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A source for information on flies




Anyone who has ever been to a picnic, BBQ or other outdoor gathering in Florida knows that they are inevitably going to have to deal with that annoying guest (besides the drunk in-law) the fly. They are the first to show up and the last to leave, and they always bring many, many friends. These winged party crashers are synonymous with everything foul and disgusting, and the thought of one on your food is enough to turn your stomach. A fly swatter only works for so long….

The house fly, Musca domestica Linnaeus, order Diptera, is one of the most common of all insects. The adult fly has a distinct pair of frontal wings, with a hind pair that assists in balance. Although there are over 16,000 species of flies in North America, the house fly is a ubiquitous Florida bug and can be found in almost any area humans inhabit.  It is worldwide in distribution and is a pest in homes, barns, poultry houses, food processing plants, dairies, and recreation areas. It has a tremendous breeding potential and during the warmer months can produce a generation in less than two weeks. In many areas of Florida the house fly breeds continually throughout the year. There are quite a few species of blow flies and bottle flies which are found in and around residences. The greenbottle, bluebottle, and bronzebottle flies are particularly abundant in Florida. In urban areas these flies may be more abundant than house flies. Filter/moth flies (drain flies), belong to the family of flies called moth flies. They are 1/16 to 1/18 in in length; light gray to tan in color. Their life cycle is 7 to 20 days. Adult flies have the body and wings covered with dense, long hairs. Moth/filter flies breed in decomposing organic material, such as moist plant litter, garbage, sewage, around kitchen or bathroom sinks and water traps in plumbing fixtures.

The house fly is an extremely prolific breeder, and during the warmer months it can produce a generation in less than two weeks. In many areas of Florida the house fly breeds continually throughout the year. It has a complete metamorphosis with distinct egg, larva or maggot, pupae and adult stages. House fly eggs are laid in almost any type of warm organic matter, which makes animal manure, among other materials, a very common breeding medium.

The eggs, which are laid in clusters of 75-100, hatch within 24 hours into tiny larvae or maggots. In 4-6 days the larvae migrate to drier portions of the breeding ground and pupate. The pupae stage may vary in length, but in warm weather it can take about three days. Warm summer conditions are optimal for its development, and it can complete its life cycle in as little as seven to ten days. As many as 10 to 12 generations may occur annually in temperate regions, while in tropical or subtropical regions more than 20 generations may occur!

Along with being a major nuisance, flies also pose a major health concern. Although this particular species doesn’t bite, they can transmit pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. Pathogenic organisms are picked up from garbage, sewage and other sources of filth, and then transferred on their mouthparts through their regurgitation, feces and contaminated body parts to human and animal food.

The movement of flies from animal or human feces to food that will be eaten uncooked by humans is a particular concern. Also, when consumed by flies, some pathogens can be harbored in the mouthparts or alimentary canal for several days, and then be transmitted when flies defecate or regurgitate.


Several kinds of non-biting flies can be found in and around farms, residences, and food-handling establishments. These flies can be harmful to health, causing annoyance and discomfort. All filth flies have an egg, larva (maggot), pupa, and adult stage in their life cycle. The adult fly has 2 wings (the hind pair is reduced to a knobbed balancing organ).

Filth flies are usually scavengers in nature and many are capable of transmitting diseases to man. Filth flies can usually be grouped according to their habits and appearance as: houseflies and their relatives; flesh flies, blow flies and bottle flies, filter flies, soldier flies, and vinegar (fruit) flies.

In conditions where plumbing is poor or lacking, such as outhouses or portable bathrooms, serious health problems can develop, especially if there are outdoor food markets, hospitals, or slaughterhouses nearby. Among the pathogens commonly transmitted by house flies are Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Escherichia, Enterococcus, Chlamydia, and many other species that can cause serious illness. These flies are most commonly linked to outbreaks of diarrhea and shigellosis, but also are implicated in transmission of food poisoning, typhoid fever, dysentery, tuberculosis, anthrax, ophthalmia, and parasitic worms.

More than 100 pathogens are associated with the house fly including: Salmonella, Staphylococcus, E. coli and Shigella. These pathogens can cause disease in humans and animals, including: typhoid fever, cholera, bacillary dysentery, hepatitis, ophthalmia, polio, tuberculosis and infantile diarrhea. Sanitation is critical to controlling these pests, but accurate identification is essential for successful fly control. Here are some other things you should know about flies and fly control:

  • Depending on the species, the life expectancy of a fly is eight days to two months, or in some cases, up to a year.
  • Flies belong to the Order Diptera, meaning two wings. There are 16,000 species of flies in North America.
  • Flies plague every part of the world except the polar ice caps.
  • One pair of flies can produce more than 1 million offspring in as little as six to eight weeks.
  • As many as 33 million microorganisms may flourish in a single fly’s gut, while a half-billion more swarm over its body and legs.
  • Flies spread diseases readily because they move quickly from rotting, disease-laden garbage to exposed human foods and utensils.
  • Because they only have two wings, flies land often and therefore can deposit thousands of bacteria each time they land.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture sources reveal that flies contaminate or destroy $10 billion worth of agricultural products.
  • For every fly seen, there are an estimated 19 more hidden from view. This means humans don’t even see most of the flies present at an infestation.
 Bottle  Cluster  Crain  Drain  Face
 Flesh  Fruit  Fungas Gnat  House  Phorid
 Stable        Resources

Images and information derived in part or in whole from Trueman's Scientific Guide to PMO 6th ED

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