Each one of us is familiar with house flies. How can one possibly not know what a housefly is? These are the flying, buzzing, and a disgusting nuisance at our homes that sit on our bodies, foods, and wherever they feel like. They keep coming back no matter how many times you hush them away. But the moment you get a fly swatter to get rid of them for good, they are nowhere to be seen!
Let’s look at what we know about this flying pest!
The common housefly is scientifically called Musca domestica. It belongs to the suborder Cyclorrhapha. They are believed to have evolved during the Cenozoic era, most probably in the Middle East and from there, it spread throughout the world as a commensal on humans.
House flies are considered pests because their infestation can grow rapidly. They are extremely harmful to humans. They are disgusting, dirty, and annoying armful for human. They sit on your food, clothes, bare skin, and anywhere they want to. They spread their germs to whatever places they touch.
There are many types of flies but house flies are the most common type of flies that infest homes and cause extreme annoyance!
Table of Contents
What Does a Common Housefly Look Like?
An adult housefly is about 6 to 7mm long with a wingspan of 13 to 15mm. A female housefly is larger than the male housefly. A male housefly has longer legs. More size variation is seen in female house flies.
The head of a housefly is convex in the front and is flat and conical at the back. They have two large compound eyes. The pair of compound eyes almost touch in a male housefly while in the female housefly, they are a considerable distance apart. They have three more simple eyes and two short antennae.
The bodies are a shade of gray. They can be black in color sometimes. House flies have four longitudinal, dark bands on their dorsal body, each band having a similar width. The whole body of house flies is covered with short hairs. They have a pair of wings that are translucent, having a yellowish touch at the base.
Life Cycle of Common Housefly
The life cycle of a housefly has four distinct phases. It takes about 6 to 42 days for an egg to grow into an adult housefly, depending upon the temperature. They usually live for two to three weeks but if the conditions are cooler, their lifespan can extend to about 3 months.
Housefly lays its eggs in rotting, fermenting, or decayed organic matter of vegetable or animal origin such as human waste and animal manure and garbage. Eggs can hatch within a period of few hours.
Larva or maggot
The young larvae need oxygen from the atmosphere to survive. They burrow into the breeding material. If the breeding material is dry, they penetrate as deep as several centimeters and if the breeding material is wet, they can stay at the surface.
Larvae are white colored, slender, and legless. They develop rapidly. They can develop as fast as three days up to several weeks. The development time majorly depends on the temperature, species, and the quantity and type of food that is available to them.
After the larvae have fed, they crawl to drier places and hide under objects to stay protected. They form a puparium which is a capsule-like case. The transformation of larvae into adults occurs within this capsule.
The transformation into an adult usually takes about two to ten days. Once the development s complete, the fly breaks open the capsule and work its way up to the surface. As soon as it emerges from the capsule, the fly spreads its wings and its body dries and becomes hard.
A female housefly lays eggs about five times in its lifetime. On each occasion, it lays about 120 to 130eggs.
What Do Common Housefly Feed On?
It is what the housefly feeds on that makes it a lot more disgusting. They feed on human food, human waste, human sweat, garbage, and animal dung.
The mouthparts of a housefly are such that they need to liquefy the food before they can ingest it. Do you how do they liquefy the food? By vomiting on it! How gross is that? Their salivary glands secrete considerable amount of saliva that softens the food and liquefy it. This dissolved food is then ingested. Water is quite essential for a fly to survive. If a housefly does not get water for more than 48 hours, it will die.
Other food sources include meat broth, blood, milk, sugar, and numerous other materials that are found in human settlements.
Breeding Sites of the Common Housefly
Houseflies do not breed in meet or carrion like flesh flies and blowflies do. The common breeding sites of houseflies are heaps of accumulated animal dung, garbage, waste from food processing, organic manure, accumulated plant material, and sewage sludge. They can also breed on solid organic waste in open drains and cesspits.
Why Are Houseflies Harmful to Humans?
When we say houseflies are harmful to humans, we don’t say it because they create a disturbance or a major inconvenience. We say so because they are actually, really very harmful.
Houseflies feed on the filthy matter. They carry dangerous microorganism on their legs and body. When the hover over food, sit on it or your body, they transfer these harmful organisms to your body. The most commonly transmitted microorganisms are Escherichia, Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus, Chlamydia, and Campylobacter which are all known to cause serious illness in humans like diarrhea, shigellosis, food poisoning, dysentery, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, ophthalmia, anthrax, and parasitic worms.
Types of Flies That Infest Homes
The housefly is the most common of the flies that are found in homes. They are a kind of filth flies. However, many other types of flies also infest homes. These flies are found in homes and anywhere they can find suitable conditions. We have listed down the types of filth flies for you:
Large Filth Flies
The common housefly is the fly we have been mentioning since the start of this article.
Cluster flies are bigger in size as compared to the common houseflies. They are dark gray in color and their thorax is covered with golden colored hairs. An infestation of cluster flies occurs in autumn as they fly about in search of a protective place till winters end.
The problem of cluster fly infestation occurs at two points; one is when a large number of cluster flies try to make their way into your home for protection from cold weather and second when they make their way out of your home when the winters end. When they are looking for an exit, they can swarm indoors.
Cluster flies are parasites of earthworms. Adult flies lay eggs in spring and summer, in lawns where earthworms are present. When these eggs hatch, the larvae burrow deep into the soil where earthworms are present. They attach to earthworms and feed on them.
Blowflies are also called bottle flies. They develop inside rotten meat or carrion. They are large, shiny blue flies. They can be metallic gray or black in color as well. If you find any of these flies in your home, you should understand that there is a carcass somewhere in the attic or walls. Two common species of blowflies are bluebottle fly and black blowfly.
Small Filth Flies
Drain flies are often mistaken to be smaller houseflies. But drain flies have a distinctive moth-like or furry appearance. They lay their eggs in organic sludge that is built inside pipes, unused garbage, and sink drains. Drain flies are harder to remove because their breeding sites are hard to reach.
Fruit flies are yellowish-white in color with red colored eyes. They feed on sweet and sugary items. They can breed in any place where there is a source of moisture, usually in drain lines. They can also develop in cleaned garbage containers. They invade the kitchens. They are attracted to vinegar, juice of overripe fruits, and soda. They crawl into sticky syrups and liquids and result in contamination.
The infestation of fruit flies is common in summers and fall. However, they can occur anytime a suitable sore of food is available nearby.
They are about two-thirds the size of a common housefly. They are similar to common houseflies, only smaller. The problems they create are also similar to that of common houseflies.
Getting Rid of Houseflies
The easiest way to get rid of houseflies is to eliminate any possible places they might breed in, including garbage, food waste, animal dung, and open sewage. The houseflies can complete their lifecycle in about a week. Therefore, you should remove wet manure at least twice a week to break the breeding cycle. Spilled feed should be cleaned immediately and should be allowed to accumulate. Wet straw should be removed at the soonest. When the houseflies fail to find suitable breeding places, they will naturally leave to find a place to breed elsewhere.
Many pesticides are also available that can help in getting rid of houseflies but they are not safe to be used in houses with children and pets.
Fly traps are also an effective housefly management technique. If the traps are placed in considerable numbers, at the right places, they can help in getting rid of houseflies.
Facts About Houseflies
Now that we know what houseflies are, where do they breed, and which category the fall, let’s look at some facts that we bet you didn’t know! The facts that you are already enlightened with earlier in this article are;
- Houseflies feed on a liquid diet. They excrete digestive juices onto solid food (that we referred to as vomit earlier). These digestive juices break down the food particles into smaller pieces which the houseflies then drink.
- Houseflies can spread many serious diseases in humans.
The facts that you still don’t know are something that will have your mind blown!
- Houseflies can taste with their feet. You read that right. Like butterflies, houseflies can taste food with their feet. They have chemosensilla (taste receptors) on their lower legs. They walk over the surface of the food they land on and have a good taste before actually consuming it.
- Houseflies defecate a lot! The worst part is, they don’t care where they do it. It can be on your food or on your skin.
- Houseflies are capable of walking upside down. The anatomy of houseflies allows them to walk over any surface—horizontal, vertical, or upside down.
- Houseflies can see behind them. Houseflies have compound eyes that allow them to have a 360-degree vision.
- Houseflies do not have a very long lifespan. It is about 30 days but during this period, they can lay as many as 500 eggs! They lay eggs in batches of 75 to 150 eggs.
- The reaction time of houseflies is amazing. This is why you just can’t capture them in the swat. They are extremely agile creatures and show quick reactions. They process what they see at a magical speed and respond accordingly. They are able to process as many as 250 images in a second while a human brain can only process about 60 images in one second.
Nobody likes to have buzzing houseflies in their homes. It is very important that you are able to differentiate between types of houseflies so that you can employ a suitable treatment method.