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The Essential Guide to Flies

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A common villain of summer picnics and backyard barbecues, flies can be quite the nuisance. From house flies to fruit flies, no one likes to see any type of fly indoors. This obnoxious pest is often associated with filth, indicating that an environment with flies is dirty. For industries such as food service or hospitality, having a fly problem can be a significant threat to a company’s reputation. Luckily, the fly control experts at Ehrlich are here to combat fly problems for you. Whether your property is residential or commercial, if you have a fly problem, Ehrlich can help. Contact us today and wave goodbye to flies for good.

Though flies are just about everywhere, there is much that people don’t know about them. In this article, we set out to answer all of the questions about flies that we get most often.

Click any of the questions below to be taken to its answer.

Generic Fly Questions

Cluster Flies

Drain Flies

Fruit Flies

Horse Flies

House Flies

Spotted Lanternflies

Tsetse Flies

Generic Fly Questions

How long do flies live?

Flies only live for about 15-25 days depending on environmental conditions. Unfortunately, there are plenty more left behind when they die.

What does a fly eat?

There are many different species of flies that all feed on various things. However, the most common flies feed on anything from garbage and feces to sweet substances and food crumbs.

How do I get rid of flies?

The best way to get rid of flies is to enlist the help of a pest control professional. Flies can be very difficult to get rid of and pest specialists have the tools and knowledge to do so in the most effective and timely manner. That being said, there are some things that you can do to help control fly populations, and they are as follows:

  • Keep windows and doors closed
  • Install screens in windows
  • Cover any food left out
  • Clean up food/liquid spills as soon as they occur
  • Seal garbage cans tightly
  • Pick up pet feces

How do I get rid of flies outside?

Due to rapid breeding rates, flies can be difficult to control in such an expansive environment as the outdoors. Try planting some of these in your garden to help repel flies:

  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Bay leaf
  • Lavender
  • Nasturtium

Do homemade fly traps work?

There are many do-it-yourself fly trap solutions out there, but they tend to be largely ineffective. The biggest problem with fly infestations is the location and elimination of breeding sites, one that homemade fly traps does not solve. Your best line of defense against flies is to call in the experts.

What type of flies bite?

Fortunately, not all types of flies bite, but the ones that do can leave behind a nasty mark. Here are 5 of the most common.

  1. Deer Fly – Deer flies use their mouthparts to cut into their prey and drink its blood. The fly’s saliva has anti-coagulants in it that prevent the blood from clotting. The bite may leave behind a painful welt or even something more severe in the case of an allergic reaction.
  2. Horse fly – Horse flies bite in a similar manner to deer flies, but unlike the deer fly, they are not significant disease vectors.
  3. Stable fly – Humans are mostly safe from this type of fly. Stable flies are primarily a problem for cattle and horses, congregating on their legs and stomachs. In the case of smaller animals such as dogs or goats, stable flies may feed near the ears. These flies are incredibly persistent, unphased by swatting and stomping. The bites rarely cause irritation or allergic reactions, but the flies themselves can be quite annoying.
  4. Black fly – Depending on the person, reactions to black fly bites can vary significantly. Some may experience only a small puncture wound, while the bite site could swell to the size of a golf ball on others. Within the United States, this fly is not known to transmit diseases to humans.
  5. Biting midge/sand fly – When they’re hungry, biting midges do not often go after humans, but instead feed on plant nectar. Females do require a protein source for egg production, but they usually get this from other small insects. If they do bite humans, the bite may cause a reaction, but sand flies are not known to transmit disease. Males do not bite at all.

Why are there so many flies in my house?

The reproduction rate of a fly is quite exceptional. An adult female can lay hundreds of eggs that then develop into adults themselves in a matter of a few days. If you have ripped window screens, deteriorating weatherstripping, or even if you have left a window or door open for any period of time, flies can easily find their way in. Once flies get into your home, they will reproduce, and fast.

