Deer Fly Traps




Make inexpensive and effective traps that will attract and kill biting deer flies. Deer flies cannot be eliminated with sprays and are not attracted to most lures. My traps can catch those that want to bite me, however, which is the best that can be expected. My traps are based on information that can be obtained by performing in Internet search on "deer flies," especially at sites of University of Florida and Florida Department of Agriculture, and others, from commercially-available traps, and from my own trial and error and field testing.
University field tests suggest that bright blue is the best color for lures, so I look for inexpensive disposable blue plastic items, then slather them with Tanglefoot or its generic equivalent.
To see my related Instructables, click on "unclesam" just below the title above or in the INFO box to the right. On the new page that appears, repeatedly click "NEXT" to see all of them.

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Step 1: Personal Protection

I wear one of these whenever I work outside, and they attract and hold whatever deer flies come to bite me. The high fashion added is just a bonus. Deer flies are attracted to any large, dark, warm, moving object (bonus, carbon dioxide exhalations), and the best lure I have available is myself. When I patrol the perimeter of my lot each morning and pick up trash along our nearby highway, I wear the salad bowl ($1). It is drilled in two places and attached by two plastic zip ties to a plastic hard hat that has had its crown cut out. The remains of the hard hat and its webbing hold the bowl onto my head.
When I operate motorized yard equipment, I wear the protective muffs that have a blue Solo cup attached to its frame with wire bag ties through two holes above the cup's rim.
Are they effective? All those dark dots are flies collected in just two weeks' use.
I discard the bowls and cups at the end of the fly season.

Step 2: Horse Pal Trap Modified

This trap is a commercial version of the Manitoba trap, which can be seen and purchased at web site. It is intended for horse flies, but I bought one and found that is quite effective against deer flies. No chemicals, no poisons, but very expensive. The lure is a large, tough inflatable black ball ($50), which gets warmed by the sun. Apparently the female fly thinks she is going to get to bite a REALLY BIG horse. Once she does not find the blood meal she needs in order to lay her eggs, she escapes upward, is funneled into a clear plastic jar, where she dies from dessication (i.e., drying out with extreme prejudice). I have used this trap to try out cheaper lures of my own design for use with sticky traps.
The trap is sold with four metal legs that support it, but I wanted to hang mine up to make mowing easier. I used the metal legs as patterns to cut lengths of plastic pipe to duplicate the portion of the legs within the fabric, fastening the pipe using 45-degree elbows. I assembled a square of plastic pipe and 90-degree elbows to spread the bottom of the skirt. The lower ends of the shortened legs are fastened to the corners of the spreader using long screws and nuts.

Step 3: Horse Pal Trap Hanging Loop

I used three lengths of plastic pipe to form a loop for hanging the trap. Exchanging plastic pipe for the trap's metal parts made it light enough to hang from a tree limb. Flies "escape" up through the wire screen funnel, cannot figure out how to get out of the jar. Very few other kinds of insects get into this trap, no beneficial insects. The dark granular band around the mouth of the upside-down plastic jar are the remains of about four weeks' catch of deer flies.

Step 4: Inexpensive Lure for Hanging Trap

After a number of trials, I developed an inexpensive lure that worked with the Horse Pal trap, so I made several of them to use with sticky traps near my house where the flies can be a bother.
Tanglefoot is sold in a spray can, but I do not find it effective, the flies can get loose. I use a plastic hardware-store spreader to apply it from a tub. I used two screws and nuts to add the handle from a defunct disposable foam paintbrush, to help keep the stuff off my hands. University web sites say that waterless handcleaner will remove Tanglefoot, but it won't. Because paint thinner (a.k.a. mineral spirits) may have some hazards associated with it, they will not tell you that it is the only thing that will clean off Tanglefoot, and for the same reason, neither will I.

Step 5: Hanging Trap Lure Construction

The wire is sold at home and garden centers as a "tomato cage, 33-inch" and I modify it by bending the three upright wires to form "shoulders" and to join each other, with one end bent to make a small loop that will accept a hanging string. A 33-gallon black plastic yard bag having its own plastic tie cord is modified by applying a tab of duct tape in the middle of the bag's closed edge, inside and outside, for strength. A slit is cut in the tape to allow the wire hanging loop to poke out of the bag.

Step 6: Homemade Hanging Sticky Trap

The assembled hanging trap. The bag's plastic ties are tied together loosely to keep the bag from riding up over the bottom of the wire cage. Sun warms the black bag, and wind makes it flutter. The wire cage inside keeps the wind from thrashing the bag to shreds and keeps the bag from blowing up and getting stuck to the sticky cup. A hole is made in the cup's bottom using a hot soldering pencil, and the cup is supported by a stopper knot in the string, high enough so the cup can also be moved by the wind.

