Flies - What Can You Do About Them?
Ever since flies were sent to plague the Pharaohs, we have been shooing them, swatting them and
swearing at them.
The fly most frequently associated with man is the common housefly (Musca Domestica), found everywhere and
predominant in food establishments. The housefly has long been known to be a carrier of diseases. Among the
most important are dysentery, cholera, typhoid, infantile or summer diarrhea, pink-eye, tuberculosis and smallpox.
Besides these there are probably about 25 more diseases that may be transmitted by this vector, including pinworms,
roundworms and tapeworms. A fly may carry 4,000,000 bacteria on its body and over 28,000,000 in its stomach.
You can guard your home or establishment against them if you have an understanding of their feeding and breeding
habits and their vulnerability.
Habits & Characteristics
The fly thrives in the human environment. It flourishes on the same kinds of food and temperatures, and breeds
and reproduces in the wastes left by people.
The housefly does not bite, although it is sometimes confused with the stable fly which is a vicious biter. The
housefly is about 1/4 inch long, mouse gray or buff in color, the male being a little smaller than the female.
The body, including the legs, is covered with hairs. Each leg is provided with a pair of pads studded with closely
set hairs which enable the fly to walk without slipping and to perambulate over a ceiling upside down.
The anatomic structure of a fly prevents it from eating solid matter. Perched on a lump of sugar, the fly may,
indeed, seem to be eating forthwith; but if watched closely it will be seen to be dissolving the sugar by
depositing saliva on it. The sugary substance is then sucked up through the proboscis and is frequently regurgitated
in a single drop, which is again sucked up. The fly may retire to a quiet spot to clean its head and proboscis,
to digest and alternately to vomit and suck up its halfdigested food. This may contain a variety of germs, and a
second fly may not be too dainty to refuse what the first fly leaves of half-digested food on the spot.
A fly will eat anything and everything that is soluble. Any decaying animal or vegetable material may
serve as pabulum.
The favored breeding places of flies are many. They include fresh horse manure, human and other animal excreta, and
garbage - in fact, any decaying and putrefactive matter that has a somewhat moist consistency, including grass clippings.
The female fly will lay her eggs in clusters of 100 to 150. Under favorable conditions, as many as 20
batches may be laid by one fly. Normally 2- batches are laid in a lifetime. With heat primarily from
the sun, and other favorable conditions, the eggs hatch in as little as eight hours. Larvae, or maggots,
which emerge from the eggs are grayish or creamy white, segmented like worms, smooth and cylindrical and
up to 1/2 inch long. During the larval stage, which usually lasts from 4-7 days, they are highly mobile,
feeding voraciously and growing rapidly. At the end of this stage, they migrate from their most feeding
grounds in search of cooler and drier surroundings, such as loose soil or under surfaces of stones and
boards, where they turn into the pupa or cocoon stage. In warm climates, this stage may only last from
The pupa shell is a mahogany brown, barrelshaped and is immobile. Upon emerging, the adult fly crawls about tentatively
until its wings have expanded fully and hardened, and its body has accustomed itself to its new surroundings. Although
most flies fly no more than 200-300 yards, some have been caught as far as 13 miles from their starting point when
carried by the wind.
When the fly emerges from its pupal stage, its growth is complete. It is a full grown, sexually mature adult and will
begin to lay eggs in 2-20 days.
The housefly lives about one month. Many are killed by parasitic diseases. They are rendered inactive by
cold and are killed by exposure to a temperature of 10 to 15°F.
Method of Control
Houseflies breed in places where garbage or manure accumulates. Be sure your garbage cans are equipped with
tightfitting lids and have no holes. Wash inside of can regularly. Check the garbage storage regularly - is
it always neat and clean, or is damp waste allowed to collect on the ground? Even if flies are hatched elsewhere,
any accessible waste in and around your cans may attract them.
Promptly dispose of pet droppings. Regular removal will eliminate a fly attractant as well as a breeding site.
Fly control, in general, is not difficult. However, you must be thorough. A good fly control program begins
with a good sanitation program.
Fly control depends on stopping the flies before they get started. The first step in the control of flies is
elimination of breeding places.
Do not allow food to stand exposed where it will attract flies.
Grass clippings that have started to decompose have been noted to breed flies. Do not allow these to accumulate.
Fly control in interior areas is greatly enhanced when windows and doors are tightfitting. Windows and doors that
are equipped with 14 mesh screens will effectively keep out the housefly. They will also keep out many smaller insects.
If you need an insecticide to control the flies in your home, apply a household spray or aerosol. Be sure the label
says the spray is for flying insects. Be extremely careful in using insecticides. Insecticides are poisonous to man
and animals - follow the directions on the label. Remember a little goes a long
way. Tiny spray droplets attack the fly as it passes through them. The droplets enter the fly's breathing pores and
a lethal dose may quickly be absorbed. Caution is necessary not to inhale these vapors yourself.
Fly swatters are still one of the best methods for control of the occasional fly pest. Keep one handy in rooms
where food is prepared or served.
The old fashioned flypaper is also an effective fly control measure - the fly is attracted to it and once it
lights on the sticky paper is unable to escape and will soon die.
Remember the 3 S's: