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Homemade Horsefly Repellent

Homemade Horsefly Repellent

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Horseflies can bother animals and humans alike. Larger than a typical housefly, a horsefly is attracted to swimming pools or ponds of shimmering water in the landscape. Its bite is no laughing matter and may sting. Rather than dealing with these oversized annoyances, repel them using common materials from around the home or from a local drugstore. A homemade repellent can be used on people and pets and is effective for as long as the scent is still obvious.

Basic Recipe

Make a homemade horsefly repellent by mixing a pint of white vinegar with 2 ounces baby oil and a squirt of dish soap in a spray bottle. Apply to skin or clothing when outdoors near areas of horsefly activity.

Essential Oils

Essential oils give the homemade repellent recipe a stronger edge, as some oils have fly-repelling properties. Add 5 to 10 drops of eucalyptus or tea tree oil to the basic spray recipe for an effective repellent that also keeps other flies away. Add a few drops of citronella oil to repel mosquitoes as well, using citronella essential oil rather than a scented torch oil.


Livestock Veterinary Entomology

Teaching, Research, Extension and Service, Livestock Veterinary Entomology

Horse Fly/Deer Fly

Horse flies and deer flies are very striking in their appearance. They are fairly large flies with aggressive biting habits. They are familiar to most people and can ruin ones day by their persistent annoyance when seeking a bloodmeal.

The horse fly is a large fly (10-30 mm in length) that is a serious nuisance to livestock. They take a large amount of blood from a host which is used to produce eggs. They can transmit several animal pathogens mechanically.
The deer fly is the term given to the small counterpart of the larger horse fly. Like horse flies, deer flies are strong flies and persistent biters. They attack livestock and humans alike. Deer fly adults are 6-10 mm long and yellow to brown in color with patterned wings.

Photos courtesy of Bart Drees Texas AgriLife Extension Service


The eggs are 1-3 mm long and are deposited in masses either in a single layer (deer flies typically) or in tiers 3-4 high (horse flies and some deer flies). The eggs are white upon being laid bit darken to gray, brown or black.

The larvae are large, whitish and spindle-shaped. They have strong mouthparts that are used to capture and subdue their prey. The larvae grow in aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats, such as; mud or saturated vegetations in marshes or near pond or creek margins. They can also be found in terrestrial habitats such as beneath forest litter. They are predacious on a variety of vertebrates such as chironomid midges, crane flies and even other horse fly larvae. Horse fly larvae are found singly due to their cannibalistic behavior while deer fly larvae can be found in large groups.

Adults are stout-bodied with prominent antennae and brilliantly patterned eyes that fade to black after they die. They have large mouthparts that consist of bladelike mandibles and maxillary laciniae that assist in lacerating the skin. They are pool feeders, which means they cut a hole in the skin and the lap up the pooling blood. The males do not take a blood only the females do in order to produce eggs. Adults are very strong flies and can travel several miles to find a blood source.

Deer flies prefer to bite a host high on the body, head or shoulders while horse flies will feed in various regions but the legs are the favored sites for many attacking livestock.

Animals attacked:

Cattle, horses, other mammals at times and humans

Veterinary Impact:

Horse flies and deer flies are significant livestock pests with their painful and persistent biting behavior. Heavy attacks can lead to reductions in weight gains of beef cattle, reduced milk yield, reduced fed utilization efficiencies and hide damage from the puncture wounds. Horses under attack will be irritable and distracted by trying to avoid from being bitten.

The adult flies serve as vectors for many disease agents (viruses, bacteria, protozoans and nematodes) of animals.

Disease Transmission:

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), sometimes referred to as swamp fever, is common in the southeastern US and is mechanically (on the body of the fly) transmitted to horses and other equids. It is a viral disease that causes lethargy, weight loss, and sometimes death in an affected animal. There are two strains of the virus; one is more intense than the other. An acutely infected horse almost always dies quickly. A chronically infected horse will eventually die of complications or unapparent carriers may live without obvious health problems.

Anaplasmosis, caused by Anaplasma marginale, is found frequently in the southeastern US. This disease causes adult cattle to show marked anemia, fever and weight loss and has a mortality rating of 50%.


It is very difficult to achieve horse fly and deer fly control. An area with horse flies typically has many species with many different seasonal occurrences. In addition, the flies only stay in contact with a host for a few minutes to get the bloodmeal and then they are gone until they need to eat again which is every 3-4 days. Using topical pesticides is ineffective due to horse fly behavior, but short term control is possible. Aerial applications and treating for the larvae are ineffective. The best option is to provide shelter for the animals or pasturing them away from infested areas. Traps have been proven to provide effective control. Two trap options are box traps and CO2 baited sticky traps. Biological control agents can offer some protection by feasting on or parasitizing the larvae and eggs.


