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Does Smoke Attract Flies?

When trying to enjoy a beautiful day outdoors, like hosting a barbecue in your backyard or making a campfire at night, the last thing anyone wants is to be surrounded by a swarm of bugs. What is attracting them? Is it the smoke coming from the grill or the fire?

Smoke does not attract most flies; it deters them. Certain flies (those of the genus Microsania) are attracted to smoke but are unlikely to affect most people due to their sparse population. Flies that swarm smokey areas are usually attracted to food being cooked, not the smoke itself.

Keep reading this article to learn more about why flies flee from smoke, common culprits that draw different types of flies into your personal space, and handy tips and tricks that will help you repel them. After this, you’ll become an expert on deterring them so you can enjoy your time outdoors to the fullest extent without having these little pests around to bother you. 

Does smoke attract flies

How Does Smoke Affect Flies?

Flies’ Natural Response to Smoke

Like all animals, flies have a natural instinct to avoid harm. Since smoke is a byproduct of fire, knowing a potentially fatal burn could harm them is enough to drive flies far away from smoke. This makes fire a particularly good natural bug-repellent. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

As I said earlier, there is a specific type of fly under the genus Microsania (aka “smoke-flies”) that is actually attracted to smoke rather than deterred by it. These flies are pyrophilous, which means they thrive in the smoke and heat from wildfires.

Instead of fleeing from the smoke, they follow it and nest in the ash. Smoke-flies are commonly found in Australia, but there is still little information on their whereabouts in North America. 

Cigarette Smoke

I’ve told you that smoke from the fire may deter flies, but how does cigarette smoke affect them?

Well, the experts say that blackflies have an aversion to the haze of cigarette smoke and can even experience irritation the same way humans do. 

What Attracts Flies?

So if it’s not smoke that’s drawing flies in, what is? 

Organic Matter

The number one thing that entices flies is organic matter. This means that meat and feces are the strongest magnets for common house flies.

In terms of fruit flies, decaying or overripe fruits (hence the name) or any open sources of sugar are going to draw in these small insects. Taking your garbage out regularly is the first step to avoiding both house and fruit fly swarms in your kitchen.


Dirty pipes and drains are a common breeding ground for decomposing waste, so this is a favorite hangout spot for a variety of flies, particularly drain flies.

The cool, damp atmosphere of this hardware makes for the perfect nesting spot for these bugs. Maintaining a clean drain can make a world of difference in preventing drain flies from making your pipes a home.


Since meat is a big culprit for attracting house flies, barbecues are a crowd-pleaser in the insect community as well. While I said earlier that flies aren’t a fan of smoke, if it’s the result of food being cooked, it’s going to be a different story.

The smell of a barbecue is going to cause flies to swarm, so if you’ve noticed them surrounding your backyard or campfire as you cook, this is the reason they’re joining you.

Does Smoke Attract Flies?

Carbon Dioxide

Be careful if you love to spend your time outdoors near beaches and lakes, especially if this is where you get your exercise in as you might be creating the perfect storm for an army of horse flies to join you.

Humans exhale more carbon dioxide when heavily breathing heavily, which this type of fly is particularly drawn to. You might want to skip the all-black workout attire as well if you hope to avoid a painful bite from these bugs as they have an eye for dark-colored objects.

How to Get Rid of Flies

Now that I have told you what the main culprits of swarming flies, let’s move on to the solutions on how to get rid of them. 


Maintaining cleanliness might be the simplest, but most important action you can take to deter flies from ruining your day.

As I mentioned earlier, flies love garbage and filth, whether that be decomposing food, spilled sugary drinks, feces, or dirty drain pipes. Start by making sure that you aren’t accidentally welcoming flies to hang out with you by letting your cleaning habits fall by the wayside.

Bug Spray

You’ve probably already got some of this liquid gold on hand if you’re concerned about flies surrounding you, so don’t forget to apply bug spray before heading outdoors.

You should use a bug spray that contains the insect-repelling chemical picardin. It’s a relatively new EPA-approved ingredient that’s a great alternative to toxic DEET-based sprays.

I recommend Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent. It’s safe, long-lasting, and will keep away flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and all other types of pesky insects.

Sawyer Products SP576 Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, Spray, 6-Ounce, Blue

Color Choice

While flies don’t particularly care about your fashion statements, they do pick up on the colors you wear and surround yourself with. Black flies are drawn to darker colors, so when choosing your clothing for a day outdoors, opt for lighter shades.

You’ll notice that the flies will bother you much less if you’re dressed in white than if your outfit is black or filled with deeply pigmented colors. The same goes for your tents and shelters!

Citronella Candles

Bugs are naturally deterred from the scent of citronella, an essential oil from a plant related to lemongrass. Citronella candles not only do a great job of shooing flies away, but they also add a lovely ambiance to any outdoor setting.

I recommend the Coleman Citronella Candle. It burns for 25 hours and comes in three camping-related scents (pine, s’mores, and campfire).

Coleman Scented Tin Citronella Candle – 3 Pack

Mosquito Coils

I know that flies and mosquitoes are not the same creatures; however, flies respond particularly well to doo-doo coils. These easy to use spirals generate smoke once lit, and as you now know, flies are going to head in the opposite direction from a haze like that.


When all else fails, and you simply cannot rid yourself of those pesky flies outdoors, try setting up a tent to dwell in. It’ll keep out the bugs and protect you from wind, rain, and other outdoor elements.

Final Thoughts

Most of the time, smoke from bonfires and bushfires will not attract a swarm of flies. However, there are certain species called smoke-flies that particularly love this kind of environment, but they are not much of a concern since they are not largely populated. 

If you do find a group of flies around a smokey area, it is likely because they are drawn to food that is being cooked as organic matter is the biggest magnet for flies. Other factors like fabric color, carbon dioxide, and moist environments can play a role too. 

Luckily, there are many ways to repel flies, including cleanliness, bug spray, choosing lighter-colored clothing, citronella candles, mosquito coils, and kitchen tents.


  • Alanna Greene

    Alanna is an avid traveler who lives in Michigan. In addition to writing for Temperature Master, he also sells crafts on Etsy and takes long walks through the forests near her home.

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