8 Tips for Repelling Flies at a Cookout

A fly resting on a slice of watermelon.
What You'll Need
Portable screening and frame
Large outdoor dining tent
Covers for plates, drinks, and serving dishes
Zip-top plastic bags
Nails or tacks
Aromatic herbs and spices
Citronella candles
Small spray bottles of water

Nothing can ruin a fun summertime cookout faster than flies. They hover around your head while you're trying to eat and land on food every time you're not shooing them away. However, repelling these pests may not be as hard as you think. Follow these tips and hints and prevent flies from sticking around.

1. Find the Ideal Location for Your Cookout

Choose a spot that is wide open to the air, not surrounded by trees or tall hedges. This and keeping both your cooking area and your dining tables downwind from the prevailing wind will ensure that the area gets a breeze all day and evening. Fresh air flow will keep the air from being saturated with food smell during the day.

Open areas also make it possible to set up an outdoor tent in the event that the weather turns. Most are well-ventilated, so you can operate a grill just inside a doorway.

2. Keep Everything Covered

Set up a portable screen on an adjustable frame over the top of the barbecue. Also, cover all drinks and serving dishes for food and condiments with aluminum foil or snap-on lids. This will stop this food from attracting even more flies, and it also ensures that everything remains protected from any other insects.

3. Scare Flies Away with an Optical Illusion

If your grill is near the house, fill large, clear zip-top plastic bags halfway with water, zip them, and attach them with nails or tacks to the wall, door, or window frames nearest the grill. When the flies approach the bags, they see a greatly magnified image of themselves. Believing this is a gigantic fly, they will turn away and get out of the area fast.

4. Utilize the Power of Scent

Small pots of herbs

Flies detest the strong scents of herbs and spices such as mint, thyme, rosemary, garlic, lavender, sage, and citronella. Set your grill up near the herb garden, and place several scented herb pots on the dining and serving table. In the evening, light up citronella candles to keep both flies and mosquitoes away, and stand tiki torches around the cookout area.

5. Keep Lights High

If you need light at the cookout for evening, place LED lights high up on tall poles to keep the flies well above your guests and their food. Use only scented candles on dining tables.

6. Spray Flies with Water

Small spray bottle with water

Equip your guests with small spray bottles of water, like those used to spritz plants. Spray the flies as they approach and shoo them away. This is a very non-invasive way of deterring flies because you don't need to worry about the water making your food inedible if someone sprays in the wrong place. It is also a fun way for your guests to keep each other cool on a scorching hot day.

7. Keep Trash at a Distance

Place trash containers and recycling bins for glass bottles and soda cans on the perimeter of your cookout area, away from prevailing winds if possible. Flies will prefer these areas to congregate.

8. Move the Food Inside

If you are hosting a small cookout with fewer than 10 people, consider serving the food inside instead. Reserve the outdoors for other activities afterward.