How to Get Rid of Flies on a Boat (Including Mosquitoes)

how to get rid of flies on a boat

Shoo, fly, don’t bother me! You’d think that being out on the water would give you a break from those pesky flies, however it seems they can pester you anywhere. Sure, they don’t really do much. But all of that annoying buzzing and skin tickling can provoke even the best of us. And when you’re out on a boat trying to relax, flies can easily soil the tranquility.

On the upside, you can easily end that problem with the right supplies and proper practices. The only reason why most boat owners still struggle with the issue because they don’t know how to get rid of flies on a boat in the first place. Fortunately, you can get ahead by reading through this quick guide.

Different Types of Flies on a Boat

Before you try to get rid of those pesky bugs, it’s important to know exactly what you’re up against. While most of us might just dismiss them as the average everyday fly, there are lots of different kinds of flying pests that can plague your pontoon.


We know what these guys are. Mosquitoes come in a variety of subspecies, but they all do the same thing - bite and suck blood. They’re most active at dusk and at dawn, and they tend to increase in number when humidity is high. So you’ll notice that there are typically more mosquitoes when a storm is brewing.

They’ll bite you almost anywhere, but they typically prefer the ankles, the backs of the knees, and your nape. They’re small, silent, and light on their feet, and you’re not likely to feel it when they pierce through your skin with their little proboscis. They’re not too fast though, so you might be able to kill a few with quick hands.

Horse and Deer Flies

These blood sucking insects look like your average house fly, but they’re a lot more aggressive than their mild-mannered home dwelling counterpart. These biting flies deliver a painful sting that can causes large, raised wheals to form on the surface of the skin. They love warm weather and humidity, which explains why they might be on your boat.

In some cases, horse and deer flies can cause sickness with the bacteria that they carry. That’s why some bites can cause fever, nausea, and headaches. If that happens, you’re going to have to visit your local doctor for necessary treatment. That’s also why it helps to have a first aid kit on board, so you can disinfect the bite and prevent bacteria from spreading.

Black Flies

These bugs are incredibly small, which is also why they’re not that easy to spot. When you’re fishing on a river or a lake, their nests look like knee-high net socks. If you spot one, make sure to drive by quickly or to bypass it all together. Black flies can deliver a stinging bite that produces large red spots or raised wheals on the skin.

Since they’re so small, they can penetrate through loosely woven clothing, which makes them one of the most annoying pests you’ll find out on the water. And even if you decide to go in full battle gear, these little suckers can easily bite your face, neck, and other small areas of exposed skin since they’re too small to notice.

How to Get Rid of Flies on a Boat

Now that you know what you might encounter on the water, it’s time to get into the thick of it - how to get rid of them. It’s important to use the right products since some formulations won’t work on certain pests, and others might be harmful to you and your guests.

Commercial Bug Spray

bug spray

Well, this one’s pretty obvious isn’t it? Commercial bug spray will kill insects on the spot, and they usually work on all sorts of pests and flies that might make their way to your boat. The downside of course is that it only works while you’re spraying. That stuff doesn’t stay in the air for long, and incoming bugs won’t be deterred by bug spray from five minutes ago.

Nonetheless, it’s nice to have around especially when there are way too many on board. Keep in mind though that some sprays contain harsh chemicals that could cause nose, eye, or throat irritation. So if you’ve got some sensitive boat guests aboard, a natural spray might work better. But most of them won’t kill bugs, and instead just repel them.

We recommend the Cutter Backyard Bug Control Spray or if you prefer a natural spray, check out the Bug Killer with Peppermint Oil from MDXconcepts.

Fly Tape and Paper

fly trap to rid flies from boats

You can’t really go wrong with fly paper. This sticky stuff can be placed strategically around your boat to catch the most flies at a given time. It’s also a better choice if you’re worried about kids or pets inhaling too much chemical.

There are lots of different kinds of fly paper or tape, and some of them are even fashioned into traps. If you’re using good old fashioned fly tape, make sure you keep it somewhere you can easily spot it to prevent guests from accidentally touching the tape.

We like the RESCUE Outdoor Disposable Fly Traps.

