What Repels Deer Flies | 7 Best Deer Fly Repellents

Written by George Climer | checkbox Reviewed by Articles on Pest Samurai undergo a rigorous evaluation process by our Science Editors. Each article is scrutinized prior to publication and upon significant updates. Learn more about Pest Samurai Editorial Process. George Climer

The term deer fly covers a wide range of fly species found in various locations worldwide. Typically larger than the common housefly, these fast-flying insects are a nuisance to hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Fortunately, you can get rid of pesky flies by using effective deer fly repellents.

What repels deer flies? To repel deer flies, you can use essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and citronella. The best deer fly repellants include Coleman 100 Max Insect Repellent, Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent, 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent, and All Terrain Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellent. 

This article will provide you with all the information you need to know about deer flies and how to avoid their puncturing bites. So, if you have a deer fly problem, read on!

What Is a Deer Fly?

What Is a Deer Fly

A deer fly is a bloodsucking insect pest to both humans and animals such as cattle and horses. Also known as sheep flies in some locations, they range between 7-10 mm (0.28 – 0.40 in). Deer flies are common in most geographical locations except in Iceland and Hawaii.

What Does a Deer Fly Look Like?

Deer flies look a lot like common houseflies, a familiar sight to most people. But unlike houseflies, deer flies are much bigger. In addition, they have yellow or black colors, striped abdomen, shiny colored compound eyes, and sport dark bands on their clear wings.  

Where Do Deer Flies Live?

Deer flies live in various places but the common feature in these locations is dampness. As such, you’ll find them near damp areas, wetlands, or wooded areas. These places offer the deer flies good breeding grounds where they can lay their eggs. 

What Is the Life Cycle of a Deer Fly?

What Is the Life Cycle of a Deer Fly

Female deer flies lay eggs in masses of 25-1000 on aquatic vegetation, overhanging foliage, or projecting rocks. You can spot their larvae in the moist soil along stream banks, pond edges, marshes, or wetlands where they fall after hatching. While some are aquatic, others develop in moist forest soils or decomposing wood. The eggs hatch after 2-3 days. 

The larvae stage lasts for 1-3 years, depending on the deer fly species. Once mature, they crawl to drier places where they become pupae and adults after 2-3 weeks.

Most deer fly species complete one generation each year, though smaller species can manage 2-3 per year.

What Do Deer Flies Eat?

Deer flies eat different types of food in their lifetime. As they develop, the larvae feed on decaying organic matter and organisms sourced from the soil or water. On the other hand, adult female deer flies feed on blood sucked from their prey while the males consume pollen and nectar.

Related: How to Get Rid of Horse Flies | Long-Term Results!

Deer Fly Bite

Now, let’s talk about whether or not deer flies bite and if they pose a risk to your health.

Do Deer Fly Bite?

Do Deer Flies Bite

Deer flies bite. They inflict deep wounds on cattle leading to significant blood loss due to the presence of an anticoagulant in the saliva. Additionally, they reduce milk production and interfere with the grazing of cattle and horses since the animals tend to bunch together or take off wildly while under attack. 

Like mosquitoes, female deer flies are responsible for the painful bites since they require blood to make viable eggs. The aggressive and persistent flies bite their moving hosts on the head and shoulders, even returning to continue biting if interrupted. Male deer flies, on the other hand, pose no harm.

How Do You Treat Deer Fly Bites?

To treat a deer fly bite, clean the area with soapy water, then apply a first aid-type skin cream to help relieve the pain. Applying ice to the bite site can also help to ease the pain. Also, after consultation with your doctor, you can take anti-allergy medications to help with the itching and prevent secondary infection.

How Long Do Deer Fly Bites Last?

Deer fly bites can last longer than two days, depending on their intensity. As mentioned earlier, deer fly bites can be extremely painful because they use their sharp mouthparts to slice through your skin. The resultant irritation and swelling will normally ease off within a day or two though scratching the site can cause secondary infections. 

Do Deer Fly Bites Itch?

Do Deer Fly Bites Itch

Deer fly bites itch. The red bumps that develop around the bite site can even be extremely itchy and might cause you to scratch the area continuously leading to more serious irritation or even infection. Therefore, it’s best to avoid scratching the area.

Allergy to Deer Fly Bite

For most people, deer bites might only cause painful, itchy bites and nothing more. However, the bites can also cause an allergic reaction due to the salivary secretions released as the insects feed. In extreme cases, this might include cases of hives and wheezing. 

What Diseases Do Deer Flies Carry?

