity to our non-chicken-keeping neighbors makes it hugely important to keep them under reasonable control.  And my general, insatiable (possibly pathological) quest for tidiness also dictates that I wage a merciless war on these buzzing, winged, soulless demons.  With one caveat: I want to wage a merciless responsible war….no chemicals, please.

There is a reason that the over-the-counter tacky (in more ways than one) fly strips are the most commonly used method of fly control; they are totally effective.  They also aren’t completely awful with their ingredients.  But, after watching in horror as one of my chickens fluttered too close to a fly strip and then proceeded to wrap herself, mummy-style, in it….I am not a fan.  Besides, they look so terrible hanging around the garden and house.  I don’t care how efficient they are; they ugly.

So it was with embarrassing enthusiasm that I decided to do some good old-fashioned internet research on what sorts of homemade fly strip recipes people were tossing around out there.  I figured there just had to be a way to build a better mousetrap–er, flytrap….you get what I mean.

The DIY fly paper recipes I came across all called for pretty basic ingredients: strips of paper dipped in a sticky mixture of water and either honey, sugar, corn syrup, molasses or any combination of the four.  I tested and re-tested infinite versions of these things, and you know what?  Disappointingly, I just did not come out with any decent results.  These strips were brilliant at attracting flies, but let me tell you how frustrating it is to watch a big fat bug land on your painstakingly-made sugar-paper, have it leisurely mosey around for a lovely snack, and then fly happily off into the sunset.  It is way beyond frustrating.

I knew there simply had to be a better way, and after going back to the drawing board, I stumbled across an organic over-the-counter product called Tanglefoot.

Tree Tanglefoot

Do you hear angels singing? I hear angels singing.

Bingo.  Listed by the OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute) for use in organic gardening, it is an all-natural super-sticky paste made of gum resins, vegetable oil, and wax.  Can I make it at home?  No.  But I can buy it on Amazon, so that’s close enough, right?  Used on homemade fly strips, it works like a darned charm.

Aesthetically, I decided to get a little more creative with this new flypaper attempt.  Instead of paper, I used two pieces of yellow duct tape (sticky sides pressed together) to form strips.  There are three reasons for this choice: the first is that Tanglefoot requires application to a non-porous surface for best results, the second is that I have read several accounts that flying insects are attracted to the color yellow—I’m not sure if this is a scientific fact, but I happen to like the color yellow, so I am willing to take that chance.  (See my notes on other colors below) Secondly, duct tape is inherently durable and weatherproof, and therefore, reusable.

Once I had assembled several strips of double duct-tape, I punched holes in either end of the strips in order to attach both a wire hanger to the top, and a weight to the bottom.

Safe, DIY Fly Strips from Farmhouse38

I decided to cut the ends into points. I don’t know why. This has nothing to do with their fly-trapping success.

For the weights, I decided to use some re-purposed chandelier crystals, because I’m fancy like that.

Fancy Fly Paper Strips from Farmhouse38

If you don’t have any chandelier crystals (or don’t want to be so fancy) just a simple bit of wire works as a hanger, and something slightly heavy to attach to the bottom will help to keep it from fluttering too much in the breeze (try a small ‘chip clip’ or alligator clip).

At this point, I went ahead and hung them, put on a pair of gloves (this stuff is sticky), and painted the Tanglefoot liberally to each side of the duct tape.

Applying Tanglefoot to Fly Strips from Farmhouse38

Because honey had proven to be such good bait, I also went and dabbed some small spots of it along each side to lure those buggers in.  The proof was in the pudding—within one day, those things were ripe with victims.

Safe DIY Fly Strips from Farmhouse38

Muhahahahaha!  The results after just ONE day.

After this article went to print in From Scratch, I got some feedback about my fly strip color choice.  There are lots of conflicting opinions out there about what color attracts flies best; red, blue, and yellow seem to be the most common color choices (although the latest OTC strips from Rescue are a graphic pattern of white, bright green, yellow, and turquoise).  I decided that I wanted to put this concept to a little bit of a test, so I went ahead and made three versions of my fly strips–one in each color.  I hung them relatively close together under the grapefruit tree as I did my original yellow ones, and I also hung up one of the graphic Rescue brand ones, slightly further away (so that the honey attractant on mine wouldn’t skew the results of the Rescue one), just for comparison.

Farmhouse38 Fly Strips

Let the color wars begin!

Farmhouse38 Fly Strips

Here’s a shot that shows the Rescue strip off to the right of the rest.

