When you think of Summer pests, you likely picture annoying gnats that force you to constantly spray yourself down for gnat repellant. Or maybe, your mind jumps to the droves of black flies that hover over your patio or deck, driving you mad each time you attempt to get some much-needed relaxation in your backyard. 

Black flies are a common nuisance throughout the US, though they’re more prominent along the East Coast and Northeast. 

While you may mistake them for other common pests like the mosquito, black flies–also known as buffalo gnats, turkey gnats, or white socks–are a species of their own. These blood-sucking, disease-transmitting insects can pose a significant threat to you, your family, and your pet.

For this reason, it’s important to know when black flies come around, why they settle in your yard, and how to get rid of black flies

Why Do I Have So Many Black Flies in My Yard? 

Black flies have a short, 2-3 week life cycle with one singular purpose: to breed. Like mosquitoes, female black flies lay eggs in bodies of water. 

However, unlike mosquitos, black flies prefer fresh, clean, and slow-moving water. Black fly larvae don’t swim; instead, they crawl across the substrate and attach themselves to rock faces and other stationary objects, preventing themselves from being washed away. 

While black flies typically lay their eggs in streams, they won’t hesitate to invade your sparkling clean backyard water feature, producing a single batch of 200-500 eggs that’ll soon evolve into mature, blood-sucking black flies. 

Black flies also prefer dense, wooded, shaded areas, making your lush, green backyard with a slow-moving stream, creek, or water fountain an ideal breeding ground. Throw in a food source, like your family and pets, and you’ve created the ideal residence for generations of black flies. 

So now that we know what attracts black flies let’s discuss preventative measures to keep them away. 

What Smells Do Black Flies Dislike?

Like many other insects, black flies are highly sensitive to specific scents–scents your family will find to be a pleasant and welcome addition to your deck, patio, or backyard! 

Burning herbal incense is an excellent way to ward off droves of black flies, specifically rosemary and sage. However, while pleasant to our noses, most insects won’t be able to stand the strong, fragrant smoke produced by this burning vegetation. 

Black flies also find several essential oils appalling, such as lavender, pine, and vanilla; try rubbing a few drops onto your exposed skin before heading outdoors, and you may be surprised. You can even use essential oils to keep mosquitos away!

If you’re considering starting an herb garden on your deck or patio this summer, don’t hesitate! Some of the most common and delicious herbs are excellent natural insect repellants. Planting herbs such as coriander, basil, garlic, and anise in planters or barrels throughout your yard will keep flying pests like black flies at bay while providing fresh herbs for your summer meals! 

Other scents that naturally repel Black Flies include citronella extract–found in insect-repelling candles at most home and garden stores–and apple cider vinegar. Taking a quick shot of ACV each morning along with your daily vitamins has long been recognized for its extreme digestive and immune health benefits but ingesting apple cider vinegar is also a powerful insect repellant. 


highly sensitive to specific scents

How Do I Keep Black Flies Out of My Yard? 

Keeping black flies out of your yard can be tricky; after all, you can’t dry up the stream running through your yard or cut down all of the trees and vegetation that make it so beautiful and inviting. 

Chemical insecticide treatments are always available, though most people prefer safe, natural remedies around children and pets. Luckily, several tricks can reduce the risk of bites. 

First, consider installing ceiling fans under awnings, gazebos, or arbors. While it may seem trivial, ceiling fans are an excellent way to disrupt Black Flies’ flight patterns, preventing them from reaching you. Additionally, fans help to disperse the carbon dioxide you breathe out, which Black Flies naturally gravitate towards. Oscillating or box fans will also do the trick in uncovered areas. 

Next, try cutting down on sweets. Black flies are highly attracted to sugary drinks, sweet-smelling colognes, and perfumes. You can guarantee a reduction in flying pests by eliminating all potential attractants.

Finally, cover up! Female black flies require a source of blood before laying their eggs; if they can’t bite you, they’ll find someone or something else. So try wearing long sleeves, pants, and hats with attached netting, preventing insects from swarming and drawing blood. 


Black flies, like most flying outdoor pests, are somewhat inevitable. But, in most cases, it’s better to take preventative measures against bites and disease rather than anticipating ridding your backyard of them completely. 

So cover up, power up a fan, plant your herb garden, drink some apple cider vinegar, and enjoy your backyard! 

If all else fails, don’t hesitate to call your local pest specialists to inquire about alternative treatment methods or preventative pest control