Deer flies carry and transmit a wide range of diseases and parasites through their bites, including anthrax, hog cholera, tularemia (rabbit fever), anaplasmosis, and equine infectious anemia. Tularemia can be fatal, and you require antibiotics if you get it. Therefore, deer flies pose a great risk to public health

Do Deer Flies Carry Lyme Disease?

There’s no scientific proof yet that deer flies carry Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis), although deer flies harbor organisms similar to Borrelia burgdorferi in regions where Lyme disease occurs. Still, many people usually associate deer flies with infectious diseases. 

What Are Deer Flies Attracted To?

What Are Deer Flies Attracted To

Deer flies are attracted to their prey by sight, smell, warmth, movement, dark colors, shiny surfaces, or the presence of carbon dioxide. They’re most active during the daytime in hot summer or early fall, so if you have a deer fly problem, these are the times when you should be most careful and protect yourself. 

7 Best Deer Fly Repellents Review

Let’s look at some of the best deer fly repellents that are available on Amazon:

1. All Terrain Natural Insect Repellent

Sale
Herbal Armor DEET-Free Pump Spray 8oz. Insect Repellent - Value Size, Plant-Based and All-Natural Bug Repellent for Outdoor Protection, Safe for Family and Pets
  • EFFECTIVE & SAFE: This repelling oil-based formula is DEET-free...
  • DON'T LET BUGS KEEP YOU INDOORS: From camping or hiking to...
  • PROTECT YOUR FAMILY: Avoid bug bites with this effective...
  • ACTIVE LIFESTYLE: Started by an outdoor enthusiast, All Terrain...
  • ALL TERRAIN: We are committed to providing safe & effective,...

This effective insect repellent is excellent for keeping deer flies away while camping, hiking, or hanging outdoors. It’s both DEET and GMO-free, making it ideal for use on sensitive skin, eco-friendly, and won’t damage your clothes or gear. 

Additionally, this insect repellent works naturally as it contains a potent mixture of essential oils such as citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass. It’s safe to use around your pets too.

2. Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent

No products found.

This fragrance-free, long-lasting insect repellent is quite effective against deer flies, odorless, and safe on synthetic clothing and gear. More effective than DEET in protecting you from deer fly bites, its non-greasy, quick-drying formulation makes it safe to use on your hiking gear, plastics, and synthetic coatings. It’s available in lotion and spray form.

3. 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent

3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion, Splash and Sweat Resistant, 2 Oz
  • Contains 34.34% DEET for superb protection against insect bites
  • Proven to repel mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, chiggers, gnats,...
  • Repels mosquitoes that may carry Zika Virus, West Nile Virus,...
  • Advanced 3M Controlled Release Technology provides a continuous...
  • Unique time-release technology provides long-lasting protection

This insect-repellent lotion contains 34.34% DEET. It offers excellent protection against deer flies and their bites using a controlled-release technology that offers day-long protection. The product is also available as a spray. You don’t need heavy application either and can use it like regular lotion.

4. Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent

Sale
Sawyer Products SP6572 Twin Pack Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Trigger Spray, 24 oz,Yellow
  • Permethrin spray bonds to fabric fibers for up to 6 weeks or...
  • Reduce likelihood of a tick bite by 73.6 times by treating shoes...
  • Add a layer of protection to your clothing and gear with...
  • Ideal for backpacking, backyard BBQs, hunting, and other outdoor...
  • Sawyer Permethrin stays effective despite sweat or water,...

This insect repellent works on your clothes and gear. It adds a protective layer that keeps you safe from deer flies when outdoors. The permethrin spray doesn’t stain or damage your fabrics and can last through a maximum of 6 washings. For best results, use the product alongside Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotion.

Sawyer Products SP5622 Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotion, 20% Picaridin, 2-Ounce, Twin Pack
  • Safe for use on the whole family, long-lasting insect and tick...
  • Fragrance-free topical insect repellent with 20% Picaridin —...
  • Very comfortable to wear on your skin, it's ideal for all your...
  • Non-greasy; dries quickly and won't damage plastics or synthetic...
  • Top rated bug repellent by WireCutter/New York Times (May, 2020);...

5. BUGGINS Original Insect Repellent 

BUGGINS Original GNAT & Mosquito Insect Repellent 4oz Pump Spray
  • BUGGINS Insect Repellent features a soft vanilla scent and a...
  • Repels mosquitoes for one hour.
  • This water-based formula is not sticky or greasy and is ideal for...
  • NOTICE - This formula provides relief from annoying insects. When...
  • ORIGINAL Vanilla Mint Rose scent

This product offers extreme protection against deer flies and other biting insects. Available in a twin pack, this odorless insect repellent is suitable for individuals who are allergic to fragrances. The spray combo pack contains DEET and 2x biting fly repellent for extra protection.