Step 7: Truck Trap

One really good lure for deer flies is a warm, dark moving vehicle. I put a sticky salad bowl trap on my pickup truck, and it will just about be covered up with dead flies during a season. The bowl is connected to a plastic 90-degree elbow on top of plastic pipe. A long sheet-metal screw runs through a hole in the bowl and into the elbow, with a short, light compression spring above and below the bowl on the screw. Good movement when the truck is in motion. There is a pin through the lower end of the mounting pipe, and it fits into a groove in the top edge of a slightly larger plastic pipe.

Step 8: Truck Trap in Highway Position

The truck trap in its lowered position, with about 4 weeks' catch stuck to it. I hope these trap ideas offer you some relief from biting flies, and GOOD HUNTING!

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58 Discussions


1 year ago on Step 1

It doesn’t say what the sticky stuff is that he puts on is hat?


3 years ago

A neighbor told me he puts a strip of blue duct tape on his cap covered with Tanglefoot. He couldn't remember the name of the stuff, but I guessed it because I use it to keep ants out of my hummingbird feeders.


12 years ago on Introduction

There is lots of info, but what is Tanglefoot and where do you get it? Is that what's in the butter tub pictured in your first photo?

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago

You can order tanglefoot right on Amazon. :)


9 years ago on Introduction

I'm so glad I found this site!! I have now been bite 3 times in two weeks by the nasty little thing. Twice yesterday. Do you just let the pain ,swelling, and achyness just run its coarse or is there something other than benydril. Because that is not working. thanks for any help! from killit

3 replies

Reply 4 years ago

Mske a paste with baking soda and water ti put on the bite. Cover with a bandaid and leave on a couple hours. It helps alot with the itching and swelling as it draws out the crap.....i use it all the time. Immediate reljef.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

wash the bite and try witch hazel on it. trouble with this is, i usually don't know where i'm bit until it hurts later :(


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

killit, one home remedy is to soak a cotton ball in white vinegar, keep it pressed to the bite, should reduce pain and draw out the poison. Uncle Sam


4 years ago

Hi. I am going to make the traps, but for those of you who are bitten, benedryl is crap. Get some baking soda, use a little water to make a paste. Put it on the bite and cover with a bandaid. Leave it a few hours. It will be no wotse then a tiny mosquito bite after.....I have a slight allergy to those stupid bugs so I use it evrrytime i get nailed or the bite will swell golfball size. This is also very soothing for itching and and works great!


5 years ago on Introduction

Hi unclesam. I hope you are still active here? I've been doing some research on deer flies and found your posts. Very informative and thank you for taking the time to create them.

I really like the tomato frame and plastic bag method. I was wondering why not smear the Tanglefoot directly onto the plastic bag instead of using the cup above the bag?

By the way, I briefly saw your Instructable about antennas. I will be visiting that next. :)


6 years ago on Introduction

PT bottles made of fish head and saw one - one overnight killed more than 300 handeut want ~ kk
!!!!!!!! More photos below!!!!!!! Discard the water in the morning is not dead until the evening buttoned replace it with a new one thousand five hundred handeut death ... Count the number Crayons see?


Thank you so much for the information! Deer flies have been driving me crazy on trail runs. I adapted the info given to create a running hat / flytrap. It works like a champ!

1) Baseball style hat
2) Blue plastic picnic plates (Ace Hardware - $1.00/dozen)
3) Tree Tanglefoot (local garden center - $11.00)
4) Velcro (hook and loop mating pieces - about $3.00)

a) Sew some Velcro loop pieces to the hat
b) Trim the blue plates to desired size
c) Stick Velcro hook pieces to back of trimmed blue plate
d) When ready to use, paint Tanglefoot on front of plate, stick plate to hat using Velcro
e) When done running, peel off fly covered plate and discard.


7 years ago on Introduction

Holy Crap! This Instructable and comment thread makes me really, really glad I live in the Pacific Northwest. We have the occasional big, slow, clumsy biting flies up in the mountains but other than that it's just mosquitos, and you have to go to the mountains to find those too. Seems like a fair tradeoff for all the rain if you ask me!


7 years ago on Introduction

I put blue painters tape to back half of whatever old baseball cap, leaving the lower rim free of tape for adjusting. I usually extend one to three, reinforced blue tape loops off of that base, too. I use tanglefoot in the plastic tub (used to use it from the small can that came with paintbrush applicator). I use a smaller paintbrush to apply it. It's amazing to go in after working outside to see all the deer flies stuck.

I can "paint" right over the caught ones and continue to catch more or just peel the tape and throw it out and start anew if it begins to smell rank or the season ends.

I'd venture that blue painters tape WITH a tanglefoot type product could be used in other applications.


7 years ago on Introduction

I tried your idea of using a blue plastic dish as opposed to the Vector Fly Strip that I had been using. The picture speaks for itself. From now on its blue & Tanglewood. Thanks!!!


7 years ago on Introduction

I gathered 5 deer flies in1/2 hour canoeing around the pond wearing this hastily assembled but festive attire. Though my shirt matched the blue color (I like to live on the edge) and I heard the buzzes, I never got a bite. THANKS, UNCLESAM!!