House Fly

House-Fly
  • Common Name(s): House Fly
  • Order: Diptera
  • Family: Muscidae
  • Common Species: Musca domestica
  • Commonly Confused With: Flesh Flies, Blow Flies

Characteristics

How to Identify?
House fly adults vary in color, but they usually possess four dark colored bands on the area directly behind their head (pronotum). The larva is a white or yellowish color and grows larger the more mature they are (these ‘levels’ of maturity are called instars). Pupa is not commonly found but is generally a tan, brown, or cream color. Fly identification can be difficult without getting too technical or scientific so, if you want to be sure about your identification, capture a specimen and consult an Active professional or a University for identification help!

Habitat

Where do they live?
House flies live in feces, rubbish, other rotting material as juveniles. They crawl to soil or other substrates to burrow and become a pupa (resting stage between juvenile and adult flies), and later emerge as adults. Adults are commonly seen around trash cans, excrement piles, or decaying material, which is where they lay their eggs. Adults can rest just about anywhere in the home but they usually prefer to be higher up around ceilings or moulding. Outdoors, they use whatever foliage, vegetation, or structure is around to rest.

Food Source

What do they eat?
The larval stages (juveniles) feed on the feces, garbage, etc. on which they are laid. Pupae and eggs do not need to eat. Adults can eat a variety of different things, but whatever food they eat has to be a liquid consistency. If they land on a solid food they will use enzymes in their saliva to help liquefy the food before ingesting it. This is why some people say a fly will ‘throw up’ every time it lands. If a fly is interested in something as a food source it will try to spit upon it, but this does not happen every single time a fly lands. What really makes house flies an issue is their search for garbage, feces, etc. to eat or to lay their eggs. See the Activity section below for more info!

Activity

What do they do?
These insects are not pests in the way you might think. Since they live on rotting, decaying, or other filthy matter they can be an indicator that you might have a dead animal around, which would be a good thing to know! They can sometimes be beneficial in forensic entomology to help determine time of death (Post Mortem Interval). However, since they have such an affinity for nasty or unsanitary areas, they can mechanically vector a ton of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Mechanically vectored diseases are spread by contact: a fly lands on poop, picks up bacteria on its body, lands on your food, bacteria is transferred to your food by the fly; mosquitoes transfer viruses, bacteria, etc. through a bite, which makes them chemical vectors.

Fun Fact

The University of Florida website: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/flies/house_fly.HTM states, “Scientists have calculated that a pair of flies beginning reproduction in April may be progenitors, under optimal conditions and if all were to live, of 191,010,000,000,000,000,000 flies by August.” Put simply, if two flies started mating in April, under the right conditions and if all their children and children’s children, and so on, survived, we would have 191 quintillion 10 quadrillion flies by August.

Additional Resources

Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist

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