6. Buggins Natural Insect Repellent

Buggins Natural Insect Repellent, DEET-Free, Repels Gnats & Flies, Plant Based, Vanilla Mint & Rose Scent, 4-oz
  • Plant-based active ingredients - geraniol, peppermint, lemongrass...
  • Plant-based active ingredients - geraniol, peppermint, lemongrass...
  • DEET-free for people who don't want to use DEET
  • 4oz bottle

This all-natural insect repellent contains essential oils like geraniol, peppermint oil, and lemongrass oil. Peppermint oil is well-known for its ability to repel deer flies. The product has no chemicals, including DEET, and comes in a spray bottle, making it easy to use.

7. Coleman 100 Max Insect Repellent

Sale
Coleman Insect Repellent Spray - 100% MAX DEET Insect Repellent Spray, protection against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, gnats, fleas, ideal for camping, hiking, outdoor activities, 4oz Continuous Spray
  • Comprehensive Insect Protection: This bug spray effectively...
  • Disease Prevention: By offering effective mosquito and tick...
  • High DEET Concentration: Recognized as the most concentrated DEET...
  • Low Odor Formula: With its low odor formula, this bug spray...
  • Perfect for Outdoor Enthusiasts: Tailored for hunters and outdoor...

This product offers strong protection against deer flies and other harmful insects as it contains 100% DEET. The bug spray can withstand water and sweat to offer you almost 10 hours of effective coverage and is one of the strongest deer fly repellents available. A small amount goes a long way, plus you don’t need to rub in the product.

How To Get Rid of Deer Flies Naturally?

While few practical ways to control deer flies or eliminate them exist, there are several natural ways to get rid of them. Also, dragonflies, toads, frogs, wasps, spiders, hornets, and birds form natural deer fly predators.

To get rid of deer flies naturally, try the following:

  • Use homemade insect repellent sprays and lotions. 
  • Use deer fly patches that you can stick on your hat, pants, or wrists.
  • Use sticky traps like Rescue Trapstick or fly traps that are safe to use around your pets.
Rescue! Non-Toxic Trapstik for Biting Flies with Bird Guard
  • Eliminate Flies - Exclusive VisiLure technology lures...
  • No Odors or Chemicals – Flies like stable flies, black flies,...
  • Discreet – Unlike sticky, stinky fly ribbons, this TrapStik has...
  • Thoughtful Design – Unique glue guards create a barrier around...
  • Made in the USA – At RESCUE!, our goal is to design and...
  • Place a dryer sheet on the inside of your hat to help repel the flies.
  • Eliminate potential breeding grounds by clearing decaying vegetation from your yard.

Here’s a short YouTube video on how to get rid of deer flies when working in your yard:

How To Keep Deer Flies Away?

To keep deer flies away, here are useful tricks to help you:

  • Use a mixture of essential oils like peppermint, catnip, eucalyptus, citronella, and lavender to repel the deer flies. 
Artizen 30ml Oils - Peppermint Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Peppermint Essential Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Peppermint Oil - Most of the...
  • Most 4 Ounce Peppermint Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of Natural Oil...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
  • Lifetime Warranty - The manufacturer, Artizen Essential Oils,...
Miracle Botanicals Catnip Essential Oil - 100% Pure Nepeta Cataris - Therapeutic Grade (2.5ml)
  • Catnip is a member of the mint family and grows in the wild as a...
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Nepeta Cataria / COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada
  • AROMA: Rich, Minty, Floral / MAIN CHEMICAL COMPONENTS:...
  • METHOD OF EXTRACTION: Steam Distilled / PLANT PART: Leaves and...
  • 2.5ml in Amber Glass European Dropper Bottle (see image for fill...
Sale
Artizen 30ml Oils - Eucalyptus Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Eucalyptus Essential Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Eucalyptus Oil - Most of the...
  • Most 4 Ounce Eucalyptus Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of Natural Oil...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
Artizen 30ml Oils - Citronella Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Citronella Essential Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Citronella Oil - Most of the...
  • Most 4 Ounce Citronella Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of Natural Oil...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
  • Lifetime Warranty - The manufacturer, Artizen Essential Oils,...
Handcraft Blends Lavender Essential Oil - Huge 4 Fl Oz - 100% Pure and Natural - Premium Grade with Glass Dropper
  • 100% PURE & NATURAL LAVENDER OIL - Handcraft Blends oils are...
  • PREMIUM GRADE & QUALITY – All Handcraft Blends Essential Oils...
  • HIGH QUALITY GLASS BOTTLE AND DROPPER – Our essential oil comes...
  • LAVENDER OIL BLENDS WELL WITH – Basil, Bergamot, Eucalyptus,...
  • Remain still; deer flies are attracted to movement, so this might deter them.
  • Tie a red rag onto a long plastic pipe strapped to your hat–the flies will swarm around the flag instead of your head.
  • Craft or buy a life-size dragonfly to pin to your hat to help keep the persistent flies away.
  • Wear protective clothing such as thick long sleeve shirts and pants and a hat when outdoors.
  • Treat your clothes with permethrin and wear a head net when in infested areas. 
  • Avoid dark colors and dress in light-colored clothes instead.
  • Use permethrin-based sprays on cattle and horses–they irritate the flies causing them to leave–or permethrin repellents on clothes.
  • Use insect repellents containing picaridin or DEET.
  • Use pesticides such as permethrin space sprays or fogging treatments in areas where large deer fly swarms occupy small areas. Alternatively, you can use pyrethrin sprays though they’re not as effective. 

