I hesitate to eat food that a fly lands on. Are most people that way? Flies seem to nonchalantly buzz around during the day without a care in the world. We use a swatter to attack or chase them away - and that’s that. There’s a lot more to flies than you might imagine. Funny, flies love our food, but they don’t even have teeth.

Flies may be filthy pests, but they’re interesting insects once you get to know them. Besides, knowing a little about flies makes it easier for you to keep them under control. You will also discover their potential as vectors.

Solutions

Destroy Fly Larvae

Stop flies from populating. Destroy fly larvae (maggots) while they are still developing. This is the first and most important step to reduce the fly population. One of the simplest ways is to pour boiling water over maggots. This method will eliminate them instantly. Another way is to simply use an ant and roach pesticide. Those products contain an active ingredient known to effectively work on fly larvae. Use products with caution and as directed by the manufacturer. It’s best to ask sales personnel at a home improvement store for recommendations.

Eliminate Breeding Sources

Create an environment where flies have fewer places to breed. Get rid of standing water in buckets, tin cans, drainage trays, and in other containers that water might accumulate. Avoid over-watering plants that store excess water like bromeliads. You want to pick fruits just before they ripen and remove any that may have fallen. Dispose of pet feces in plastic trash bags and fasten the top. Take out household trash daily and ensure bags are sealed when disposing of in bins. Rinse recyclables thoroughly before setting them aside. Hang mops upside down to dry.

Secure Entry Points

Prevent flies from entering your dwelling. Make sure doors are closed, especially while you’re cooking. You could replace the hinge on your door with a self-closing hinge. That’s a handy hardware to ensure your doors stay closed. Check for any punctures in screens where a fly might enter. Silicone adhesives work well for small splits. Screen repair tapes and patches provide better coverage for large tears. Expanding foam or caulking can be used to fill in gaps around window and door casings.

Repairing Tears in Window Screens

Prevent flies from entering your home. Learn how to repair holes and tears in window screens.

Remedies

  • Mix some apple liquid soap and water in a bowl. Leave out for flies.
  • Place slices of cucumber around areas that attract flies.
  • Insert some cloves in half of an apple. Leave in an area where flies gather.
  • Leave camphor tablets around the house.
  • Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to a half cup of wine. Set outside to lure flies.
  • Fill a plastic bag with water and fasten securely. Hang the bag at any entrance.
  • Pour some vinegar into a jar. Add a few drops of dishwashing soap then mix thoroughly. Cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap. Use a rubber band to fasten. Make holes at the top big enough for flies to enter. Place at the desired location.
cucumber

Want to know more about Flies?

In the taxonomy system, flies belong to a group called Diptera. Flies of this group only have one pair of wings and are considered “true flies.” Most winged insects are born with two pairs. True flies have modified hind wings that help them balance while flying. You can tell when one of their “balancers” is missing. Their flight pattern looks like they had one too many to drink. By the way, the buzzing sound you hear comes from their wings rapidly beating together. Not all flies make that sound though.

True flies are skillful creatures. Observe a fly’s behavior the next time you one is sitting on your window, ceiling, or other smooth surfaces. You’ll only be able to see this with a microscope, but under the fly’s feet is a sack coated with tiny hairs. The hairs secrete an oily substance, which makes the fly adhere to the window. Isn’t that interesting? Yeah, there’s more to flies than just buzzing around and tasting your food. The cute part is that they will have trouble unsticking themselves - the harder they’re stuck to the surface.

Remember that flies have no teeth? You could say flies live on a liquid diet. These unique creatures possess external mouthparts that they use to liquify their foods. I hope you’re not having lunch while reading this. Flies regurgitate on the food they’re about to eat (could be yours). Their digestive juices break down the food into smaller portions. Flies with straw-like mouthparts suck up the liquid food, while other flies absorb the liquids like a sponge. Flies can actually taste some of the same flavors that we do. Yet, they don’t have any taste buds. What flies have are taste receptors covering their entire body, including the legs. When their legs sense something delicious, a fly will taste the food again with its mouth before eating.

Get to know them

Flies carry and transmit disease-causing viruses, the same way mosquitoes do. Reports reveal that flies can also carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Flies in Hawaii cover quite a broad range extending to all the Hawaiian islands. There are four common species that you might be familiar with. The Dog Dung and House fly are considered significantly important to public health here.  Another species, the Hawaiian Picture-wing fly, receives protection from The Endangered Species Act. Isn’t that something...for a fly? Of course, we all know the common Fruit fly, that’s been controlled under federal quarantine for being a nuisance and causing so much trouble.

Dog Dung Fly

The dog dung fly is the most infectious. They are sometimes called the “filthy” flies. You’ll recognize this fly by its grayish-brown body and two black stripes running across the back. They are rarely found in the home. Dog dung flies hang around garbage bins or on excrement laying on the ground. These flies are also attracted to open sores and wounds. They breed on dog and cat feces and feed on human food and garbage. Warm climates speed up their growth. In a short period, the amount of dog dung flies can increase in the thousands. An abundance of dog dun flies can be traced to poor sanitation or waste material from pets.

I wonder how many of you are aware of this fly’s potential. Dog dung flies can transmit viruses, bacteria, and parasites to people and animals. Their sticky feet pick up all kinds of harmful bacteria while walking and feeding on the contaminated matter. Virus transmitted this way is slim, but we are still at risk when a fly lands on our food. The risk is bigger when a fly regurgitates on your meal. Ewww...that’s pretty gross! Even worse is that a fly’s vomit consists of its last meal (don’t know whose doo-doo it digested). This makes us even more susceptible to diseases including E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis A, and rotavirus.

House fly

The house fly is the most widespread. Its hairy body is grey with four dark stripes down the middle. Wings are clear with a yellow shade at the edges. Their eyes are brown though the female’s are spaced wider apart. In warm climates, house flies breed throughout the entire year. Their breeding spots include trash cans, animal waste, manure, and decaying vegetables. They feed on anything that’s moist, including human and pet food, garbage, and discharges from wounds and sores. House flies can fly several miles away from their breeding grounds, picking up all kinds of bacteria as they roam. House flies carry a large number of diseases including cholera and tuberculosis.

Fruit Fly

Fruit flies are serious pests and contaminators of food. A fruit fly can be recognized by its tan and black body. (the rear portion). These flies are sometimes referred to as the “vinegar flies” and are distinguished by its bent dorsal. They loiter around and breed in drains, garbage disposals, empty bottles, and trash cans. These species mostly feed on ripened or fermented fruits. They are often seen in restaurants, supermarkets, and homes. Fruit flies also favor fermented liquids like alcoholic beverages. They lay their eggs in the tissues of fruits and vegetables. Upon hatching, the larvae feed on the fruit and cause internal damage.

Fruit flies immensely impact the agriculture industry here and on the mainland. According to Hawaii’s Invasive Species Council, “Hawaii is the only state under a full federal fruit fly quarantine; the presence of fruit flies in Hawaii is a threat to U.S. mainland agriculture and a major bottleneck to the expansion of diversified agriculture in the state, for local as well as export sales."

Hawaiian picture-wing

The Hawaiian picture-wing fly is the most remarkable. These native species are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Their evolutionary origin dates back millions of years and is incomparable to any creature in the animal world. These flies are also priceless in scientific studies of diseases like cancer. Hawaiian picture-wing fly got its name from the dark, detailed markings on its translucent wings. They are also referred to as the “birds of paradise” for their distinctive wing pattern and unusual mating rituals. The Hawaiian picture-wing fly likes to feed on decaying tree bark and some native plants. With a threatened habitat and the loss of host plants, the population of Hawaiian picture-wing flies continues to decline.