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Written by: Sachiko Schott

Written on: May 13, 2017

horse’s fly’s eyes image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com

The horsefly is a bloodsucking insect with a painful bite. While there are many commercial horsefly repellents available, most of them contain DEET, which can cause an allergic reaction. Fortunately, there are several home remedies that are reputed to repel horseflies.

Essential Oils

The essential oils of eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender and sandalwood can be used to create a natural horsefly repellent. These oils can be mixed with water in a spray bottle and sprayed on as needed.

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Garlic is credited with being the most powerful natural horsefly repellent there is. Crushed garlic can be mixed with water and sprayed on in the manner of essential oils, but this smells rather unpleasant. Eating the garlic works as well, by causing your body to secret compounds that repel flies.


The leaves of the elder bush, Sambucus nigra, have an unpleasant odour when bruised. Carrying a flowering twig of this plant, or rubbing bruised leaves on one’s skin, will prevent flies from settling on a person. An infusion can also be prepared by seeping the leaves and twigs in hot water overnight, then straining it and using the liquid in a spray bottle.


How to Treat Painful Horsefly Bites

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Horsefly bites are fairly common (not surprising considering there are over 3,000 varieties of horseflies across the world). Horseflies—also known as deer flies, breeze flies, or gad flies—typically breed near wet areas and they are more active in warm climates. The three most common types of horseflies are:

  • Black horseflies
  • Striped horseflies
  • Greenhead horseflies (Tabanus nigrovittatus)

Female horseflies can be problematic as they feed on the blood of mammals while male horseflies typically feed on pollen and nectar.

Symptoms of Horsefly Bites

Horseflies are notorious for attacking humans and other mammals. Female horseflies in particular need blood in order to reproduce. Horsefly bites should be taken seriously as horseflies carry other diseases that can be passed on to whoever they attack.

Unlike mosquitoes, horseflies rip open the skin to get to the blood. They are able to penetrate clothing or fur, so covering up doesn’t necessarily mean you will be protected. The most obvious symptom of a horsefly bite is pain. The bitten area will feel sore, may turn red and develop into a rash that spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms include itchiness and swelling in and around the bite area, dizziness, wheezing, and weakness.

Treating Horsefly Bites

Horsefly bites take far longer to heal—generally two to three days longer than the time it takes to heal from a typical insect bite. When possible, it is best to administer treatment as soon as possible to ease the pain:

  • First, place saliva on the bite. The protein in your saliva will offset the impact of the bite (in exception for the pain).
  • Next, use soap and water, or an antiseptic soap, to clean the affected area. The important part is to properly dry the area to protect against any further infection.
  • A horsefly bite should heal on its own without medical treatment. But there are some measures you will have to endure to speed up the healing process. Horsefly bites can be annoyingly itchy, but don’t scratch the bite area. Not only will this delay the healing time, but it can infect the bite further.
  • To soothe the pain and itchiness, apply a hot towel to the bite. Soak the towel in boiling salt water and then press it gently on the wound for as long as possible.
  • Antihistamine can help reduce the swelling and negate some of the itching.
  • It’s a good idea to cover up the bite with a bandage to keep it protected and prevent yourself from scratching the itch.
  • Other natural means of treating horsefly bites include applying ice packs and/or aloe vera gel to the affected are to reduce swelling and address the pain.

If the swelling and redness persists, then you may need to see a doctor. If you recognize some of the symptoms, it may be a good idea to check in with a doctor regardless, just to be sure you’re not experiencing an unexpected reaction.

Preventing Horsefly Bites

Horseflies tend to breed around marshes, wetlands and in swampy areas. They also enjoy warm climates, so it’s best to protect your skin under these conditions. This can include wearing pants and long sleeve shirts, even if it is hot outside. This won’t necessarily prevent horseflies from biting you, but it can make the bites less likely to happen in the first place.

If you live in an area with swarms of horseflies, then you’ll need to purchase insecticides or horsefly traps. Insect repellant is also a good deterrent against horseflies. Safeguard your home by putting in mesh windows.

Some believe that garlic supplements produce an odor that keeps horseflies away. Garlic supplements are worth a try if you are going to be exposed to horseflies for long periods of times.

If nothing else, remember that cleaning and covering the bite, applying the correct creams and possibly taking antihistamines should help get you through the pain and itchiness.


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With the realization of a vision of Mr. Gaurav Goyal (Managing Director), ISKON REMEDIES is a leading name in pharmaceuticals industry today. We come in the list of top Injection Manufacturing companies in India. ISKON REMEDIES operates fully integrated manufacturing facilities based at KALA-AMB (Himachal Pradesh), India. Our Corporate Head Office is located at Panchkula (H.R) India, with two Manufacturing Plants situated at Kala-Amb (Just at a distance of 60KM from Chandigarh) in the names of ISKON REMEDIES since 2005 & GMT (General Machine Tools) since 2016, with the dedicated and ultra-modern facilitated technology as per ISO Standards & WHO guidelines.