What purpose do flies serve?

Despite how annoying they can be, flies do serve a few purposes. Some fly species help with pollination. Others serve as a food source for fish, birds, and other types of insects. Lastly and most importantly, flies are natural decomposers. They help to break down plants, animals, and other organic materials.

Cluster Flies

Essential Guide to Flies Ehrlich Pest ControlWhat are cluster flies?

“Cluster fly” is a generic name for a group of various insects within the Pollenia genus. Cluster flies resemble house flies, but are named for their propensity to “cluster” together while overwintering. They’re black with reddish eyes and about 7mm in length. The thorax, or midsection, of a cluster fly is covered in tiny hairs.

How long do cluster flies live?

Cluster flies live for anywhere from 2 weeks to a little over a month.

How do I get rid of cluster flies?

These pests don’t put up much of a fight. As sluggish insects, they can easily be swatted. To keep cluster flies out, it is important to seal up any windows, doors, cracks, siding, or other places that could allow for entry.

Why are there cluster flies in my house?

Cluster flies often come into houses looking for somewhere to overwinter or “hibernate” during fall and winter months. In search of a warm environment, they will sometimes enter walls and attics.

Where are cluster flies coming from?

As mentioned above, cluster flies usually enter homes in search of somewhere warm to spend the winter months. They will find even the smallest space through which to crawl to a warm oasis. During warmer months, cluster flies live outdoors and lay their eggs in the soil. Be sure to inspect baseboards, window/door trim, and the edges of lights and exhaust fans in ceilings to identify potential entry points.

Drain Flies

What are drain flies?

Drain flies, small insects often found in bathrooms and kitchens, are considered “true flies” (due to their single pair of wings) of the order Diptera. You may have heard them called other names such as sink flies, moth flies, or sewer gnats.

What do drain flies look like?

Drain flies are quite small and the way they carry their wings out to the sides is much like the way moths do. The head of a drain fly is covered in small hairs that liken this pest to a moth. Drain flies are grayish in color.

Essential Guide to Flies Ehrlich Pest Control

What causes drain flies?

Drain flies develop and live in stagnant water, so they often appear when a space has not been inhabited for an extended period of time. For example, drain flies are sometimes waiting for you in your bathroom when you return from a vacation. When regular activity resumes and water moves through pipes once again, the flies are ordinarily eliminated naturally. In some cases, a permanent breeding site has been established and more extreme elimination solutions must be implemented. Drain flies can also develop outdoors and enter homes through open windows and doors.

What do drain fly larvae look like and where can they be found?

Drain fly larvae are about ⅜ of in inch in length and are wormlike in that they have no legs. Like adult drain flies, they are a grayish color. The larvae mature in 9-15 days and usually live in drains or near other sources of moist, organic materials as this is what they eat. Other areas where drain fly larvae are commonly found include places like garbage receptacles, rain barrels, and compost containers.

How long do drain flies live?

The lifespan of a drain fly is not long. The adults live for only about 20 days.

How do I get rid of drain flies?

Like with other types of flies, there are various do-it-yourself products that claim to be effective in getting rid of drain flies. But in addition to the difficulty in eliminating breeding sites, it can be dangerous to utilize these chemicals in areas, such as kitchens, where food is prepared. The best way to get rid of drain flies is to call in the professionals at Ehrlich Pest Control. Our pest specialists will be able to determine which treatment strategy will be most effective and safe for your property. To reduce the chance of getting a drain fly infestation, make sure to clear out any potential clog sites so that water is flowing freely through your pipes and matter is not collecting within them.

Are drain flies harmful?

More than anything else, drain flies are a nuisance pest. They do not cause harm or danger but are still not a welcomed guest in a home or business.

Do drain flies bite?

Drain flies do not bite humans.

Why are there drain flies in my bathroom?

Bathrooms are a very common habitat for drain flies. Drains are one of their favorite places to breed and develop, and there are usually at least 1 or 2 of those in a bathroom. Areas rich in moist, organic material are very attractive to drain flies. The larvae feed on bacteria and fungi within the “sludge” found inside drains.

Fruit Flies

Where do fruit flies come from?

Most often, fruit flies find their way into your home or facility by hitching a ride on fruits and vegetables from the “outside world.” Whether they’re from the grocery store or your garden, fruits and vegetables can easily host these pests, especially in larval stages, without you knowing until it’s too late. Once fruit flies get inside, reproduction begins and all of the sudden, you have a fruit fly infestation.

What attracts fruit flies?

As their name suggests, fruit flies are incredibly attracted to fruit, especially of the fermenting persuasion. They also enjoy ripening vegetables or really any leftover scraps of food that end up in drains or in the garbage. Some of their favorite foods are as follows:

  • Liquids – beer, wine, vinegar
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Sugary substances – candy

Where are fruit fly eggs laid?

When adult fruit flies lay eggs, they don’t waste time with small batches. Fruit flies lay approximately 500 eggs that hatch in around 30 hours. Eggs are often laid near the surface of fruits, in decaying food, or even near an imperfectly-sealed container of these types of materials.

How do I get rid of fruit flies?

The key to getting rid of fruit flies is elimination of the breeding site. Until this is done, the fruit flies will stick around. These pests are stubborn, so it is very difficult to properly eliminate them without the help of a pest control professional. Your Ehrlich pest specialist will be able to locate the breeding site and eliminate your fruit fly problem with methods that do not threaten the health and safety of those that inhabit your property.

What is the fruit fly lifespan?

Fruit flies live for only 8-10 days, but because the reproduction rate is so rapid, it can be difficult to tell that any are missing.

Do fruit flies bite?

Human blood is not enticing to fruit flies, so they have no interest in biting us. They much prefer fermenting fruit and vegetables. What’s more, they don’t even have biting mouthparts, so they couldn’t bite us even if they wanted to.

Does apple cider vinegar attract fruit flies?

As you can probably suspect from its inclusion in many do-it-yourself fruit fly trap recipes, apple cider vinegar is very attractive to fruit flies. Its pungent smell makes them come running…or flying.

Essential Guide to Flies Ehrlich Pest ControlDo fruit fly traps work?

One of the most common over-the-counter fly traps is the fruit fly trap. There are two main kinds: sticky traps and vinegar traps. Sticky traps are exactly what they sound like. Their sticky surface traps unsuspecting fruit flies that accidentally get caught. These traps are largely ineffective, as they do nothing to control the reproduction if the eggs have already been laid. In reality, fruit flies reproduce far too quickly for sticky traps to work efficiently. Vinegar traps entice fruit flies to enter with their scent and then inevitably, the pests cannot get out. But again, these traps do little to control the rapid reproduction. Professional fruit fly control is the most effective elimination strategy.

Why are there fruit flies in my bathroom?

Though you likely don’t have fruit sitting out in your bathroom, you still may find fruit flies in there. This is likely because they are attracted to sweet-smelling products such as colognes and soaps that are used in bathrooms.

Are fruit flies and gnats the same?

Gnats and fruit flies are not the same. To a passive onlooker, they can appear similar, but if you look closely, the two are not alike at all. Fruit flies have large, red eyes while gnats’ eyes are so small that you can barely see them. Also, fruit flies can be anywhere from tan to black in color, whereas gnats are usually dark gray to black. Lastly, you probably won’t find gnats around rotting fruit. These tiny insects much prefer soil organic matter.

How do I prevent fruit flies?

To prevent fruit flies, ensure that all containers holding fruits, vegetables, sugary liquids, or alcohol are tightly sealed. In bars and restaurants, it is especially important to cover liquor bottles when they are not in use so that fruit flies do not find their way in. You can also reduce mesh size, where applicable, to prevent fruit fly entry.