The downside to using pesticide treatments is that they only kill on contact but wear off pretty quickly, leaving no lasting pest control effects. Furthermore, exposure to the chemical can cause irritation in both humans and pets.

Other Deer Fly Control Products

Here are other deer fly control products from Amazon that you can use to help you with your deer fly problem:

Best Deer Fly Traps

  • Bug Ball Fly Trap
Bug Ball Replacement Ball, 2 Pack- Odorless Eco-Friendly Biting Fly and Insect Killer with NO Pesticides or Electricity Needed, Kid and Pet Safe
  • Kit Comes with; (2) Bug Balls (made from heavy duty weather...
  • It takes 2-3 Bug Balls to effectively cover 1 acre and eliminate...
  • Bug Ball is designed to work with Catch EM’ sticky coating...
  • Bug Ball works great in greenhouses, pool areas, backyards,...
  • Every Bug Ball has a loop molded onto the top that enables it to...

This odorless, environmental-friendly insect killer is effective in killing deer flies and doesn’t require you to use pesticides or electricity. Thus, it’s safe to use around kids and pets. 

  • Starbar Fly Terminator Pro
Starbar Fly Terminator Pro
  • Reusable.
  • Durable plastic gallon jug traps up to 35, 000 flies.
  • a patented fly attractant flies can't resist.
  • Is insecticide free and has a NO RUST plastic top.
  • handle makes trap easy to hang.

This reusable insecticide-free product has a pungent odor that easily attracts deer flies to their death. The jug trap comes with a handle that makes it easy to hang. 

Best Deer Fly Sticky Strips

  • Tred-Not Deerfly Patches

These odorless, chemical-free patches attach to your cap. They’re effective in preventing deer fly bites as they trap the flies buzzing around your head.

  • UPMSX Fly Catcher

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The strong and durable sticky insect glue works by getting the deer flies stuck on the tube. This easy-to-use product is ideal for use around kids or pregnant women. 

Best Bug Spray for Deer Flies

  • Repel Insect Repellent
Sale
Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, Mosquito Repellent, Pump Spray, 4 Ounce, (Pack of 2)
  • MADE WITH OIL OF LEMON EUCALYPTUS: This DEET-free insect...
  • REPELS MOSQUITOES FOR UP TO 6 HOURS: This repellent keeps you and...
  • REFRESHING SCENT: This DEET-free personal repellent leaves you...
  • REPELS: Create a barrier against mosquitoes, including those that...
  • NOT GREASY OR STICKY: Formulated with oil of lemon eucalyptus to...

Ideal for your outdoor adventures, this non-greasy, DEET-free insect repellent features a cool, refreshing scent that gives you all the protection you need against deer flies. 

  • Repel Permethrin Clothing & Gear Insect Repellent

No products found.

This product is suitable for your outdoor clothing and gear including tents, sleeping bags, and nets. It also holds through several washings.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to effectively control or eliminate deer flies because insect repellents hardly deter them. They aim for your head and make their way underneath the hair to the skin. Besides, they don’t rely on scent to locate their prey, so scent repellents are ineffective.

Additionally, the use of strong insecticides isn’t advisable. It could adversely affect deer flies’ environmentally sensitive habitats by harming the wetlands, drainage system, and water supplies. Furthermore, being strong fliers, the flies can move from far distances, meaning that their breeding sites could be extremely extensive or located far from the problem site.

Related: How To Get Rid of House Flies? | Effective Techniques

List of Sources

Townsend, L. (2000). Horse Flies and Deer Flies. University of Kentucky Entomology.
Squitier, J. M. (1998). Deer flies, yellow flies and horse flies. University of Florida.
Hill, C., MacDonald, J. (2008). Horse and Deer Flies. Purdue University.
Mizell, R. F. (1998). The Trolling Deer Fly Trap. North Florida Research and Education Center, University of Florida.