How to kill pesky flies – Fly Swatter, Zapper, Spray,..?

With flies being a real nuisance here at the time of writing this article, I figured I’d share my experience of dealing with these annoying flies.

What to get:

  • Fly swatter (Preferably 2 or more)
  • Handheld electric fly zapper (looks like a tennis racket)

When to use each item:

Some flies tend to land on walls, tables and other objects, while other flies simply like to fly about, usually around a lamp shade or an area with food.  For flies that land, grab the swatter and for flies that like to stay in flight, grab the fly zapper.

First, start with the landed flies, so for this, grab the fly swatter; it’s hard to beat the good old fashioned fly swatter for swatting a fly landed on a wall or table.  Basically you need to stand as steady as you can, carefully aim the swatter and then strike the fly.  Repeat until you’re left with flies in flight that refuse to land.

Now, grab the handheld fly zapper.  Like swatting a fly, try to be steady as this will help keep the fly hovering in a certain area, such as around the light.  Now, arm the zapper by holding down the button and aim to swat the fly from below.  The advantage using the bottom-up approach is that the zapped fly usually remains in the zapper net.  Continue holding the button for 5 seconds, as some flies don’t immediately die on contact and could suddenly fly off again if simply stunned.

For stubborn flies, try striking the fly like a tennis or Ping-Pong ball with the zapper.  While this will usually just stun the fly, most flies tend to slow down a lot once zapped, making them easier to zap again until dead or more likely to land for easy swatting.

Where possible for landed flies, use the fly swatter first.  The fly zapper cannot be used to swat landed flies as the fly will simply fly around the zapper, not to mention the risk of breaking the zapper from repeated strikes.  As the fly was already landed, it will very likely land again, but in a more awkward to reach area.  This is why a fly zapper is not a fly swatter replacement!

Useful tip: If you have an aquarium, pop the dead flies in.  Fish love them, plus it is fresh meat unlike the stuff that comes in the tin!  Aquatic frogs such as the African Albino clawed frogs also love them as a snack. :-p

Experience with other fly killers:

Fly spray: Avoid it!  First of all it stinks up the room for a few hours, especially with a significant spraying.  I’ve often seen cases where even with a good spray, some flies continue on flying as if it were not sprayed at all.  Finally, I do wonder what repeated use does on surfaces the mist lands on.  For example, surely this spray has to build up somewhere if sprayed daily over a period of time.

Plug-in Zappers: The large ones tend to work well from what I’ve seen in shops, but the smaller lantern size ones don’t seem to be that effective except in darkness.  I placed one in a hallway with plenty of flies flying about and came back several hours later with the flies still flying about, yet not a single dead fly in the zapper.  A better option here is to get a solar powered one that can be placed in a window.  This way it comes on only at night and has the advantage of not consuming electricity.

Fly paper: Quite effective from what I’ve experienced, but very ugly.  E.g. over a period of a week, it’ll look like a party streamer covered in flies.  Also, it’s a pain if accidentally brushed against, since it’s incredibly sticky.

Further reading

For anyone curious as to why flies react so quickly and hard to swat, the BBC has an interesting article explaining how flies see the world.  It’s well worth checking out.

4 thoughts on “How to kill pesky flies – Fly Swatter, Zapper, Spray,..?”

  1. Hi Sean,

    I use hairspray. It is very effective. I don’t have to wait for the fly to land on anything. When it is flying around, I grab my can of hairspray and take aim and spray them. It doesn’t take very much hairspray for their wings to get sticky causing them to fall to the ground. It works every time. It is also very effective on mosquitoes, both inside and outside.

    I prefer using hairspray in an aerosol can. I’ve tried pump-bottle type of hairspray, it works, but the aerosol hairspray is so much better – your finger does not get tired and it is less messy.

    1. That’s a brilliant tip, considering fly spray has various toxicity warnings that is no the case with hairspray.

      The only issue I would have is that I feed swatted/zapped flies to my fish. However, this would be worth trying on midges, which are like miniature mosquitoes and a pain to eradicate indoors if a window is left open.

      1. Have you ever tried a product called: Thermacell?

        During the summer when I would be working outside, sitting around outside, walking the dog, etc., I would always have lots of mosquitoes, black flies and/or those little black flying bugs that fly in a big swarm bugging me and the dog.

        One afternoon, I was strolling around the hunting section of the store and came across these two guys who were talking about this thing called Thermacell. They were hunters and they said that since they started wearing there Thermacell repeller – they have had no problems with mosquitoes or black flies. So I decided to buy one and try it out.

        I no longer have to use any type of repellent other than wear the repeller. No more sticky sprays, no more slimy Deet all over me, no more ruined clothes or patio cushions from OFF stains. And best of all, no more mosquito bites!

        I wear my repeller in its holster and clip it on the waistband of whatever bottoms I’m wearing. If I don’t have anywhere to clip it, I glued to picture hanging loop “thingies” to the repeller so I would be able to run a long shoelace through the loops and wear it around my neck.

        I also purchased the lantern. I would turn that on when the dog would be out in the yard with me. He would stay by the steps with the lantern sitting on the planter and the bugs would stay away from him. The lantern has the option to turn the unit on without the light – so during daylight the lantern’s repellent feature can work without turning on the light. One afternoon I had lent out my repeller and its holster, so I used a rubber plant tie and attached the lantern to the lawn mower’s cross bar on the handle and was able to kept the bugs away.

        The repeller and lantern both have a metal plate that a pad/mat (that has been soaked with the repellent) sits on. There is also a butane cartridge screwed onto each unit. When it’s turned on, the metal plate heats up causing the pad to get hot and begin to emit the repellent. It is completely odorless!

        I’ve attached the links from Thermacell for the products.

        Just a side note, I stock up on the butane cartridges at WalMart. They are the same ones that butane curling irons use. If you go to the curling iron aisle, you can get two cartridges for the price of one cartridge from the camping/hunting section of the store.

        The repellent pad are individually wrapped in sealed foil package. I always stock up on refills when they go on sale and at the end of the season. This summer I have been using pads that were purchased in 2015. I’m not sure when they are supposed to expire – but they haven’t failed yet.

        How it works:

        Repeller with Holster:


        Repellent Mats and Butane Cartridges:

        1. I haven’t heard of Thermacell or anything similar here in Ireland. We generally don’t get mosquitoes in Ireland, at least not in the North/West. Instead we have biting midges, which generally are only a problem when it is both damp and calm outside. They don’t like direct sunshine or breezy conditions. We get a lot of wind and rain here in Ireland, so generally we have more of an issue dealing with buckled umbrellas than insect bites outdoors. For the odd day it is calm and damp/overcast and need to work in the garden, we light a few citronella candles, which are widely available.

          Clegs and wasps are the main other outdoor pests we get. Clegs (known has horseflies) can strike anytime, but they can be swat by hand as the fly slower than typical houseflies. They don’t fly indoors. Wasps are generally a pain when eating outdoors, I end up running off from the spot until it flies away. If a wasp comes inside, it generally heads for the window after a minute, in which case I use a glass and piece of cardboard to capture. For stubborn wasps, a handheld fly zapper easily does the trick.

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