Does Mulch Attract Flies? How to Keep Your Garden Fly-Free

Mulch is a popular addition to gardens and landscapes due to its benefits such as soil temperature regulation, moisture retention, weed suppression, and the beauty that it can add to any garden.

But did you know that mulch can attract unwanted guests – namely flies and other insects?

In this article, we will discuss ways to prevent fly infestations and other alternative mulching options to keep your garden free from these pesky creatures.

Flies & Mulch: The Attraction

Flies & Mulch: The Attraction

You may be wondering why flies are attracted to mulch in the first place.

As it turns out, the moist and nutrient-rich environment that most mulches provide (not so much the inorganic types) is a perfect environment for fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms to thrive in.

As these organisms work to decompose the mulch, flies and other insects are attracted to the smells and allure of organic decay.

In fact, flies are lured in by 3 things:

  • Shelter in a safe breeding ground
  • Access to easily accessible nutrients provided by the decomposition process
  • Moisture for laying eggs

The decomposition process attracts flies as they feed on these materials that contain the necessary nutrients their larvae need to develop.

Different types of flies attracted to mulch include house flies, fruit flies, fungus gnats, march flies, vinegar flies, and black flies.

While some species of flies are beneficial to the breakdown of organic matter, others are more of a nuisance and are present in such great numbers that make many homeowners bothered by their presence.

You may realize to yourself it might be time to take this fly nuisance into your own hands.

But before we get to that, let’s find out why you should remove flies from your mulch in the first place. After all, are they really that harmful?

Why Getting Rid Of The Flies Is A Good Thing

There are several reasons why you should remove flies from your mulch:

a) They breed rapidly. Flies have a short lifespan of about three weeks but can lay up to 900 eggs during that time leading to a significant infestation in a short period. In other words, looking at some flies here and there can turn into a big problem pretty quickly.

b) It’s unsightly. This point leads to the first point. The more flies there are, the more gross and unsightly your lawn and garden will look. No matter how well you maintain your lawn, a bunch of flies everywhere just isn’t going to make for a pretty picture.

c) Flies can pick up and transmit disease-causing organisms, putting you, your family, and your plants at risk. It is for this reason that you should definitely take action in getting rid of those flies.

4 Ways To Get Rid Of Flies In Your Mulch

4 Ways To Get Rid Of Flies In Your Mulch

Once you see flies in your mulch, it’s best to take action immediately to prevent a full-blown fly infestation.

1. Dry The Mulch

As we have learned, flies love moist environments. So a good way of making mulch less attractive is by drying it out. Rake and turn your mulch regularly to expose damp layers to the air and sunlight. This will help dry it out with the added bonus of aerating it as well.

2. Use Fly Repellant

You can purchase or even make natural fly repellants to help repel flies. Be cautious when using chemical repellants which can contaminate your plants and pose health risks to children and pets.

For natural alternatives, consider vinegar, essential oils, garlic infusions, and citrus oils.

3. Remove Exessive Organic Material

Whilst adding decaying food sources to your mulch can be great for garden health, it can also attract flies. You can try removing excessive organic material from the mulch to help inhibit fly attraction and populations. Fresh manure can play a huge factor in attracting flies, so try and keep this out of your mulch.

Compost is also a big food source for flies, so using less of this can reduce fly numbers.

4. Change Your Mulch

Changing the mulch regularly (say every 6 months or so) will help disrupt any existing fly colonies. Apart from this, maintaining your mulch through raking, and refreshing the top layers is a great way of reducing fly populations.

Mulch That Doesn’t Attract Flies?

There are actually some mulches that are not that attractive to flies and worth considering.

Inorganic or synthetic mulch is non-living and can include rocks, rubber, and plastic mulches. Because they decompose extremely slowly and do not release nutrients, they do not act as a food source for flies. They also tend to dry out quite quickly and don’t promote fungal growth.

Mulch made from cypress and cedar trees contains natural chemicals that produce odors that repel insects including flies.

Straw mulch is effective in preventing flies from laying eggs and preventing fungus from spreading. Cocoa bean shells are also effective since the aroma deters insects and bugs. However; since the consumption of chocolate can make pets like dogs sick, it’s best not to use this mulch if you have them.

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