September 2011
Featured Articles

Housefly Smarts

Why is it the common housefly, Musca domestica, has such a bad reputation even though it doesn’t bite or sting? We try plastic hanging bags of water, fly swatters, screen doors, ultraviolent lights, fans and anything else we can think of to keep them away — but should we? Can’t we all just get along? I mean, is there really any reason to worry about a few flies anyway?

One of our Extension Entomologists, Dr. Xing Ping Hu, said the reason we should keep flies away is because they live, breed, eat and just love filth! Because of this they are, themselves, "filthy" and carry pathogens and potential diseases. That’s probably not a newsflash for you. So the answer is, "No, we cannot just all get along!"


Sickeningly, the housefly prefers to eat and lay eggs in animal "poop" and other decaying organic matter. Their larvae, maggots, feed and live on moist organic matter. When the fly comes into your picnic area, or kitchen, after visiting the dog pen area, they contaminate your food by vomiting digestive juices on the food and then sucking it back up with their sponge-like mouth parts. Ewww! That’s gross.

I can remember several people in our tour group getting really sick after we visited a sandwich shop (which was swarming with flies) near the Dead Sea in Israel when I was there on a tour of the Holy Land. That was a bad part to an otherwise wonderful trip. I’m glad that part came near the end of the trip!

Dr. Hu said the most important step in controlling the housefly is to target the larval stage by eliminating organic matters in and around the home where the fly can feed and breed. Garbage should be kept inside sealed bags in covered cans and those cans should be kept as far away from the house as practical. Dr. Hu also reminds us to clean up other organic items, like animal poop, in a timely manner. She said to keep spoiled food cleaned up inside the home as well. As far as weapons to use against adult flies, Dr. Hu recommended the age-old fly swatter as a handy tool.

She also reminds us to patch holes in windows, screens, etc., and to seal all holes and cracks in the house to prevent insect entry. Other fly control products include ultraviolet light traps, sticky fly paper strips or ribbons, and electronic swatters.

What about using chemicals for fly control inside the home? Dr. Hu said this is, "Never a good idea." Pesticides should be used only as needed. Bait products, like Maxforce Granular Fly Bait, can be applied outdoors around dumpsters and garbage cans, and where decomposing organic matter is. If necessary, insecticides like pyrethins, Demon WP, Cyper WP, Cyonara, EcoSmart, etc., can be applied to outdoor surfaces where flies rest and discuss community happenings. Good places to target include the outside surfaces of barns, stables and houses, etc. Go get ’em!

Jerry A. Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent with The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, New & Nontraditional Programs division.