With a vision of providing high quality and affordable products to the society, ISKON REMEDIES has achieved a leading position in the field of manufacturing pharmaceutical formulations for both Domestic & Export Markets. We manufacture all kinds of pharmaceutical injectables at the best prices of the industry and within a stipulated time all the orders are being executed strictly as per the commitments to the Customers. Being a customer-oriented company it does not compromise on quality, which has enabled it to make a niche position for itself in the industry.

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Quality Assurance

We Think quality is not achieved by doing different things.It is achieved by doing things differently.The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy given needs.

Who We Are

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Iskon Remedies always have sight on the fact that innovation is the backbone of our company, thus our R&D team brings something different and more efficient in this highly competitive market. Our Veterinary Injection Range portfolio reflects the work of our team to deliver the best to the customers. The vaccines manufactured at Iskon are at complete compliance with client needs for regulatory approvals and market access.

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How To Make Homemade Horse Fly Spray Recipes

It seems like everyone knows at least one homemade horse fly spray recipe that uses natural ingredients.

Here at CowboyWay.com we decided to take three homemade horse fly spray recipes, and one semi-homemade recipe, and put them to the test. We wanted to know if the homemade fly sprays with natural ingredients would actually keep flies from biting our horse, and if so, for how long. (Note: By «natural» we mean a recipe that doesn’t contain man-made insecticides.)

We chose the recipes we tested based on simplicity, ease of finding the ingredients, and a lack of ingredients (like Pine-Sol) that might be irritating to the horse.

CAUTION — Use any fly spray recipe on this page at your own risk.
We are in no way suggesting any of the recipes below are safe for you or your horse.

The Homemade Horse Fly Sprays — How We Tested Them
Before we get to the fly spray recipes, we should probably tell you a little bit about how we tested them. Although our testing procedure was by no means scientific, we did try to be consistent with the testing conditions while we tried the different fly sprays. Here is what we did when we tested each of the recipes found a little lower on this page:

  • We used the same horse for all of the tests.
  • We caught the horse and did our tests at about the same time each day, and during approximately the same weather conditions.
  • After we caught the horse we sprayed him with fly spray, groomed him, and went for a ride in the same locations around the house, barn, and pasture.
  • The season we tested in was late spring / early summer. The temperatures we tested in varied from the mid-to-high 80 degrees Fahrenheit to the low 90s.

Homemade Horse Fly Spray Recipe #1

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Eucalyptus oil
  • 1 cup water

NOTE: To learn more abut Eucalyptus oil please scroll to the bottom of this page.

Mix the ingredients together in a spray bottle. Shake well before every use and spray the horse.

The Results
For house flies and stable flies this recipe worked very well. In our opinion it worked better than several store-bought fly sprays we had recently used. It wasn’t perfect — the house and stable flies still landed on the horse but the actual bites he experienced were definitely less.

However, it was a different story with deer flies. When we rode the horse away from the barn and house and out into the pasture the deer flies swarmed to him like he was a free, all-you-can-eat buffet. The fly spray seemed to be of little or no help as the deer flies bit him constantly, all over, and in large numbers.

How Long It Lasted
This fly spray lasted between 45 minutes and an hour. It did work well for house and stable flies during that time.

Our Opinion
For house and stable flies we liked this fly spray recipe. It only has three easy-to-mix ingredients, and the ingredients are all natural (remember, as we stated above we’re defining «natural» as an ingredient that is not a man-made insecticide). However, it did not work at all for deer flies.

Homemade Horse Fly Spray Recipe #2

  • 1/2 cup hair conditioner for humans (the kind you leave on for a minute or two then rinse out). We used an inexpensive generic brand without a strong scent (Suave).
  • 3 Tablespoons Eucalyptus oil
  • 1/2 cup baby oil
  • Enough water to fill the remainder of a 32 ounce spray bottle

Mix the ingredients in a 32 ounce spray bottle. Shake well before every use and spray the horse.

The Results
Like recipe #1, above, this homemade horse fly spray worked well around the barn and house, but was of no help in the pasture for deer flies.

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How Long It Lasted
Also like recipe #1, above, this fly spray lasted between 45 minutes and an hour.

Our Opinion
While this recipe worked about the same as recipe #1 it has more ingredients to purchase and mix, so is therefore slightly more complicated to make. We also didn’t like trying to get 1/2 cup of thick hair conditioner out of a measuring cup and into the top of the spray bottle. The conditioner kept plugging up the top of the bottle and using a kitchen funnel wasn’t much help. Since this recipe worked about the same as recipe #1, we prefer recipe #1 because it has fewer ingredients and is easier to mix.