Bug Zapper

bug zapper

You can’t really go wrong with a bug zapper. These nifty gadgets use UV light to attract bugs, and then zap them dead with a mild electrical current. Again, it might be best to keep a zapper somewhere where kids and pets might not be able to reach it.

If you’re facing a more aggressive swarm of flies or bugs, there are bug zappers fashioned into the shape of a racket. These let you have at the bugs yourself, zapping them dead as you swat. This can work better if bugs are more attracted to you than to a stationary little device in the corner of your boat.

We highly recommend the Black + Decker Bug Zapper or we also like the Zap it Bug Zapper Rackets.

How to Prevent Flies From Coming on Your Boat

It’s one thing to have bugs on your boat, and another to prevent them from coming all together. Of course, prevention is always better than a cure. So if you don’t have the diligence to swat at those flies and set up those traps, it might be better to try these preventive measures.


incense to repel mosquitoes from boats

Some studies assert that certain types of bugs don’t like smoke or certain smells, which is why incense has become a popular product for repelling bugs. Mosquito repellent incense sticks burn for long periods of time and provide an extra layer of protection against those bloodsucking fiends.

In place of incense, you can also try citronella candles that have been said to provide a similar effect. Place them in strategic areas all over your boat for complete coverage and protection. But don’t forget to snuff them out if you’re leaving them unattended to prevent potential fire.

We like the Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks or have a look at lighting some Large Citronella Candles from T&H Stores.

Ultrasonic Repeller

ultrasonit pest repeller

Now, the science behind these gadgets is pretty fuzzy, but there are some people who will swear behind these devices. Ultrasonic pest repellents allegedly let out an ultrasonic sound that confuses bugs and ultimately makes them head the other direction. They work on all sorts of bugs and are safe for humans and pets.

However since those ultrasonic waves won’t pass through walls, it’s important that you place a number of these ultrasonic devices in various areas of your boat. Doing so should help create an encompassing barrier that protects your whole pontoon.

Check out the Ultrasonic Pest Repeller by Gloue Store.


dehumidifier to repel flies and mosquitoes on boats

Our previous section on different kinds of bugs found on a boat detailed how most of them thrive in humid climates. And that’s why adding a dehumidifier on board might help create a less comfortable environment for bugs to stay on your boat.

Some of these devices can work with areas several thousands of square feet in size, but you don’t really need that much power. It also helps to know that it might not be a stand alone solution, so you might still need some incense and other tactics to help improve your bug repellent strategy.

We like the Pro Breeze Electric Mini Dehumidifier.

How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes on a Boat

If you’re dealing with more of a mosquito problem, then there are a few other things you can try to help keep them at bay. Aside from the tactics listed above, try these tips to deter mosquitoes and prevent them from biting the passengers on board.

Bug Spray

Most bug sprays for personal use are developed to deter mosquitoes, but some also help keep away flies. Spraying on a protective layer of the formulation on your exposed skin before setting out should give you extra protection from bites. If you’re wearing loosely woven clothes or thin fabrics, you might want to spray all over your body since some bugs have been known to be able to penetrate.

Proper Sanitation

Stagnant water is where mosquitoes thrive and lay their eggs. They can establish a nest in a bottle cap’s worth of water. So if there are any places on your boat where stagnant water might pool, it would be important to clear it out and keep your vessel as dry as possible.

Mosquito Eradicator

Some manufacturers have come up with products that are said to eradicate mosquitoes all together. This can be great if you have your own little dock at home where you moor your boat. The device needs nothing but water, and hangs from a line or a tree to eradicate mosquitoes in the area.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that it will work. But it might improve your chances especially when used with other items on this list.

How to Get Rid of Other Pests

If you found the tips here helpful, you may also be interested in getting rid of other annoying pests on the boat:

Don’t Let the Boat Bugs Bite

Flies on a boat can be a major pain. But you don’t really need to live with the problem. If you’re wondering how to get rid of flies on a boat, here are your answers. Try any combination of these suggestions and make sure to wear the right apparel to reduce bug bites and enjoy a truly relaxing day on the lake.

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