Flies are one household pest that everyone has to deal with no matter where they live. Flies are not only a nuisance, but they can also transmit harmful diseases. There are many different species of flies that are troublesome for homeowners, but the methods for getting rid of them are nearly all the same. Through proper sanitation, exclusion efforts, and various control methods, your fly problems can be conquered. Let’s take a closer look at the types of flies that might be bothering you and what you can do to keep them away.
Fly Species and Identification
Flies belong to the order diptera, which comes from Greek, meaning 2 wings. There are an estimated 1,000,000 species in the order, which includes many different broad categories of flies. For pest control purposes, we will focus on only a few that are particularly troublesome to humans or are often the source of questions.
Housefly (musca domestica)
The common housefly is a familiar pest in homes all over the world. The housefly is a medium fly ranging from ⅙ – ¼ inch in length. Adult houseflies are gray or black with 4 lengthwise (longitudinal) stripes on the thorax. They are also slightly hairy, have two wings, and red eyes. These flies breed in rotten food, garbage, and manure, and are responsible for contaminating food and spreading disease due to their close relationship living with humans. The greatest population of houseflies usually occurs in the early fall when they can often be seen resting in large groups on the sunny surfaces of homes or structures. Once they manage to get inside, they will spend most of their time on floors, walls, and ceilings. They are also particularly attracted by corners, edges, and cords or wires.
By USDAgov [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Fruit Fly (drosophila melanogaster)
Fruit flies seemingly appear out of nowhere whenever overripe fruit is in your home. These are small flies that are only about ⅓ the size of a house fly, or approximately ⅛ of an inch long (2.5 mm). They are often yellow or tan in color with bright red eyes. They depend on moist organic material to breed, so rotting fruit makes an excellent source. Fruit flies are particularly common in homes, grocery stores, warehouses, and restaurants.
By Sanjay Acharya [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Botflies are a particularly nasty family of flies that lay eggs on a host mammal so that the larvae can burrow into the skin and live as a parasite, growing either in the skin or the flesh. These larvae, known as maggots, live inside the animal for several weeks before emerging to pupate in the soil. Only one species of botfly is known to infect humans (dermatobia hominis), but these cases are rare in the United States. The adult botfly of this species is a large fly that has the coloring of a bumblebee. More often, botflies infect horses, cattle, and other mammals. These maggots do not usually harm the host, but they can be extremely repulsive and may need to be removed because they can be painful.
Botfly removal on humans or animals can be quite gross, but can be done fairly easily. The maggots create a red, inflamed lump in the skin with a hole in the center through which they breathe. Wikipedia gives some methods for removal including putting iodine in the hole, covering it with petroleum jelly to suffocate the maggot, or even covering the hole with tape until the maggot emerges for air. When the maggot starts to emerge, you can use tweezers to slightly enlarge the hole and carefully pull it out. This is not intended as medical advice, so contact a medical professional for help with botfly removal.
Adult dermatobia hominis botfly
The horse-fly belongs to a group of biting flies that are found throughout the world. Horse-flies are large (up to an inch) with wide bodies and prominent compound eyes. They are typically dark brown or black with dark eyes. Horse-flies eat nectar and plant juices, but females require a blood meal in order to reproduce. Female horse-flies seem to find victims by movement, warmth, and carbon dioxide, so they will often bite larger mammals that produce more of these things. Cattle, horses, and humans are all main targets of horse-flies.
Horse-flies like to be in the sunshine, so they are not often found indoors or in shady areas. Since horse-flies will often require several bites to get enough blood, they can transmit diseases between their victims. Horse-flies have been shown to be vectors of trypanosoma, anthrax, and tularemia. A horse-fly bite will be a painful raised area of skin. Other symptoms may include a rash, dizziness, and in very rare cases a serious allergic reaction.[3 ]
The Fly Life Cycle
Flies are interesting animals because they go through complete metamorphosis, meaning that they look different at each life stage. First, an adult female will lay eggs. These eggs will differ in appearance by species, but they will be laid in areas where the larvae will be able to feed immediately after hatching. For most species of flies, this means that eggs will be laid on organic matter that has plenty of moisture. For houseflies, breeding grounds include things like rotting fruits, garbage, decaying material, and fresh manure. Botflies and blowflies will lay their eggs on living or dead animals.
Once the eggs hatch, the larvae (known as maggots) will burrow into the organic material and eat and grow. Maggots look like tiny, white worms that subsist off decay and rot.
