How to Keep Horseflies Away at the Beach: TOP 5 Decoys

Aside from an unexpected thunderstorm or arriving to a tide sweeping algae bloom, we can’t think of many things that can ruin a day at the beach like being repeatedly munched on by a disease carrying horse fly.

And if you’re here reading this, no doubt, this has already happened to you and you’re looking for a way to return to that same beach with new skills so you can enjoy your day without the painful, bloody parting gifts.

In this article, we are going to explain horse fly tendencies and then make suggestions on how you can use their tendencies in order to outsmart them, or at the very least hide from them while enjoying your day at the beach.

The more techniques you can adopt, the more you’ll improve your chances. Let’s dive in!

#1 – Ditch the Oils if You Want to Hide from Horse Flies at the Beach

We should definitely be wearing sunscreen while at the beach. But whether you apply sunscreen or tanning aids, your choice product should be a matte finish lotion or cream and definitely not OIL Based.

Why: Oil-based sunscreen and tanning products will make your skin glisten for a long period of time. Since horse flies use polarized vision to detect their next meal, your shiny body will be easily spotted by all of the hungry horse flies surveying from above.

Instead: Use creams and lotions (some sprays) that get rubbed into the skin and dry to a “Matte Finish.” Though unpopular, if they leave behind a white, chalky film, that’s even better for flying under the radar of a hungry horse fly at the beach.

Example Sunscreens that Dry Matte and NOT Shiny

Non-Greasy, No White Residue – Jacket Sunscreen (link to product)

For Ultra Sensitive Skin, No Oils or Residues – EltaMD Sunscreen (link to product)

Matte Finish from a Spray Sunscreen – KINeSYS  Sunscreen (link to product)

#2 – Fly Under the Horse Fly Radar with Breath Mints or Chewing Gum

If you want to hide from horse flies at the beach, your beach bag should be equipped with Mints or Gum…but NOT the fruity kind. It has to be mint…more specifically Peppermint. Do not choose spearmint or Citrusy mints, it has to be the variety of gum or mints that kinda burn and feel like listerine.

This will serve two purposes. One, you’ll disguise the sweetness of your irresistible CO2 (exhaled breath), which horse flies use to detect their meal source once in range. And Two, your facial area will simply be more repellant than that of other beach goers.

Research shows that most flies are highly offended by the essence of Peppermint and peppermint is often grown around farms to dissuade insects and other unwanted pests.

#3 – Choose Striped Clothing

If humans wanted to walk the earth with the highest odds of being undetected by a horse fly, we should start by wearing head-to-toe zebra suits.

zebra print can hide from horse flies
Not bothered by Horse Flies
Common Horse Fly Target

Translate that to avoiding horse flies at the beach and that means you should choose swim suits, shirts, shorts, umbrellas, blankets., etc that are striped black and white. Here is one such example of a beach umbrella that we would take to a horse fly populated beach. Striped Beach Umbrella (affiliate link to Product).

If you’re trying to keep little ones protected, consider zebra pattern or white and black striped bucket hats and sun shirts. Make sure they are Matte and not made with shiny or glossy fabric.

Several studies prove that objects with striped patterns in the colors of white and black do not attract nearly as many horse flies and shiny brown or shiny black objects.

We show here that striped targets are significantly less attractive to host-seeking female tabanids than homogeneous white or black targets, even when they emit tabanid-luring CO2 and ammonia.” 

Link to Study

#4 – Stealth Food Choices that Keep the Horse Fly Guessing

Here are the scents that horse flies have evolved to understand as positive cues for a viable host. In other words, when a horse fly smells these odors, they are often rewarded if they go check it out…

Sweet, flowery, sugary, ammonia, wood burning, smokey.

Given the above, a really bad meal at a horse fly prone beach would be let’s say: a salami sandwich with brie cheese, coupled with honeydew melon and a chocolate chip cookie. The only thing worse would be if you ate this meal around a wood burning fire.

What to opt for instead

When packing the beach cooler, consider choices that curb your hunger but won’t serve as a signal to the horse flies that it’s time for them to eat too.

Here are better choices

  • Natural Peanut butter on bread or simply peanut butter crackers. (Not the sugary, hydrogenated oil kind).
  • Turkey and american cheese (both mild)
  • Bean salad and mint leaves drizzled with oil and a little bit of lemon
  • Tomato and Cucumbers for munching
  • If you need a dessert, choose ginger snaps or lemon-lime cookies. Eat them quickly, under your striped umbrella and don’t leave them out.

#5 – Drink of Choice For Avoiding Horse Flies at the Beach

I know this is sad, but if your beach’s horse fly problem is really bad, you’ll need to ditch the sweet refreshments.

WaterFruit Juice
Club Soda
Fizzy Water
Energy Drinks
Unsweetened Iced TeaSoda
Tart LemonadeMilk

With little ones, dilute their juice as much as possible to help prevent their breath from being too sweet. Alternatively, you can shake up and flatten a fizzy fruit flavored water.


When used in solo, not one of these is a slam dunk technique, but rather, together, they are excellent tools in the arsenal. If you want to hide from horse flies at your beach, use as many as the above techniques as possible.

At crowded beaches, you might get away with just a striped umbrella, but that umbrella won’t protect you in the water. For that, a peppermint breath mint will make your bobbing head, far less attractive than someone else’s.

You get the idea, more is more when it comes to enjoying a day at the beach without the constant annoyance of ducking and hiding from horse flies.

If you are going into the woods, you’re better off trying products that actually repel horseflies. You can read about that here.

Best of luck!

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