Natural solutions to fly and maggot problems that are people and pet friendly are often regarded with suspicion. Nothing really works, they say. Flies will bug us to death. I think not.

The fly pub

I exterminate the flies on my windowsill. The flies crawling up and down the window all died. They stayed away. A few weeks later I took away the bowl. When I sat down to write this article there were 7 new flies on the window. I made another quassia solution and returned the bowl. At the end of the day, more dead flies lay on the floor. Here is the full story, including this quassia recipe. I did this research especially for people who appreciate eco-friendly solutions to problems with ants, fleas and flies.

The main cause of a fly problem is our own behaviour!

A fly lives for about two weeks and females can lay up to 900 eggs. The eggs hatch out into another swarm of flies after 10 days. Maggots are the tiny white worm-like creatures that hatch out of the eggs. House fly eggs are generally laid on stinky, rotten garbage and the blue-bottle or green bottle flies prefer human and animal excrement. Good mothers will always find a well-stocked larder for their hundreds of successors.

The common house fly

Maggots are very agile and their antics are entertaining to watch. I soon discovered this during my research on flies. Maggots move like caterpillars but can also fall from great heights and roll over. They stick to slippery glass or plastic surfaces and can crawl out of dustbins and plastic garbage bags in a jiffy. Maggots wriggle and jump out of dustbins as soon as they can because they are attracted to any source.

Maggots hatch out

Maggots will try to first make their way outside and burrow into the dry sand. This is where they undergo the dormant phase of their life as a shiny little brown pupa. A swarm of flies buzzing around close to the ground shows where they have hatched out. It is usually where there is compost or manure. Their favourite hideout is a pile of animal excrement that has not been removed and wrapped up in newspaper before disposal. Smelly places, especially garbage collection areas are the most popular breeding grounds of flies that then come to torment you in your home. Do not be surprised if the flies invade your kitchen because they can smell your leftover food and wet household waste from within a radius of 15 meters.

Green-bottle fly prefers dung

Why did God create flies?

Flies are insects that are very beneficial to a natural environment. They help to pollinate flowers, especially fruit trees. They seem to have better navigational skills than bees and now that bees are becoming scarcer, flies can play an important role in agriculture by helping out with pollination.  Flies lay eggs in excessive quantities to guarantee their survival. This is because they get eaten by other creatures especially birds, frogs, toads and lizards. They are easy to catch and are good source of protein and other nutrients. (I am not suggesting that we eat them!)

Medically speaking, we rely on maggots to clean up septic wounds and other pathogenic material, especially pus and bacteria in infected lesions. They have a natural instinct to devour rotten and stinky iffy stuff so why not get them to clean up our dirty bits! Specially bred teams of medical maggots do so with astounding efficiency. They do not send us a bill and our septic wounds heal up - better than ever. So being up to maggots takes on a new meaning if viewed in a different context.

But when your home is full of flies and they bug you and make you slap yourself and they creep up your nose and jump into your mouth you may ask yourself why God created flies. In the greater picture flies are here to stay and so are we. There is a way to live in harmony with the environment and it includes even the flies and other so-called pests that share it with us. So I have been on a mission to find out more about files and how to stop them from bugging us.

How temperature, light and moisture affect flies and maggots

Maggots, when studied in detail are very agile and single-minded creatures. They wriggle energetically to the nearest source of light and seek the driest and warmest place they can reach to become a pupa and prepare for the highlight of their career: another fly! Then they can lay hundreds more eggs and so sustain their filthy habits: eating excrement and rotten stuff and then coming to our kitchens to vomit some of it on our food. Yummy!

Fly and maggot problems are worse in summer because it is hotter. A cool, very dark area with no source of light will attract fewer flies and the maggots are not compelled to move out. A hot, badly ventilated bin room or disposal area with a wide opening that faces the direct sunlight will always have the most maggots streaming out of it. Maggots that get wet become frantic and try to get away from the water as fast as they can.

Maggots cannot be sealed up inside a plastic bag in a garbage can for very long. They move freely on plastic surfaces and wiggle themselves out of just about any "sealed" plastic bag. All it needs is a tiny hole, the diameter of a toothpick or a loosely tied knot at the top and out they come, instinctively seeking a source of light to migrate towards. They can crawl up the steep sides of wheelie bins and drop down to the floor with ease. Once out in the open they will burrow into the sand or a place where it is warm and dry. Washing out the bin room area encourages them to go outside.

Trying to kill maggots will not really affect their breeding cycle

Trying to poison maggots is almost impossible, according to the many suggestions there are available on the internet. Some people even set them alight with gasoline. Well, that’s not very practical to do every day in the kitchen! I have methodically tried many of these recommendations and I even pickled them in hydrochloric acid to no avail.

Maggots seem to be limp and lifeless after such a chemical onslaught but although they appear to be dead they are merely transforming into their larval stage. I found this out by placing the lifeless, well “killed” maggots into a box of sand, covered by a sheet of gauze that I had strapped on with elastic bands. After 10 days, a number of flies were crawling on the gauze, eagerly waiting to be let out. They were fit and healthy. So much for poison and torture!

By the time we wash and sterilize and even use poisons and harsh chemicals to get rid of maggots most of them will have already escaped. Because maggots are a source of food, rich in protein, for many animals it is not wise to have any poisoned maggots left on the ground. Birds, geckos, frogs, toads and lizards that may eat them will also be harmed or most likely killed. This causes a double whammy because we then kill off the natural predators of maggots and flies.

Poisoned maggots threaten other animals

 The area we live in used to have many wagtails and sparrows that ate maggots as soon as they emerged from the bin rooms. Most of the birds “mysteriously” vanished when harsh toxic chemicals, including a deadly brand of worm poison were used to kill the flies and maggots. The local leopard toads were also being threatened. I was furious. The poisoning campaign did not solve the fly and maggot problem and the super sterilized bin room began to stink worse than ever after a few days and it still had flies and maggots.

Bio- enzyme cleaners did a better job, especially because they were not harmful or poisonous to all creatures great and small. These products treat odours effectively and establish beneficial bacteria that control odour and sludge in drains. They do not kill, they control. As such, the friendly microbes attack the mould, fungus and bacteria that cause odour.

Wrap up wet waste in newspaper, it makes a big difference.

People who wrap up their wet kitchen or personal waste and pet litter in a few sheets of newspaper before dumping it into a dust bin do not have as many fly problems in their homes. Furthermore, because flies can't lay their eggs in it, no maggots will emerge. But even if flies have laid eggs on waste such as dog or cat litter or diapers, the maggots that may hatch out during the next few days cannot escape out of the newspaper parcel providing it is tightly rolled into a pack that shuts out all the light.

Wrap wet kitchen waste

My experiments confirmed that flies cannot smell the contents of these parcels and even fruit flies stay away from the wet waste that has been thus treated. Two years of research has shown that by wrapping wet organic kitchen waste immediately and removing food items that attract flies such as dirty dishes, tea bags and so on helps considerably to keep flies away. We bury the parcels in trenches in the vegetable garden and it makes excellent compost. Burying the kitchen waste in newspaper keeps the area free from flies.

People suggest all sorts of things to chase flies away

fragrances that discourage flies. I tried peppermint, lavender and a number of extracts of orange peel, cinnamon and other deterrents. Experiment until you find something your flies hate the smell of. Then cover yourself in it, especially if you live in Australia! Flies have different reactions. One year I used a lavender oil diffuser and it was excellent in the kitchen. But the following year they came back worse than ever.


Lavender and fly diffuser

The most successful fly chaser I found for our house this year was fresh marjoram. We grow the herb as it is one of my favourites for cooking. I found that leaving a large fresh bunch of marjoram next to me on the kitchen table helped to shoo away persistent flies. The dried marjoram was very effective too. I would crush the pungent herb between my fingers and scatter it around the food.


The flies moved away. It is worth making a spray-on fly repellent using a little marjoram decoction or some of the essential oil. People also recommend lavender, mint, thyme and rosemary. Citronella and lemon grass are popular options but flies are fickle about fragrances.

I have tried the popular plastic bag filled with water hanging over the doorway. They claim that flies see this as a huge predator or a waterfall or something threatening. Nobody tells you what to do when flies enter the room in some other way and are unable to get out through the door or window that dispalys this “monster”. You find out the hard way that the bag begins to leak after a while and the water turns green. This theory had received over 40 000 hits on the internet. I had a few direct hits on my lounge carpet and leather couch!

