Flies in Australia: How Bad Is It?

ANZ Feb15I’ve been catching up on my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles lately and with this particular reprint, I will be up to date. When people think of Australia they often also think of flies in your face. Irritating, annoying, face pestering persistent flies.

But how bad is it?

For me, living here in Brisbane, I really haven’t found it to be a problem. So I decided to try and find out why and that’s what I wrote about the magazine. This article appeared in their February edition.

How to avoid flies in Australia

FlySeven years I’ve lived in Australia now and I still haven’t seen anybody anywhere in this country wearing the famous Australian cork hat. I have tried one on though; I can’t begin to tell you how irritating those things are to wear. But are flies in Australia even more irritating?

First, a bit of background; where do these flies come from?

The kind of fly I’m talking about breeds in cow dung and the majority of our cattle stations are in the outback or bush. These flies are commonly known as Australian bush flies. The female bush fly pesters you because she wants your saliva, blood, mucus and tears; it’s how she gets her protein. She needs it to breed and it’s why she is so persistent and so in your face.

Outback Queensland currently has a bit of a fly epidemic going on; apparently you can’t open a bottle of water out there without three flies diving in before you get your mouth to it. Hmm, yummy! When the wind blows from north to south it takes a lot of these flies with it and they can land just about anywhere.

It’s impossible for me to speak on behalf of all of Australia all of the time, but I can tell you about my experiences in the places I’ve been to when I’ve been to them.

Easily my most traumatic experience was along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria a few summers ago. We stopped to take a look at the Twelve Apostles which are some rather unusual limestone rocks poking out of the ocean down that way. Like this…

2 ApostlesWhen we got out of the car, we were plagued by flies. At any one time there might be 10 flies on my back and another 10 swarming around my face, inspecting my nostrils, trying to get into my mouth and maybe checking out my eyelids.

Some people can cope with these flies swarming all over them; I’ve especially noticed that in the movies. In real life though, it’s different. Me in particular, I look like a mad man on a mission to beat himself up. I think we only got to see about five of the Apostles before we were back in the car, windows shut tight.

That’s the only time I’ve ever had a real problem with flies here in Australia. I’ve been to many other Australian cities without flies constantly foraging my face, but I do know that most of them can have a bush fly problem from time to time. In the summer mostly and quite literally depending on which way the wind blows.

Brisbane though is different and a place I can speak of with some authority; I live here.

I am shocked at how fly free this city is, I’m convinced I see fewer flies here than I ever did whilst living in the UK. Flies in our house are almost unheard of; we might see one a month on average. I’ve discovered that very few flies get blown here and when they do they just can’t breed. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it’s something to do with our surrounding wet mangroves and marshland. Whatever the reason, I love it.

So how do you avoid flies in Australia? Choose Brisbane.

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{ 46 comments… add one }
  • Nancy Boddy January 21, 2023, 7:35 am |

    A friend has invited me to accompany her on a three-week tour of Australia, and she’s thinking late August or early September. My brother warned me about the black flies, something I experienced in the U S state of Maine, and I have no desire to have huge swarms of black flies biting my scalp in Australia (the only part of me uncovered in Maine, yet they found a way to get my blood through my hair). When is the best time for a three-week tour of Australia, one that misses most of the black flies?
    Nancy in Seattle

    • BobinOz January 24, 2023, 1:01 pm |

      Well I suspect coming here during our winter would be your best bet, winter here is June, July, August. Depending on whereabouts you will be going in Australia, I think late August would be fine, but the best months to come here probably be July, although that may mean it will be a bit cold in some places.

      For the record, I live in Brisbane and I don’t even get troubled by black flies here at all, not even in summer.

  • matt November 28, 2022, 11:01 pm |

    How is Brisbane in 2022, still free of flies?

    • BobinOz December 1, 2022, 5:41 pm |

      I am happy to report that I am still totally untroubled by flies here in Brisbane, hardly ever see any. We do, of course, have flies, so we are not ‘free of flies’, we just don’t seem to have many at all.

