How to Get Rid of Hoverflies

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We usually talk about critters that cause damage to your home or garden, but sometimes even beneficial critters can be considered a pest. Enter the hoverfly (family Syrphidae), an important species that’s often misunderstood and sometimes even feared.

Let’s take a closer look at these critters, what they do, and how to get rid of them when it’s deemed necessary.

Getting to Know Hoverflies

Hoverflies often get a bad reputation due to their appearance. However, these particular critters are actually highly beneficial. Learning to identify them can allay most concerns about the species.

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What is a Hoverfly?

what is a hoverfly?

This member of the fly family has developed a defense mechanism which tends to get them in trouble with humans. Hover flies have evolved to physically resemble wasps in both shape and size. They even mimic the mannerisms of this more hostile species to scare away predators.

However, these aren’t actually garden pests. Both adult hoverflies and their larvae are beneficial insects. There are approximately 6,000 species of hoverflies across 20 genera.

What Are Hoverflies Attracted To?

Hoverflies are primarily attracted to sweet smells. This isn’t because they love ice cream, but because their primary food sources are pollen and nectar. Like all flies, the stench of rotting fruit, garbage, and other decay can be attractive.

You’ll sometimes hear hoverflies referred to as syrphid flies (in reference to their family name) or flower flies. Of course, seeing what appears to be a wasp hovering over your flowers probably won’t put your mind at ease.

They’re sometimes also referred to as corn flies. It’s not uncommon to find an infestation in corn fields where the larvae feast on aphids.

Why Do Hoverflies Land on Me?

Human sweat is full of essential salts. While it might smell terrible to us, those salts attract many pests, such as sweat bees and hoverflies. If a hoverfly land on you, it’s only doing so for the salt and has not intention of stinging you.

See Also: Why Do Crane Flies Fly At Your Face?

Do Hoverflies Sting or Bite?

Speaking of which, hoverflies are perfectly harmless. They have no stinger and their mouthparts are designed for extracting pollen and nectar. As a result, they’re they’re unable to bite or otherwise defend themselves.

Hoverflies vs Sweat Bees

hoverfly vs sweat bee

Sweat bees are small and usually have an iridescent appearance. While the term can be applied to more than a thousand species of bee, it can also be applied to hoverflies. In reality, hoverflies aren’t bees and the overlap of names is purely behavioral association.

Hoverflies vs Wasps


While flies and wasps are usually very different, the resemblance between a hoverfly and wasp (especially the yellow jacket) can be uncanny at a glance. The yellow stripes or bands around the abdomen are one of the biggest similarities. Thankfully, there are some key differences that can help you avoid a nasty sting.

Wasps have two pairs of wings which fold back onto their body when they’re at rest. They have long, thin bodies and yellow markings across the eyes and thorax.

Hoverflies, meanwhile, have only one pair of wings. These remain at an angle to the body even when resting. They also have much rounder proportions that line up closer with horse flies or honey bees.

Their eyes and the top of the thorax are solid black, although there are some yellow markings along the sides of the thorax.

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How to Get Rid of Hoverflies

Due to their important role in the ecosystem, we strongly discourage the use of any lethal methods. Instead, natural repellent methods are generally best and can be surprisingly effective.

See Also: Getting Rid of Cluster Flies

On a Patio or Porch

It can be unpleasant to have a hoverfly drop by when you’re enjoying tea on the patio. Thankfully, you can get rid of them simply by using an electric fan. Corded fans work best, but a decent battery-operated fan will also work.

Simply turn the fan on and the increased airflow will frustrate the hoverflies into leaving. You can turn the fan on whenever a hoverfly shows up, then turn it off once they’re gone.

Citronella candles are also an effective means of repelling hoverflies. The pleasant-smelling candles have the added benefit of repelling many other pests as well.

In the House

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to save hoverflies that wander into your home or garage. Nobody wants a bunch of hovering flies in the kitchen when they’re cooking, and it’s very difficult to shoo them out a window or door. In cases like this, you may have to resort to lethal force.

The good news is you can get rid of hoverflies the same way as house flies and fruit flies. Sugar traps, fly strips or other sticky traps, and carnivorous plants are all effective remedies.

Simply pick the product or DIY trap that works best for you, place it where the hoverflies are gathering, and let them do their thing.

How to Repel Hoverflies

how to repel hoverflies

When in the garden, hoverflies, like bees, serve as vital pollinators. Old stories suggest they lay their eggs on the backs of aphids, but this has not been confirmed. Since hoverfly populations can become a nuisance in floral or crop gardens, it’s often best to repel or redirect them.

Repellents in the Garden

A number of homemade repellents will keep hoverflies away from your garden without harming them. These are often very simple recipes and will repel other pests as well. Some common ones include:

  • Citronella (lemongrass)
  • Citrus peels
  • Half a lemon with cloves sprinkled all over it
  • Spray bottle filled with vinegar, soap, and water
  • Sprays made with eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, lemongrass oil, or peppermint oil

A more extreme repellent mixes dish soap, mineral oil, and apple cider vinegar with oils from basil, peppermint, and rosemary. This concoction works really well but the strong smell can be overpowering even to humans, so it should be reserved as a last resort in areas you like to visit.

Related: How to Get Rid of Horse Flies

Attracting Hoverflies Elsewhere

The very things that attract hoverflies to your garden can be used to keep them away when paired with repellents.

Plant some flowers that have a high pollen count and are known to attract bees and butterflies along the border of your property away from the garden. As the hoverflies are chased away from the garden itself, they will locate this new food resource and make that their new home.

Protecting Hoverflies

Finally, let’s say you don’t want to get rid of hover flies entirely, but simply want to keep the population from getting out of hand. This is especially true when you want to keep your garden healthy. Hoverflies will collect pollen from flowers, which encourages bigger, more beautiful flowers.

You can limit their access to specific flower beds by using repellents in areas outside of the flower garden. They’ll avoid those areas and instead focus on those delicious pollen or nectar-filled flowers. This is a great solution if you have a small population.

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Another option is to reduce the population of hoverflies by employing natural predators such as birds. It’s likely they won’t completely eliminate the population but will prevent there from being a large swarm of hoverflies on your property.

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6 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Hoverflies”

  1. The hover flies we have are EVERYWHERE, hundreds, thousands, all over our 1 acre lot/ farm. The patio has a good strong breeze most of the time the flies are not affected by it so I question the fan cure. Since I can’t say where they are coming from or where they live I can’t target that area. Any other ideas?

    • I’ve had the same problem a few times this spring from two species of hoverflies, they were absolutely everywhere! Patio floors and ceilings were covered. They only stayed for a day or two and then they’d disappear, but a real pest when around. Also live on a rural property.
      Did you manage to find a solution?

  2. Perhaps a mister with water and Peppermint solution then fan force for that, probably a fan that rotates for patio situations.
    They do sell misters attached to fans already then just add your mixture.

  3. I have about 60 to 80 nests of possibly hover flies all over my quiet small garden, they seem to have a lot of pollen on them how can I get rid of them as they are everywhere?
    It only started about 2 years ago.


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