The bubble wrap fly chasers had some effect on a few of our flies. Flies regard bubble wrap as a threat because they resemble the compound eyes of a large insect. We made bubble wrap bow ties and set them up in the kitchen and around the dining room table. There were fewer flies but not for very long. Probably the flies felt it was safe to return. There is always a tacky strip of fly paper to collect a few flies but it does keep them away and it is not a pleasant sight. Even electronic devices that send out “go away” signals seemed to attract flies to me.

Some people still swear by a fly swatter. You dash around the kitchen with a fly swatter and bash flies on bowls of food, utensils and working surfaces. Dead flies drop down into jugs of milk and sugar bowls. Then you have to clean up, take out the bodies, wash things and throw the contaminated items away. Do not move until a fly that is on you can be swatted. Think of the flies that have already been squashed on a fly swatter that now slaps you! Worst of all was when my Father used to keep the fly swatter next to his plate at the dinner table.

My best discovery: a quassia solution that makes flies goofy and then they die!

Quassia solution kills flies

Quassia, a traditional herbal remedy people used to take as a treatment for diabetes and other ailments is a potent fly exterminatior. I read up on quassia and found out that it has a deadly effect on flies. It sends them into an opiate haze. They become groggy and sluggish and then they die. I bought a box of quassia chips from the health shop. I stared at the heap of wooden chips in front of me. At least it would not poison me. At best, it would rev up my digestion and keep diabetes at bay. It was worth a try. I made up the following concoction with the guidance I found from the internet.

  • 50 ml quassia chips
  • 450 ml cold water
  • 30 ml sugar or molasses
  • Soak the 50 ml quassia in the 450 ml water for 2 days.
  • Stir in the 30 ml sugar.
  • Pour some of the mixture in a saucer and place strips of gauze on top.
  • Place the container on a high shelf. Flies go to high places first and it is then out of reach and away from pets and small children who may fiddle with it. It is very bitter, I may add.
  • Keep the rest of the mixture in a jar and add more to the saucer every few days. The gauze must stay wet so the flies can drink their tasty poison.

I use a piece of plastic foam in a plastic lid or a CD spindle cover. I pour in some of the quassia mixture and then press down on the sponge with my fingers so it soaks it up. Flies land on the sponge and drink from the surface of it.

After a few days there are less and less flies. Then no more flies can be seen around. The effect is not immediate but after a few days or even hours you will notice fewer flies. After a week or two if one forgets to top up the bowl with quassia solution the flies come back. For me, this is proof enough that it is keeping the flies away. So our new message to all flies out there is: “Come to our fly pub for free. Get goofy, go foggy and then drop dead. Cheers!” At least I have peace of mind, knowing that my home is not being sprayed with insecticides anymore.

Magical diatomaceous earth

Keep the bin room or garbage collection area dry except for cleaning it once a week with bio-enzymes. This helps to control the odour problem. Sprinkle a layer of diatomaceous earth powder around the perimeter of the bin room, against the wall and some on the floor. Maggots crawl into this as opposed to escaping to the sand or gravel outside. Swept up maggots can be fed to poultry, birds or other animals. The diatomaceous earth is a good source of minerals for farm animals and it helps to control worms and large parasites.

Maggots in Diatomaceous earth

Keep the room cool and dark and install a spring on the door so that it remains closed. Install a lamp just above the gully to attract maggots to a bowl placed beneath the grid. This light is enough for people to see where the bins are. For the maggots, this light serves as their gateway to freedom but instead they go to the middle of the room and down into the gully where they land in a bowl. The maggots fall into the hole because the diatomaceous earth causes them to slip down into the collection cup and they become part of the natural food chain.

Maggots move to the light

Conclusion: what worked the best this year

Wrap the wet waste in newspaper and poison the adult flies with the quassia solution. This has worked the best so far. Other things to remember are:

Flies lay their eggs in wet kitchen waste. This is where maggots begin!

Do not throw wet waste in the bin. Why? It attracts flies & maggots.

Wrap up the wet waste in newspaper parcels, tightly sealed.

If any form of animal excrement is left lying around in the open then you will have a problem with blue-bottle (or green bottle) flies. When our neighbours who owned a dog moved out our fly problem lessened, especially after we cleaned out their yard and removed the dog poop.

We can change our habitat but what we need to change

are the habits of the inhabitants

The 2 minute video shows us how farmers can collect maggots instead of poisoning them. Feed the birds! Enjoy all creatures great and small. Like us, they do have a purpose on earth.


How to make a maggot extractor

A good thing for all chicken farmers