The results were….interesting.  First of all, we seem to have a lot fewer flies, currently.  I think this is largely due to it being a couple of months further into the season, as well as possibly a result of some of the fly deterring methods we’ve implemented throughout this seek and destroy mission.  So, after one day, the results are as follows:

Farmhouse38 Fly Strips

The yellow strip, front and back, had a total of about a dozen flies (not including a couple of other little unfortunate buggies).

Farmhouse38 Fly Strips

The blue strip had about a half dozen flies (also not including one or two non-fly insects and a bit of dirt).

Farmhouse38 Fly Strips

Ah, the red strip….it got nothing. Maybe one or two little tiny bugs of some variety–but zero flies.

Farmhouse38 Fly Strip Testing

The Rescue brand fly strip? Two small flies and that’s about it.

Obviously, the best way to thoroughly test these involves a lot more time and several varied testing scenarios–so I will continue to investigate and post my findings later.  For now, it kind of seems like a close call between yellow and blue (at least as far as the flies in my yard go).  I’d be curious to hear what has worked for others.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had pretty decent success with these fly strips.  I like them better than the store bought, not only for the aesthetics, but for the fact that I can make them a bit shorter in length (or longer, if I really wanted to), which means I can keep them out of the reach of fluttering chickens (and if a bird does happen to get too close, there isn’t so much sticky surface area for her to get completely wrapped up in).

In addition to the fly strips, I also believe in tucking a lot of insect-repelling plants into my garden.  Lavender, mint, basil, marigolds, amongst others, really seem to do the trick.  I may have gone overboard with the basil and marigolds….I like them a little bit more than is necessary.

Natural Fly Control from Farmhouse38

The chicken garden is chock-full of anti-fly plants. It doesn’t hurt that my hens seem wholly uninterested in messing with these plants, as well.

To be totally honest, the moment when I realized there was a noticeable decrease in flies was when the bulk of these plants went in.

Finally, we have come to the poop portion of the proceedings.  It’s pretty logical that poop=flies.  The more you can keep up with cleaning the poop, the fewer flies you’re gonna have.  I pick up both dog poop and chicken poop daily, and put them in designated poop bins (some of the chicken poop goes into compost bins, some goes in its own container to give away to composting neighbors and friends).

Natural Fly Control Methods from Farmhouse38

Labeled, in case there is any confusion.

In addition to keeping things clean, I do dust occasionally with diatomaceous earth, especially in and around the coop.  Another thing I like to do (it’s a bit gross, sorry–at least I didn’t insert a photo), is to leave a bit of dog poop in the pooper-scooper (in an out-of-the-way place), and sprinkle it liberally with DE as a little fly lure.  They won’t die immediately, but they certainly will get the DE on them when they land there, and it will eventually do its glorious dirty work.

All in all, we seem to be managing just fine, but then again, we’ve only got just the four hens, and we’ve got some pretty un-impressively-sized flies in our little suburban backyard.  I’m sure I have no clue what a real fly problem is….I have heard some horror stories, and while I find ours annoying, at least they don’t bite and don’t carry off small children.  Gotta count my blessings.

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19 thoughts on “Farmhouse38 Fly Control

  1. Becky Neville June 21, 2013 at 6:12 pm Reply

    Cutest Flypaper ON THE PLANET!

    • farmhouseK8 June 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm Reply

      Hahaha–thanks, Becky–the chandelier crystals are probably a bit much, but hey, I gotta use them for something!!! 🙂

  2. heidiemariee June 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm Reply

    You’re so creative..they look wonderful! I remember when we had a fly situation and I bought those gross sticky fly strips (they remind me of a gas station bathroom for some reason)…anyhow they do catch flies but then I started getting skeeved out watching the things struggle for their lives. I know they’re gross and soulless demons LOL, but I started feeling bad. So down those came. Yikes! Anyhow yours do seem nice… and I’ve noticed that the fly population has diminished a lot this year…wonder where they went?!!

    • farmhouseK8 June 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm Reply

      You know what? I am right there with you with the feeling bad. The WORST is when ladybugs or things like that get stuck–ugh–I hate it! But I do feel bad for the flies, too…I have to avert my eyes.

  3. Tara June 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm Reply

    I live in Texas and have horses, chickens, goats, dogs, cats and a donkey so flies are a HUGE problem. We have somewhat of a fly control system in place that does include fly paper, but I would also highly recommend fly predators. They are tiny bugs that come in a bag once a month and you dump the bag near an appropriate area (they come with directions). We have definitely noticed a decrease in fly activity and our animals (all 50+ of them) seem grateful!

