This well-known pest needs little introduction; in the summer the housefly shadows humans and animals alike until you begin to look a little crazy constantly waving the air around your face, and in the winter they become a distant memory. However, the housefly has proved itself to be a survivor, always returning just as you begin to forget that it even existed. The housefly has been buzzing its annoying tune and passing along diseases for the past 65 million years, and it is unlikely that they will die off any time soon. However, being more aware of preventative measures and the diseases associated with house flies can make for a cleaner and safer environment.
Accounting for over 90% of flies in the world, the housefly is very common around human habitation around the world. Although they can exist almost anywhere, areas with hot temperatures are more likely to see these pests year round. Believed to have originated in the Middle East, the housefly has certainly spread its wings, reaching every continent except Antarctica. The greatest danger the housefly poses to humans is their easy transmission of diseases. By nature the housefly flocks to areas of excrement and waste, allowing them to easily pick up strands of diseases and then fly several miles from their home. A common enough sight in the warm months, the housefly is actually a severe health threat to be reckoned with and prevented where possible.
A mere 8-12mm long, the housefly stops growing before reaching adulthood. If examined under a microscope, the housefly’s dark grey body would be covered in bristly and coarse grey hairs. Unlike some other species of flies, the housefly has one pair of wings, but it is a strong flier and can travel several miles from its origin. Although few have a chance to examine a housefly closely under normal conditions, the housefly has dark red eyes and an acute sense of smell that leads it away from flyswatters and onto human foods. Although the housefly does stop growing as pupae, it has a ravenous appetite as an adult. House flies are only able to feed on liquefied food or saliva-saturated solids thanks to their mouthparts. As a general rule, the female housefly will be larger than the male version. Other related flies, such as the horsefly, will be significantly larger and more aggressive than the housefly. Although it is a disease infestation, the housefly will not bite or sting.
House Flies Habitat
House flies have long been bumming off humans for shelter, warmth and food. Wherever there are humans you are bound to find house flies. Preferring warm weather, the housefly can only survive in colder temperatures if they stay inside human dwellings. Found the world over, House flies breed faster in hot, moist temperatures, and are found in larger abundance in subtropical areas. Developing countries are also at a greater risk of House flies because they are prone to have less organized waste removal and rely more on animals for work and transportation. Although still very prevalent in developed countries such as the United States and Western Europe, the housefly is found less often since the invention of the car and every decreasing of rural communities.
Life Cycle of House Flies
If you thought your life was passing quickly, you should think again. The housefly generally lives no more than one month, no matter its habitat. So, with such a short lifespan why are there so many House flies? Their secret is the rapid rate or reproduction and large amounts of eggs the female is able to produce. Over her short life, the female will lay upwards of 500 eggs (roughly in 75-100 increments). That is like giving birth to 16 children per day! Once lain, the eggs/larvae waste no time in getting on with their lives; the eggs will hatch the same day and the larvae will start feeding on feces, waste, garbage, etc. that same day. The larvae stage will last approximately one week, during which time these legless larvae are left on their own to eat as much as they can. After their week is up the maggots/larvae will find a dry place (windowsills, trees, house siding, etc.) and transport into the brown-colored pupae. The pupae stage is critical as far as size is concerned; the amount of food eaten in the pupae stage will determine the size of the fly and all growth will stop at the end of the pupae stage.
The adult emerges from the pupae ready to live the 2-4 weeks left in their life. The female will mate almost immediately, but will only mate once, storing the male sperm inside her for each batch of eggs. The males may mate with more than one female. The short life of the adult is quickly replaced by its own offspring, and the cycle continues with the world never being short on House flies.
House Flies and Humans
We have been playing host to the housefly for over 65 million years, and while healthcare and sanitary conditions have drastically improved in developed countries over the past century, the housefly still poses a health threat. The housefly has been known to carry over 100 different kinds of pathogens; they pick them up from landing on contaminated waste, manure, garbage dumps, etc. Some of the most prevalent diseases include, typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, worms, etc. Although unseen my most humans, the housefly will deposit high amounts of feces throughout the day; deposits can be on food, kitchen counters, toilets, highchairs, etc. It is critical that humans stay up to date on their vaccinations, especially when visiting developing counties where these pathogens are even more prevalent.
The housefly is an age-old problem not likely to go away with a simple bug spray. Sanitation and prevention are some of the greatest steps you can take in regards to the housefly. Think about it; the housefly breeds, eats and grows around contaminated areas (animal manure, garbage, decaying plants, etc.), so if you can remove these your house will be in a lot less danger from an infestation. If you live in a rural area where farm animals are prevalent, make sure they are as removed as possible from your home; give barns a thorough mucking daily and clear the area immediately around your house on a consistent basis. Even if you don’t own animals, make sure your garbage is securely tied and taken out to a specified container with a lid. If meat juices and other contaminates leak onto the trash can make sure to scrub it clean. To leatn more about indoor fly control see flies in my house.
For commercial buildings or houses that can’t shake their fly problem, there are traps available. Sticky flytraps and UV traps are the most common with House flies. These need to be placed in an area that gets a lot of light and around waste areas. Restaurants especially should make House flies a priority and take precautions and use traps in their kitchens. Although there are chemical methods of getting rid of flies, this can be harmful to children and animals and should only be used in extreme cases.