      • Dave Hyde December 9, 2022, 6:39 pm |

        Can also attest to zero of the “in your face” flies on my various trips around Brisbane from the El Niño drought 2019 and the subsequent La Niña last couple of years so fingers crossed we are in the clear. Also very much appreciate the complete lack of European and North American wasps that swing in for your food and carry a sting in case you get too aggressive shooing them away.

        • BobinOz December 12, 2022, 8:32 pm |

          Yes, isn’t it great about the wasps? We do have wasps here, of course, but as you say they’re not the nasty in-your-face wasps we had to try and put up with in the UK where it was almost impossible to enjoy a picnic. I used to hate those things and now after 15 years in Australia, I’ve almost forgotten they exist.

          And thanks Dave for confirming our lack of flies here, because sometimes I wonder if it’s just me, so it’s good to hear it from someone else.

  • James November 6, 2019, 2:16 am |

    Flies in Sydney used to be much worse in the 1980’s when I was growing up. Much better now, maybe due to better management of waste (not to mention less dog sh*t around).

    • BobinOz November 8, 2019, 4:07 pm |

      Fewer flies, less poop, it’s a win – win.

  • Noah Snipes July 5, 2019, 10:39 pm |

    Those *******s are bloody intense ay!
    I’ve been construction working in the Rockhampton outback, 40 ****** degrees brutal sunshine and CONSTANTLY ! 20 flies relentlessly attacking my eyes! Like my face was a goddamn pile of **** those ******s were so damn aggressively nonstop throwing themselves into my face.

    No one can ever tell me it’s not a problem 😀

    • BobinOz July 9, 2019, 4:51 pm |

      Couldn’t agree more Noah. I’ve only experienced what you have been experiencing once, and that was along the Great Ocean Road as explained above.

      **** little ***** were all over my face and up my nose and even trying to lick my eyelids, the ***** ****.

      Never want to experience that again 😀 😀

  • Karen May 6, 2019, 10:24 pm |

    Just researching OZ flies & found you. A friend who did student teaching here said there were lots of flies in Australia. I said “really, hmmm.” Hubby & I are doing this trip we’ve dreamed of since 1st married. Even thought of moving here way back then. Now, ~50 years later, retired & finally on our trip! Love so much – except the flies. Hate them at home, too. Had mules for neighbors awhile & couldn’t sit on our deck because of the flies. Now so many wonderful things to see & do here, but the flies are driving us crazy! Worst was red center SA to NT border stop. Lots of Uluru plans changed. Drove around instead of walking. Some National Park tours in Western NSW were bad with flies – Great Wall. In towns & cities, just intermittently annoying. Still 2 more weeks here, & we’re loving so much – but not the flies! Your election is interesting. I feel like volunteering to run on a platform of doing something to decrease the excessive fly problem. But oh well, it’s not my country – but we love it! Even putting up with the flies. Had to find an explanation.

    • BobinOz May 7, 2019, 6:05 pm |

      Sounds like you’ve had a very rough time with the flies here in Australia. It’s strange, but they do come and go, so it seems to be down to timing. We went to Alice Springs and then Uluru back in 2010, no flies around whatsoever. I was expecting them, even bought a silly hat with some netting around it, but when we got there, nothing.

      Been to Darwin and Kakadu in NT, no too many problems with the flies there either.

      I’ve not yet been to some of the other places you mention, but I will at some point, and when I do it would be great if there were no flies there either 🙂

      As it says in the above article though, at the Twelve Apostles, the flies were relentless. So I know how you feel, and they can ruin a holiday, so I do hope you find some parts of Australia during your next couple of weeks that are without the flies.

      • Karen May 18, 2019, 12:01 pm |

        Since last posting was in Alice Springs, Perth, & Darwin. Now sitting here on a lovely patio in beautiful Port Douglas, Queensland. No problem with flies in any of these places. Hooray!!? Love Australia, & will be sad to leave tomorrow. Even with continued exciting plans on our agenda. Will be checking in on your site!

        • BobinOz May 20, 2019, 7:01 pm |

          Ah, Port Douglas, it’s beautiful up there, isn’t it? And fly free, as is most of the east coast I think, I’ve never had a problem in Brisbane.