Homemade Horse Fly Spray Recipe #3

  • 1 teaspoon Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Citronella Essential Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Lemongrass Essential Oil
  • 3 ounces Coconut Oil

  • 12 ounces of water (after first putting the above ingredients into a spray bottle, this is enough water to fill the bottle to the 16 ounce line)

Note: Coconut oil is a liquid in hot summer temperatures (above 76 degrees Fahrenheit). In cooler temperatures, it is a solid. Therefore, coconut oil may not be suitable for a fly spray recipe unless the temperatures are warm.

Put all of the essential oils and the coconut oil into a spray bottle. Add enough water (which should be about 12 ounces) to fill the spray bottle to the 16 ounce line. Shake vigorously before every use, and occasionally during use. This mixture separates very easily.

Since essential oils can cause skin irritation, the first thing we did with this fly spray recipe was spray our own forearms and wait 24 hours. When we didn’t have any kind of skin irritation we tested it on the horse.

The Results
Epic fail. Unlike with the other homemade fly spray recipes on this page we never even got the horse groomed or saddled before this recipe failed. We sprayed him, and there was a brief pause when he was really damp that the flies and other insects slowed down for a few moments. Then, after mere moments, he went back to fighting flies as if nothing at all had been sprayed on him. We had to follow with a different fly spray in order to groom and ride him.

With this «fly spray» recipe, if you can call it that, our horse did smell heavenly, but as an insect repellent this homemade recipe was totally useless .

How Long It Lasted
Mere moments.

Our Opinion
This recipe is a total waste of essential oils and coconut oil. We like essential oils for some things, and love coconut oil as a mane and tail conditioner and homemade hoof conditioner, but when used together in this recipe as a fly repellent for our horses they didn’t work at all.

Homemade Horse Fly Spray Recipe #4

This is actually a semi-homemade fly spray recipe that is NOT all natural since one of the two ingredients is store-bought horse fly spray.

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part store-bought horse fly spay (we used a brand that had permethrin .25% as its active ingredient)

Mix equal amounts of white vinegar and store-bought fly spray in a spray bottle. Shake well before every use and spray the horse.

The Results
We feel like this semi-homemade fly spray recipe worked just as well to keep house and stable flies from biting our horse as when the store-bought fly spray was used alone. In fact, though it was hard to tell for sure, we thought it may even have worked slightly better. Although flies still landed on the horse the actual bites were greatly reduced.

When it came to deer flies, the mixture of vinegar and store-bought fly spray was helpful to keep them from biting the horse, but not as helpful as we had hoped. However, when the store-bought fly spray was used alone the results were only marginally better. In both cases deer flies still bit the horse in noticeable numbers, but slightly less than when no fly spray was used at all.

How Long It Lasted
This semi-homemade fly spray lasted about an hour, perhaps a little less. This is about the same amount of time the store-bought fly spray lasted when it was used by itself.

Our Opinion
In our opinion the mixture of white vinegar and store-bought fly spray worked just as well for house, stable, and deer flies as when the store-bought fly spray was used alone. The mixture also lasted about the same amount of time, and since vinegar costs quite a bit less than store-bought fly spray using the mixture cut our costs significantly.

In Conclusion

For House And Stable Flies
Each of the homemade or semi-homemade horse fly spray recipes on this page — except for recipe #3 — worked well for us for house and stable flies. None of them were perfect — we still saw flies landing on the horse but the actual bites the horse received were greatly reduced. In our opinion the homemade recipes worked as well as the inexpensive brands of store-bought fly sprays we had recently tried and lasted about the same amount of time. They also have the advantage of being less expensive to use than higher priced store-bought sprays. Recipe #3 did not work at all.

For Deer Flies
None of the homemade or semi-homemade horse fly recipes we tested got a passing grade for deer flies. Recipe #1 and #2 were an out-an-out failure for deer flies, recipe #3 was an out-an-out failure for everything, and while recipe #4 worked better than nothing we still felt it left a lot to be desired.

Eucalyptus Oil — Fun Stuff To Know

Two of the natural homemade horse fly spray recipes above call for Eucalyptus oil as an ingredient. So, just what is Eucalyptus oil? Eucalyptus oil is an «essential oil,» which means it is a concentrated liquid derived from a plant, and that the liquid possesses the odor or flavor of the plant it comes from. In other words, essential oils contain the «essence» of the plants they are made from. Essential oils are sometimes called «volatile» or «ethereal» oils, or they might be called the «oil of» followed by the name of the plant they were made from.

The Eucalyptus oil we used in the recipes on this page was the oil of Eucalyptus globulus. Of the different species of Eucalyptus trees, Eucalyptus globulus is the kind most commonly used for the production of Eucalyptus oil. We bought an 8 ounce bottle of it from an eBay seller for a reasonable price that included shipping.


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