The maggots will then form a pupae with a hard shell to protect them as they develop. In just a few days, they will develop legs and wings and emerge as an adult fly that can mate very soon afterward. The life cycle of flies is quite short, so populations can explode very quickly. Understanding this life cycle can help in your fly control efforts by alerting you to the places where eggs are often laid. This will help focus your sanitation efforts so that you can stop the cycle early.
“Eggs, Larvae, Pupae, and Adult Fly” By Alan R Walker [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
from Wikimedia Commons
How to Keep Flies Away
There are many different types and species of flies, but luckily, the methods of getting rid of them are mostly the same. These methods include sanitation, exclusion, and control efforts. By including all of these methods in your own approach, you will be able to achieve much better results.
Proper sanitation is extremely important when battling flies. If you can remove the medium where flies lay their eggs, you will get a great jump on your fly problem. Since flies breed in filth, rot, and decay, that is where the initial sanitation focus should be. From there, eliminate things that attract adult flies like food and moisture. Try some of these tips to decrease the fly population around your home or yard.
- Keep garbage cans/dumpsters clean
- Take out the trash regularly
- Make sure that garbages have a tight fitting lid
- Move dumpsters and garbage cans away from you home
- Eat or refrigerate ripe fruit and vegetables
- Clean up animal excrement in your yard
- Remove dead animals like rodents or birds from your yard
- Keep outdoor areas clear of plant and animal decay
- Store food properly
- Do dishes immediately after use
- Clean up spills and wipe counters
- Maintain a clean home
- Get rid of areas of excess moisture: fix leaky pipes and faucets, ensure proper drainage, don’t overwater your lawn and flower beds
Like most pests, flies aren’t too much of a problem if they cannot get into your home. This makes sealing the exterior of your home an important step in fly control.
- Seal small cracks and gaps with latex caulking
- Larger holes or cracks can be sealed using expandable spray foam
- Check to ensure there are screens in all windows and that they are in good condition with no tears
- Seal vents, chimneys or other necessary openings by placing fine mesh over them
- Place weathertripping around doors and windows and ensure a tight fit
- Make sure that doors and windows remain closed
Getting Rid of Flies in Your Home
After you have achieved proper sanitation and exclusion, there are many other control methods that you can use to get rid of flies that are already in your home. Depending on the infestation level, you can choose one or many of these measures to help in your fight against flies.
Fly Baits and Traps
There are many fly baits and traps on the market to choose from, and you can even create your own. Fly baits work best when the bait is the only source of food around. This means that you will need to maintain a clean yard and home for it to be effective. Baits may come in granule form or liquid form and should be used according to directions. Common traps are sticky glue traps, fly tape ribbon catchers, or light traps. Fly light traps are electronic and should be used indoors. They are popular in businesses and restaurants.
Foggers do not target specific insects and hiding places, but instead broadcast the insecticide throughout the space. This can be beneficial if you are experiencing a large infestation. Always be sure to use foggers according to directions.
While we usually think of repellents for mosquitoes, we rarely think of them for flies. There are many different insect repellent sprays that will work against flies as well. If you want to go the natural route, you can try essential oils and things like peppermint, lavender, citronella, lemongrass, and cloves.
Quick Acting Aerosols and Sprays
Pyrethrins were developed from the chrysanthemum flower and have long been used in insect control. Aerosols using these or other insecticides are great for fast-acting results. Although they may only offer short-term relief, they are beneficial when used with other forms of control.
Dusts are best used in areas that are difficult to reach with other methods. Dusts can be used behind baseboards, in wall voids, behind electrical outlets and other areas where insects may be hiding. Dusts take a while to do the job, but they are extremely long-lasting.
Maybe the most common way to get rid of flies and many other household pests is to use a residual spray around the perimeter of the home. These pesticides can protect your home for months at a time. Always follow label directions when using pesticide. It is common to spray these perimeter treatments at least 3 feet up the wall and 3 feet out from the foundation. Harris Home Pest Control is a great DIY pest control option.
Flies can be bothersome, frustrating, and carriers of harmful bacteria, so it is no wonder that they are a common complaint in the pest control world. By ensuring proper sanitation, employing exclusion methods around your home, and using some great Harris pest control products, we are confident that you can get rid of the flies and take back your home. Harris is America’s oldest EPA registered pest control brand, so you can feel confident in our products.