          Glad to hear you loved Australia, come back soon 🙂

  • Tina February 4, 2019, 9:01 pm |

    On my visit to Australia about 5 years ago in January/February, there was no problem with flies in either Perth or Sydney. However, I met up with my first flies at Alice Springs airport. A trip out to the McDonnells was a nightmare (AND the A.C. in the bus wasn’t wotking). At Ayers Rock/Uluru, I felt like a vampire going out only after dark or with my face covered with the obligatory fly net during the day. I can recommend a helicopter ride – the flies don’t seem to like heights

    • BobinOz February 5, 2019, 7:48 pm |

      I think it’s a case of pot luck with the flies, they are either there or they are not.

      Alice Springs is a good example, I went there back in 2010, spent a week in the area. Flies simply were not a problem, which meant I never got to where the mesh face veil I’d bought in preparation. I suspect we were lucky, but I do know that more often than not, flies are a major problem in that area.

      Escaping them via helicopter is a little bit overkill, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Monts January 15, 2019, 5:00 am |

    Hi Oz,

    I read your blog and is really helfull. Considering that we are trying to move to Australia, I would like to know if the fly plague is still a problem in Sydney and Melburn? or if Brisbane is still the best place to go and avoid the fly infestation?

    • BobinOz January 15, 2019, 8:50 pm |

      Brisbane is still pretty bereft of flies, I very rarely get bothered by them, if at all. I really can’t imagine the situation has changed much in Sydney or Melbourne, and some people have commented in the past that they are a pain down that way.

      So as far as I’m aware, yes, Brisbane is still the place to go to avoid the flies. Houses are much better value too, prices have skyrocketed in Sydney and Melbourne in the last five or six years and are now beginning to fall, making Brisbane even more attractive.

      • Montserrat Ortega January 15, 2019, 10:11 pm |

        Thank you so much for your feedback:)

        Great blog!

        Kind Regards

  • Holly December 29, 2017, 6:04 am |

    Live in west Gippsland (east vic) the flies are putrid. They are so bad I can’t even go for a walk at 6am without being attacked. The sun isn’t even up!

    Can’t sit outside or garden for five minutes without them landing on you. At least 10flies make it into my house every week. I am so sick of wasting money on insect spray I now crush them between the mesh curtains. Bit gross but I was sparying so often I was worried about myself and my cat inhaling the fumes.

    Oh and don’t you dare cook with the door open their will be at least twenty hovering and buzzing around the fly screen.

    They actually massively impact my life negatively as I can’t even sit in the sun or go for a ten minute walk without being attacked by flies trying to get in your eyes and mouth and up your nostrils.

    Don’t even get me started on the maggots I found in one of the cats food bowls one day.

    • BobinOz January 2, 2018, 7:27 pm |

      Well, not that far away, certainly in terms of the size of Australia, to where I had my horrible flies encounter on the Great Ocean Road. I couldn’t bear the flies when I was trying to look at those Twelve Apostles, couldn’t wait to get back in the car.

      Sounds like you are living 24/7 in the same horrible environment that I could only put up with for 15 minutes. I feel for you. You should move to Brisbane, we really don’t have much of a fly problem here.

      Sounds horrible, I hope they buzz off soon.

      • Avid Reader November 12, 2018, 6:41 am |

        Been reading up bout the flies. It makes no sense to me to blame cow dung. Here in the states we have millions and millions of domestic poo producers. No country wide problem. There must be some element that allows proliferation that is there and not here. Good luck with introducing yet another foreign species.
        Long gone from email

        • BobinOz November 12, 2018, 7:13 pm |

          Well, I suppose they are specifically called Australian bush flies, so that does imply they are only in Australia. Why you do not get them in the US though, I just don’t know.

          Do your cows have proper flushing lavatories by any chance? 🙂

  • Mio Woods December 5, 2017, 11:00 pm |

    Australia had a fly problem, they swarm to your mouth in a dry day. Last time I went there, the fly seems to have mostly gone (at least in the area my friend lives), when I talked to my local friend about this he replied: Yeah, we finally got’em all! I totallt grossed out.

    • BobinOz December 6, 2017, 8:38 pm |

      No, we do still have one fly left, I saw it buzzing around in my kitchen the other day. I have a rolled up newspaper, I will get it in the end, then yes, Australia will have finally got ’em all.

      Honest 🙂

  • Tom January 6, 2017, 12:51 pm |

    Jesus Christ the flies in melbs are terrible. I agree in Brissy I never had an issue with them. But here they’re just relentless, suicidal, kamikaze pests. They fly at you in droves, making what seem a nice beach day an absolute nightmare as if one had bathed in shite before leaving the house. Even swatting and nearly killing them doesn’t deter them. Such a shame!

    • Mark January 6, 2017, 5:49 pm |

      They can be a pain but I have tried several things and witchazel woks best for me Ive a colleague who swears by a Vodka mix he uses (waste of vodka) and another who had me trying lemon grass oil Just try and find a repellent that works for you and you will repel them away Sadly someone else’s direction. They can be a real annoyance but if you let them bother you then it just seems to get psychological worse I think. considering we have so many spiders its amazing.

    • BobinOz January 7, 2017, 12:23 am |

      Nearly killing them isn’t quite as effective as really killing them, but the problem is they just keep coming, you’d need to be pretty good with a rolled up newspaper to take them all out.

      I hope your pesky flies buzz off soon.

  • faceslaper December 2, 2016, 9:57 pm |

    Bloody flies!! Fair dinkum drive you round the bloody bend,they always seem to want to lick my face when i can’t get to swat the bludgers .Just yesterday while using a machine with both hands,the flies opted to investigate my mouth.I hate the little b………s.By the way there are lot o dairy and cattle farms within 200kms of melbourne and even closer on the Great Ocean rd.But dont let any of this put you off

    • BobinOz December 4, 2016, 11:29 pm |

      Yes, for sure, they are a pesky nuisance. I remember a while back they had a bit of a plague of them somewhere in the outback, some guy said it was impossible to take a drink of water out of his bottle without swallowing four flies at the same time.

      Thank the Lord for the amazing dung beetle 🙂

      I hope they stay out of your face sometime soon, cheers mate.

  • ifeetugga March 22, 2016, 7:13 pm |

    Oh my, the flies, the venomous snakes and the scorching heat are probably some of the reasons why I always hesitated about moving to Australia, but then again, no country is perfect. Why, many people hesitate to move to Canada because of our extremely cold climate. In fact, the warmer climate is probably a major reason why many Brits choose Oz over Canada, despite the fact that we are better off in many aspects(economy, size of the country, etc)
    Oh well, like I said,no country is absolutely perfect; depends on what you are looking for I suppose. But seriously, I didn’t realize this was such a major problem.
    If I do visit Australia someday(hopefully I will), I guess I’ll have to invest on sunscreen AND insect repellents!

    • BobinOz March 23, 2016, 11:51 pm |

      No, it’s not a major problem, but sharks and crocodiles are 🙂

      Just kidding, but you will probably be pleased to hear we don’t have bears.

  • Bryan October 28, 2015, 8:21 am |

    Hi, I live in Melbourne and the flies drive me insane!!!! I live close to the cbd centre but even still on the 1km walk to the train station they are constantly in my face (on warm/hot days). Today one came into the train with me just to pester me some more.
    We had a similar experience at the 12 apostles but it was 40+ that day so we didn’t hang around. That was also the first time my wife experienced the flies and almost lost the plot

    • BobinOz October 28, 2015, 11:51 pm |

      That’s interesting. When I was at the 12 apostles it wasn’t warm at all, probably low 20s, but still there were a gazillion flies trying to chew on my face. I’ve also been to Melbourne on three different occasions, all during summer, and generally speaking for 80% of the time didn’t encounter any real fly problems.

      But sometimes, in some places, the flies were incredibly irritating. There was one town outside of Melbourne along the coast, out on the Mornington Peninsula, they were really irritating. I think it’s often down to the time and place, surely they are not always where you are?

    • Paul November 27, 2015, 4:17 pm |

      I’m in country VIC and the flies are horrendous at the moment. Unusual weather patterns have been blowing them in from central Australia and the top end.

      On top of this is the usual cycle that sees them breed in plague proportions every few years.

      I know they’ve got a job to do, but geeez… My food hygene OCD is in overdrive at the moment! Don’t attempt to eat outside.

