Rural Heritage Vet Clinic

Natural Fly Spray

by Karen L. Kirsch

Merril Spiess works his Belgian mules pulling a boat on the Miami & Erie Canal in Grand Rapids, Ohio. Working along the wooden towpath, the mules are plagued by all manner of flies. Merril solves the problem with his custom-blended fly spray:

  • 4 16-ounce bottles Avon "Skin So Soft" bath oil

  • 40 cc (about 5 tablespoons) pure eucalyptus oil

  • enough white vinegar to make up one gallon

The hardest part is finding pure eucalyptus oil. Don't get the fake stuff. A small bottle will run about $4.

The biggest advantage to Merril's spray is that it stays put, leaving a thin harmless film where the commercial stuff evaporates or sweats off. It smells good, too, and is economical. Unlike similar concoctions, it does not attract yellow jackets.

I made labels (Karen's Bug-Off) for my spray bottles at the barn, lest someone mistake it for something else, and I listed the ingredients on the bulletin board so others could make their own. Everyone at the barn now uses, and swears by, Merril's special blend.

Merril sprays this concoction on his mules as needed and says it "works better than any of the commercial brands I've used." I, too, have tried a lot of commercial preparations and this mixture works better than any of them. It's really oily, and a light misting over the animal is adequate and doesn't sweat off as quickly as the other stuff, so you use less.


Karen L. Kirsch wrote about Merril Spiess and his canal mules in the Autumn 1999 issue of Rural Heritage.

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26 October 2011 last revision