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Do Grills Attract Flies & How To Keep Them Off the BBQ?

There’s nothing worse than firing up the BBQ to grill some steaks and getting bothered by flies.

The smell of cooking food in BBQ smoke means grills do attract flies. You’d think that smoke would repel them, but anyone who grills regularly knows the smell of delicious food is just too intoxicating for hungry insects.

Mosquitos are attracted by the carbon monoxide (CO2) in the breath of multiple people standing outside as well – so this spells double trouble.

When cooking in the yard, getting flies on your food is unhygienic and can be embarrassing and troublesome if you’re entertaining friends and family.

So how can we ensure that flies are kept away when you crack open a few beers and spark up the grill? These helpful tips should keep those pesky bugs at bay.

How To Keep Flies Away From Your BBQ (21 Things To Try)

1. Fly Papers

Useful to hang around your BBQ area to physically catch bothersome flies, these sticky strips are incredibly adhesive – so try not to touch them when you’re unrolling them. It’s easier said than done!

2. Sandwich Bag of Pennies

This next one is great, and apparently works because the flies are blinded by the shining pennies refracting light in the water (they have incredibly light-sensitive eyes).

You simply fill a clear Ziploc sandwich bag with water and drop three shiny pennies inside. You can clean the pennies in a lime juice solution so they look like new. Then hang up the bags (you’ll need a few) around your BBQ area using paperclips as hooks.

3. Fly Spray

Very effective but not so good directly over food, fly spray will kill your critters stone dead in no time. However, this is possibly a last resort as the spray will hang in the air and could leave residue on your BBQ ribs – which is far from ideal and does not create a pleasant dining environment.

4. Fly Swat

If you’re feeling energetic between flipping burgers, you could try a good old-fashioned fly swat.

This is ok for the larger and slower flies that land on a table or chair arms – but you don’t want to be squashing flies into Uncle Dave’s quarter-pounder. Swats are pretty useless for mozzies too.

5. Bleach & Water

Another effective way to deter flies around your BBQ grill is to put a small bowl on a nearby table filled with 50% water and 50% bleach. The smell really disturbs all bugs and could just save your sanity if you’re attacked by loads of them.

6. Soap & Vinegar

For this method, mix a couple of inches of cider vinegar with a few drops of dish soap in a tall glass, then cover the top with cling film secured with a rubber band.

Poke a few small holes in the top so the flies fall in. The soap reacts with the vinegar to ensure the flies sink and don’t swim.

7. Honey Plate

An oldie but a goodie. Simply cover two or three small plates with a spread-out spoonful of honey – then position the plates near the BBQ grill and on the table. This will not only attract flies but wasps as well. This also works with fruit and meat.

8. Mason Jar Funnel

Take the lid off a mason jar and tie some strong around the top so you can hang it up. Fill the jar with some burger meat, vinegar or honey solution then roll up a thick piece of paper into a funnel and poke it down into the jar. The flies can get in but they can’t get out. 

9. Soda Bottle Trap

You can achieve the same thing as above using a large 2-litre soda bottle. Simply cut the top off and stick it inverted down into the bottle.

Use the same delicious treats at the bottom and the flies will go down the funnel and not be able to find their way to freedom again. Hang it up or place it on the table.

Here’s a great video explaining how to make a soda bottle fly trap:

10. Light Trap

If you can run a cable outside (or buy a battery-powered one), you can simply buy an electric light trap from your local hardware store.

A household one is relatively cheap and attracts flies into bright light elements which zap them dead. The flies all collect in a tray at the bottom and can be easily removed. 

11. Hot Dog Jar

Another straightforward DIY fly trap option is to just get an old jar and make some fly-sized holes in the top.

Fill the bottom of the jar with a cut-up hot dog, a few spoonfuls of water and spoon of maple syrup. The flies can find their way in but are too tiny-brained to find their way out of the same holes.

fly on burger

12. Remove or Empty The Bins

A lot of people over look this when they’re about to fire up the grill – but if your outside bins are full or garbage and relatively close to your BBQ area – then sure as day follows night you’ll attract flies. So it might be that prevention is better than the cure in this example, and not all the flies were after your ribs in the first place.

13. Pepper Spray

An effective natural fly spray can be created by mixing a little cayenne pepper with water in a spray bottle. The flies don’t like it all and at least if you miss the bugs it won’t harm the food. Who doesn’t like a peppered steak!

14. Herbs

Many herbs have been reported to keep flies at bay. In particular, basil, bay leaves and catnip are supposed to be decent ways to deter some insects. The only downside is you might attract all the neighborhood cats to your BBQ. 

15. Flowers

Believe it or not, but certain varieties of flowers are good at repelling flies. Lavender and marigold can be especially useful in keeping the buzzing critters away. A nice few pots of flowers will brighten up the table too.

16. Smoking Egg Tray

This method will require constant supervision but works really well with mosquitos. Simply get a large cardboard egg box or take out drinks tray, and leave it smoldering on a ‘not too hot’ part of the grill. You’ll still get flies and mozzies around the grill but not directly where you’re cooking. You may need to wear a gas mask though which could scare the kids.

17. Citronella Candles

Studies show that flies don’t like the smell of citronella, which is great because it’s really quite pleasant for us humans. Simply buy a few citronella candles from your local hardware store and position them around your BBQ area and on the table – and you won’t be joined for dinner by any buzzing bugs.

Citronella Candles Make a Great Fly Repellant
Citronella Candles Make a Great Fly & Mosquito Repellant

18. Venus Flytrap

This one is for those of you who like to take the organic option, and only have a few flies pestering you when the BBQ is lit. Just buy two or three of these and let nature do its work.

Venus Flytraps close around their prey and use digestive juices to dissolve the insect’s squishy insides. After a week to ten days it then spits out the exoskeleton. This is amazing and reasonably gruesome in equal measure. Just don’t let your Venus Flytrap grow to big or you’ll become lunch yourself like on Little Shop of Horrors!

19. Cloves in an Apple

Another good idea for keeping flies away from your grill if you don’t want to use chemicals – is to stick a couple of dozen cloves in a ripe apple. Leave it on a plate on the table and you’ll be rewarded with less flies and also a lovely smell.

20. Pine Oil

Staying with the greener options, if you drip a few drops of pine oil on some cheesecloth, or soak some cotton wool balls in pine oil and leave them in a jar on the table, then the flies won’t bother you. Pine is a very strong insect repellant and like the option above the smell will be really pleasant at mealtimes outside.

21. Pine Disinfectant

If you want to make use of the fly-repelling properties of pine and aren’t worried about using some stronger chemicals, then you can simply mix some pine disinfectant 50:50 with some water in a spray bottle. If you spray this double-strength potion around your BBQ area before you start grilling, you should deter the flies from coming near your burgers at all.

Summing Up: Does Smoke Attract Flies To Your BBQ Grill?

Researchers have discovered that flies carry up to 65 diseases that can cause diarrhea, dysentery and food poisoning – so the last thing we want is swarms of them on and around our food. This is especially the case when BBQing outside in the yard.

Hopefully, some of the fly-repelling methods on this list will help keep you bug-free when you next light up the grill, and will mean you and your guests can enjoy some outside entertaining without being bothered by annoying flies and other insects.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >