Flies are among the most common types of household pests. Unlike most insects that “go dormant” during the cooler months of the year, some types of flies actually become active during warm spells, sometimes being a nuisance and laying eggs.
While they may perform important roles in promoting decomposition and even pollinating some types of plants, sometimes they occur in droves, find their way indoors, and become a real pest problem and a serious health threat.
Flies Are a Menace
Flies not only invade yards and gardens, but also come in regular contact with people, pets and frequently-touched surfaces like countertops and tables.
A female fly can lay about 100 eggs each time she breeds. Most females breed up to five times, with a total of 500 offspring.
Flies Spread Disease
Vomiting on food and leaving droppings are the primary ways files spread disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that they are carriers of all sorts of diseases, including those that affect the gastrointestinal tract, skin, eyes, and other organs. Disease can be spread in two ways:
- Flies like garbage, flesh, excrement, and perspiration. When they crawl around these substances, they can pick up germs on their bodies and on the little hairs that cover much of their body surface area. When they land on another surface, they carry those pathogens along with them, contaminating those objects (including your own skin) along the way.
- Because their feeding habits put them in contact with a dizzying array of harmful germs, flies pick up a lot of bacteria and other harmful pathogens while eating. These germs can stay alive inside the fly for several days, which means flies can transmit diseases long after they’ve feasted on the initial source.
Flies can spread a wealth of diseases, including:
- Cutaneous diphtheria
- Skin infections
- Eye infections, including conjunctivitis and trachoma
Flies also carry many types of bacteria that can cause intestinal symptoms like diarrhea, upset stomach, and nausea.
Learning to differentiate from among the more common types of fly species can be help with control efforts. Although most of us will only come into direct contact with a few common types of flies in our homes and gardens, about 125,000 fly species have been identified, and there are thousands of others that have yet to be described. The four flies most commonly seen in homes include:
- House fly: House flies have gray or sometimes black bodies with long lines extending down the back. Their bodies are covered with fine bristles. Some flies have yellow coloring on the sides. Little house flies are similar to “regular” house flies except for being smaller, as their name implies.
- Blow fly (k.a., Greenbottle, Bluebottle and Carrion Fly): Blow flies usually have a shiny, metallic-colored thorax that can be black, green or blue. Like house flies, blow flies like to breed in animal waste and decaying garbage.
- Drain fly (k.a., Moth Flies): Drain flies tend to hang out around tub or sink drains. These flies are quite small (about 2 mm) and usually grayish in color. Their triangular bodies and wings create the appearance of a tiny moth – hence the name “moth fly.” Another type of drain fly, the humpbacked fly, is slightly larger and has a humped appearance when viewed from the side.
- Fruit Fly: The tiniest of all the flies found in homes, fruit flies are about 2 mm. in length, with brown bodies and, often, red eyes. They’re most commonly found on or hovering near fruit or vegetables, and sometimes around waste pails.
For more accurate identification, you can see pictures of common flies here.
Controlling Fly Populations: Know Where Flies Are Found
- Get rid of any standing water and make sure your gutters are effectively moving water away from your home and other areas where you hang out outdoors. Like most insects, flies like damp, moist areas, so address those areas first.
- Clean up after your pet. Animal excrement is a popular breeding site for plenty of types of flies, especially the ever-present house fly. It’s also a source of bacteria and other pathogens that can be picked up and spread by flies during and after the breeding process.
- Keep your trash cans clean and use a powerful disinfectant to get rid of residue. Strong-smelling antiseptic solutions can play an important role in outdoor fly control by dissuading flies and other insects from using your cans as a breeding or resting spot.
- Clear decay. If you have fruit trees, clear away decaying fruit. Likewise for piles of decaying vegetation.
- Use well-rotted manure or processed fertilizers for your garden beds. Dung and fish meal that aren’t completely or properly processed can provide a welcome haven for flies looking to breed.
- Keep your cesspool or pit in good working order. Usually, malfunctioning sewage lines or pits are obvious. But depending on where your pit or lines are located, you may not notice a problem right away. Keep an eye on these areas and have them maintained regularly to make them less desirable for flies.
- Take a close look indoors for places that may attract flies, including sluggish drains, overflowing or smelly garbage pails, and even perpetually-damp houseplant soil. Extra-ripe fruit can be especially attractive to flies (and not just tiny fruit flies), as can a steak or poultry left on the counter.
Getting Rid of Flies
Once you know where the flies are most likely to congregate, you can focus your extermination efforts in those key areas. And when it comes to fly control, you have a few options to choose from:
- Eliminate likely breeding spots and points of entry. Using window screens, repairing holes, and replacing ill-fitting screen frames are all good ways to keep flies from entering your home. Exit and enter quickly. If you’re cooking, avoid using your kitchen door, since flies may be hanging around waiting to get in. Seal up small crevices around other moldings, as well as air vents and openings in your soffit, all of which can enable flies to get into interior wall spaces and attics. To prevent flies from overwintering in your home, do all your sealing by mid-August, a time when some flies look for warm areas to hibernate.
- Traps: One of the most important things to know about traps is that not all flies are attracted to the same food sources. If you decide to use them, you will likely need to use more than one to decimate your fly population. Most traps use a fly bait in a special container with a cone cap that makes it easy for flies to enter but hard to escape. A homemade version, baited with decaying fruit, wine, fruit juice, or cider vinegar, can be effective against fruit flies. Traps for other types of flies use different baits. Pheromone traps are also available, and most can attract several types of flies. These traps use special chemical “scents” to attract flies instead of relying on food-type baits.
- “Bug zappers” can kill some types of flies attracted to light sources, and there are two types of fly-catching lights available.One uses a sticky surface or film to capture flies when they come near the light while the other type “zaps” them and kills them with electricity. This second type should not be used around food preparation or eating areas (including pet eating areas) since insect body parts can be thrown far and wide once they are exterminated.
- Chemicals and Insecticides: Flypaper is perhaps one of the oldest commercially-available types of house fly traps on the market. Paper can be laid along horizontal surfaces where flies are known to land, or it can be suspended from the ceiling to capture flies looking for a quick place to alight during flight. Insecticides can also be effective for indoor fly control. As with all traps, be sure you’re using the right kind of chemical for the flies that are causing your problem.
- Fly Repellent: Look for a personal insect repellent product designed to repel flies, and follow the instructions very closely — especially when using the repellent on young children or pets.
- More DIY Tips and Ideas: Let houseplant soil dry out between waterings to prevent dampness that can attract flies as well as other insects. Keep fruit in the fridge and clean trash cans each week so odors don’t linger. Cleaning your drains regularly with special foam cleaners designed to remove scum and bacterial film is one of the best ways to get rid of drain flies yourself. Make a spray with essential oils and distilled water or vodka, then spray areas where flies like to gather. Try pungent-smelling oils like basil, clove or citrus scents. Planting basil can also help keep flies – and other insects – at bay.
Professional Pest Control for Flies
While DIY solutions can be an effective way to eliminate flies in some cases, often there comes a time when homemade options just don’t provide the results you’re looking for. And when it comes to flies and the diseases they can spread, you don’t want to waste time on ineffective methods. A licensed pest control expert can identify the places where flies may be gathering, breeding, or hibernating and devise a multi-pronged “attack” to keep populations under control. To get rid of house flies fast (and rid your home of other types of flies), calling a pest company can be the best option, and a top solution for preventing fly-borne diseases and health risks.