Classic Hacks: Swat Flies The Scientific Way

Summer may be gone but it doesn't mean that those pesky flies will get the memo straight away — especially with more hot weather predicted into March. For the stubborn insects that continue to invade your home, use this scientifically proven method of swatting flies to make sure you get rid of them the first time, every time.

Fly swatting image via Shutterstock

This 2011 article came from a scientific study as published on Wired. By closely monitoring the way flies so deftly avoid even the most well-placed of swats, the team came up with a foolproof way to land your swat every time:

#1: If the crushing blow approaches head-on, the fly shifts its middle legs forward so it can push backward. Anticipate the backward jump by angling the swatter to arc over and then behind the fly. #2: Perceiving a threat coming from behind, the fly moves its middle legs backward in preparation to launch forward. To land the swat, you have to lead the fly “like a quarterback leading a receiver.”

For those of you who don't speak American or sport (me included), the second section merely means that you have to aim your swatter for where the fly will be (taking into consideration that it will be launching forward), rather than where it is when you begin the movement.

Basically you have to fake out the fly — which is much faster than humans are, but also a lot less intelligent, functioning more on instinct than on any considered tactics. By using that increased mental power, you can outsmart the fly to land your swat every time.

Commenters on the original article also contributed another technique: slowly move your hands, palms up, to either side of the fly and then when you're ready, clap as fast as you can. Sensing danger, the fly will most likely fly straight up and between your waiting palms. Easy!


    The easiest way to hit a fly is to flick it. Put your index finger on the fleshy part of your thumb as if you're making the OK sign. Slowly move your hand toward the fly, then flick it.
    I have never missed using this approach. It works because your flicking finger is significantly faster than waving your arm.

    I have been using the clapping method (2nd method in the article) successfully for a few years now. approach slow and then clap. Obviously the insects are conditioned to respond to threats that are moving quickly. I have seen a similar response in cockroaches although am not so keen on crushing them with my bare hands.

      Likewise for me. I think flies get confused by two objects coming at them and are slow to decide in which direction to go.

    The type of swatter makes a difference. I favour a metal coathanger-like handle with a flexible swatting pad. They combine resilience with the ability to wrap across curved surfaces like the top of a chair. Single piece plastic swatters tend to shatter.

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