    • farmhouseK8 June 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm Reply

      Tara–so interesting! Never even heard of that….I will have to look into it–sounds fantastic! Thanks!! 🙂

  4. April S. June 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm Reply

    I love those! What a grand idea for fly control for an outdoor party or outdoor wedding! Now if you can find something that cute and pet-friendly for the mosquitoes… 😉

  5. Hollie June 21, 2013 at 7:15 pm Reply

    Feeling sorry for flies? Never! Disgusting, disease-carrying, annoying tiny beasts! I am going to order some of this stuff and hang some strips–minus the cutesy, fancy stuff. I am much more basic and way less creative! Let the carnage begin.

    • farmhouseK8 June 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm Reply

      Hollie–I know! Some ‘farmgirl’ I am, right? Hahaha!

  6. Deb Weston June 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm Reply

    We fight a continuous battle with the little buggers. During the warmer months my black mare is covered with spots where shes been bitten, due to allergies to them. I have wanted to try the predators, but it is always so windy here (you’d think it would blow them away, but no such luck!) I feel like I’d be wasting money and my neighbors would get the benefit, and not MY barn. I like your creation, but if I may, I’d like to modify it a bit… using a small diameter pvc pipe, I’m thinking maybe 12 to 18 inches. It would add the weight needed and I could attach it areas so it would be stationary and not blow in the wind. It would allow us to get rid of these smelly (UGH!) fly trap bags. They would work up at the house too, since my Mama Lab opens the screen door on a regular basis and lets herself and the rest of the pack in along with the flies. Can anyone help with ideas on training her to close the door ? 🙂

  7. Dawn June 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm Reply

    Thank you for the article. I have a tiny yard and one dog who poops alot (a lab). I tried paper fly strips but they didn’t work at all for us. I do use fly trap bags but we still get so many in her area. I’ll check into the insect repelling plants!

  8. home, garden, life June 21, 2013 at 10:56 pm Reply

    Ever heard of fly predators? Folks in the horse world use them. Might want to check this out, yet do not know if this would work with your girls. Must protect them. Good luck, I love the glass drops. I would vote for yellow as this color is used often in the garden to attract unwanted flying insects.

  9. nsavoryoma June 22, 2013 at 1:18 am Reply

    We use the fly strips in the barn and they are loaded in 2 days. I never watch the sticking of the pests part. :/ Walmart (in our area anyway) sells what are called “stink bags”. They’re exactly what the name says. You hang a bag that smells like it contains something dead and rotting and the flys fly in and die. Umm…no thanks!!

  10. Backyard Chicken Lady June 22, 2013 at 6:40 am Reply

    You have made the most beautiful fly traps I have ever seen! Even with the dead flies stuck on them, they are still beautiful! I am saving this on my list a DIY things I am definitely going to do.

    I am heading to Amazon…my most favorite place in the world to shop, to get me some of that sticky stuff.

    Smart thinking making the strips shorter…I have been known to get myself stuck a few times, so I can totally relate to what your hen must have been going through, lol.


    • farmhouseK8 June 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm Reply

      Lol, Holly! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  11. hopefarms June 23, 2013 at 1:58 am Reply

    Love it!

  12. Charlotte Zweigoron June 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm Reply

    I’m going to have to try this… My biggest pest is mosquito Joe!! I made one of the soda bottle mosquito traps I found on line… but we’ve had so much rain the bottle overflowed and we didn’t go out to the patio so much. Now trying to figure out how to keep the rain out of the soda bottle. DH got bitten up while installing an outdoor ceiling fan on the covered patio so I guess it’s time to try it again. Wondering why we don’t just screen it in? Well, maybe in the future we will. Thing is, here in GA there are bugs called no-see-ums (no joke ’cause they are so tiny you can’t see them) and screens don’t deter them much. Their bite is similar to a mosquito bite in itchiness so I haven’t been in a hurry to spend money on screening. I’m having more of a “Kill! Kill! Kill!” attitude… not very good for my karma…

  13. Becky October 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm Reply

    These are uber-cute! I’m new to this, so please forgive the stupid questions… 🙂 Are these strips reuseable? cleanable? And what are the jars hanging in the trees in the first picture?

    • farmhouseK8 October 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm Reply

      Hi Becky–they are definitely both reuseable and cleanable, but that Tanglefoot is tricky to handle, so wear gloves! Basically you soap them up and remove all the debris, but the Tanglefoot doesn’t actually come all the way off (that’s how sticky it is)–but just reuse it and maybe apply a second coat if need be.
      The jars are part of my existing ‘tree jewelry’ which includes old chandelier crystals and mason jar votive candle holders hanging every which way in the tree. Purely decorative. 🙂

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