When I was a kid attending a family cookout, there was one surefire way to keep flies and mosquitoes away from our glorious feast: tiki torches. The burning citronella oil repelled our uninvited insect guests, and the tall flames were aesthetically pleasing, especially as night fell. Unfortunately, tiki torches have since gone… out of style, leaving summer barbecues exposed to full-on insect assaults. If you’ve been hankering for a solution to backyard pests that isn’t associated with white supremacy, hanker no more: All you have to do to keep flies and mosquitoes off your crudités is place a fan around it.
Seriously. That’s it. Blow a fan on the food. An entomologist recently explained to Eater that, unlike humans, insects aren’t particularly fond of nice breezes. As a matter of fact, they don’t find them nice at all. A fan is actually even more effective at repelling the little beasts than citronella candles. Why haven’t we been setting up fans in the backyard this whole time?
While you could stick a traditional battery-powered fan like this in the center of your buffet spread, it turns out there’s a whole cottage industry of insect-repellant food fans to get us through backyard barbecue season unscathed. These nifty little devices first rose to mainstream prominence after an appearance on a 2021 episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when Lisa Rinna deployed them at an outdoor dinner party.
One TikTok couple followed Rinna’s lead and purchased similar fans from Amazon, showing off the product’s killer feature: When you reach in to grab some grub, the fan stops—and since the blade is just flimsy plastic, it doesn’t slice your hand open and cause an even bigger problem than flies in your food. Once you remove your hand from the chip bowl, the fan starts again. Magic!
A quick Amazon search for “fly fans” shows that the magic little fans from the TikTok video sell for just $15.99, a bargain compared to the price of treatment for any foodborne illnesses flies have been found to carry. Per the item’s description, the flexible fan blades also contain holographic reflectors that disorient the bugs and scare them away. You could even get a 3-pack of comparable fans designed to look like the Empire State Building, which, if it’s anything like my New York City apartment, is teeming with flies in the summertime.
Rinna isn’t even the only Bravo reality star to endorse these products. Former Below Deck Mediterranean star Hannah Ferrier launched her own brand of fly-repellant fans called Bugs Off!, although the brand no longer appears to be active. Given the Housewives’ proclivity for putting their names on products, perhaps it’s only a matter of time until Rinna launches a fly fan line of her own.