      Most of the big cities are relativepy free from flies nowadays as there are very few places left for them to breed. When they turn up in large numbers, The wind has carries them. But don’t worry, they’ll be gone again before you know it.

      • BobinOz December 1, 2015, 8:17 pm |

        Yes, they can be a real pain when they are around, but mostly they disappear as quickly as they arrived in the first place. I think that’s why they are called blowflies, they blow in and they blow out.

        Hope you become fly free soon.

  • Belle le Caffeinated October 8, 2015, 3:09 pm |

    Here, on the Victorian coastline, we have a major problem with massive flies (blow-flies or bush-flies?).

    I have never seen these slow-flying, annoying pests in Queensland or NSW, and they are the size of bees.

    We have at least 20 of these buzzing, easy-swat’s enter the house in less than a minute, if doors are left open.

    This is a dissapointment in spring when having the doors open would be welcomed to take in the Sorrento, sea-breeze.

    Australia, is an interesting place.

    There’s always the chance of a fly in yer ice-cold drink!.

    The beautiful beaches presenting a turquiose dream-come-true, are filled with jelly-fish, sharks and other potentially dangerous creatures.

    The sun is so hot, sometimes it’s just better to stay indoors.

    Australia is not going to be forgotten once visited.

    The genuine, people and the glorious outback, the experience of a million flies stuck to yer back in 100-degree heat, while eating yer tin of baked beans.

    Everyone will come away with a fly story, no doubt…

    • BobinOz October 8, 2015, 8:39 pm |

      Victoria again, as I said in my article above, that’s where I had my worst experience with flies. They weren’t those big clumsy looking ones though, although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen those things somewhere, just can’t remember where.

      Move to Brisbane Belle le Caffeinated, I haven’t seen a fly for ages 🙂

  • Valter Russo April 24, 2015, 7:21 pm |

    Hi Bob

    I don’t know if you saw my request about a fly post, but if you did and made this in response i’m most grateful.
    keep up the good work and thanks for sharing the experience

    Valter Russo

    • BobinOz April 27, 2015, 2:29 pm |

      I did actually Valter and I grinned to myself because I knew that this post was scheduled. I didn’t specifically write it in response, but I was pleased to know I was going to be answering your question in full.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Warwick Wakefield April 17, 2015, 12:55 pm |

    The flies in Eastern Australia are mostly found west of the Great Divide.
    They are horrible. You are constantly brushing them away from your face.

    I have never noticed them east of the Divide, even in the dairy farming regions of northern New South Wales.

    • BobinOz April 17, 2015, 8:49 pm |

      Well, that explains why I don’t get troubled by them in Brisbane, and also why the vast majority of people in this country live east of the divide. Although I think it’s true to say that the main reason we live east of it is that we get more rain this side of the range isn’t it Warwick?

      Can it simply be though that flies breed on the cattle farms, most of which are west of the divide and when the wind blows north to south or in the opposite direction, they still stay west. But if the wind ever blows west to east, and I’m not sure how often it does, it just can’t blow those pesky flies over those hills?

      • Warwick Wakefield April 18, 2015, 7:26 pm |

        I don’t know why it is, Bob, but you find them West of the Divide.
        Most people live east of the divide because the great cities grew up around the ports, on the east coast.

        But in Brisbane, which is hot and humid, you don’t get many flies. Nor do you in Dayboro or Kilcoy, two cattle towns which are north of Brisbane, inland, but east of the divide.
        I knew these towns when I was a kid.

        But when I went to Albury, a town that’s nowhere near as hot but is West of the divide, the flies were a menace.

        • BobinOz April 19, 2015, 1:09 am |

          I didn’t know Dayboro is a cattle town, but I have been there, and my wife has been there a few times for horse riding with my daughter, never had a problem with flies there.

          Strange, but I’m very happy with it; I’m more than happy to stay east of the divide.

  • djmcbell April 16, 2015, 5:25 pm |

    I can’t say that I noticed any flies at all in all the places we’ve been in Australia (around the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne area, Sydney and Gold Coast).

    • BobinOz April 16, 2015, 8:23 pm |

      That doesn’t surprise me, I think we were just unlucky when we stopped to look at those Twelve Apostles. As the article says, sometimes they just blow in with the wind.

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