Horse Flies

Essential Guide to Flies Ehrlich Pest ControlWhat does a horse fly look like?

Horse flies are quite large, at 10-30mm in length. These biting insects are dark gray or black in color and their eyes often have horizontal stripes across them.

What attracts horse flies?

Horse flies are attracted to carbon dioxide and warmth, both of which they find in humans. They are also attracted to movement and shiny surfaces. This is why they can often be found near pools and lakes in which people are swimming.

Why do horse flies bite?

Female horse flies bite because they require the protein from a blood meal in order to lay eggs.

What happens if a horse fly bites me?

A female horse fly can be pretty vicious when it comes to biting its host. Male horse flies feed only on nectar and are no threat to humans. Female horse flies will slice open the host’s skin to feed on its blood. Their saliva, used as an anticoagulant, can cause an allergic reaction in humans, but the irritation will likely go away within a couple of days. The bites can be incredibly itchy, but be cautious, as scratching the bites can lead to secondary infection. In the case of more severe allergic reactions, contact a physician immediately.

How do I get rid of horse flies?

Because adult horse flies can travel a great distance and do not usually reuse the same surfaces, it is fairly impractical to attempt to control horse flies outdoors. If you are going to be in an outdoor environment in which there are horse flies present, you can reduce the chance of a bite by wearing light-colored clothing and insect repellent. To keep them out of your home, be sure to seal up any potential points of entry such as cracks in screens or siding and broken weatherstripping.

House Flies

How long do house flies live?

You may have heard that flies live for only 24 hours, but that’s actually not true. Though their lifecycle is fairly short, it’s not quite that short. House flies actually live for somewhere between 2 weeks to a month.

Essential Guide to Flies Ehrlich Pest ControlWhat is the house fly life cycle?

Adult female house flies lay eggs within moist materials in multiple clusters of 20-50, totaling about 75-150 in each batch. Within her lifetime, the female will probably lay 5-6 batches. This means that one adult female fly could lay as many as 900 eggs in her short lifetime. That’s a lot of flies! Eggs hatch in 8-20 hours and within the following week, they will go through 3 instars as larvae. It will then take another 3-4 days for the fully grown larvae to pupate. Each summer, there may be as many as 10-12 new generations of house flies.

How do I get rid of house flies?

House flies can be very persistent, but there are some things you can do make your space less attractive to these filthy pests.

  • Clean up food/liquid spills and remains – house flies are always looking for something to eat
  • Clean up after pets – house flies are attracted to pet food and will even eat your pet’s feces
  • Seal garbage tightly – the odors and decaying materials inside will attract house flies

Do house flies bite?

House flies do not bite. They have spongelike mouthparts, allowing them to only feed on liquids.

Do house flies transmit disease?

Because house flies are not picky when it comes to their food sources, they’ve shown to carry more than 100 different disease-causing pathogens. The worst part about this is that house flies regurgitate and excrete every time they land to rest. In addition to the pathogens that they carry on their exteriors (due to their propensity to land on garbage, animal feces, and other disgusting places), they carry these pathogens in their own vomit and feces. Diseases that have been tied to house flies include but are not limited to cholera, diarrhea, salmonellosis, typhoid fever, and dysentery.

Why do house flies rub their front legs together?

You’ve probably seen house flies rub their front legs together, but have you ever wondered why they do that? As we’ve said, house flies are fairly filthy creatures. They rub their legs together to clean them off so that they can fly with greater precision.

Spotted Lanternflies

What do spotted lanternflies look like?

Spotted lanternflies are so named for their spotted wings. At about an inch long, these flies are primarily yellow and black with patches of red and a white band on the hind wings.

Essential Guide to Flies Ehrlich Pest Control
Photo credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

What do spotted lanternfly eggs look like?

Female spotted lanternflies lay eggs in masses of 30-50 eggs that initially appear coated in a white-colored substance. The masses are organized into vertical rows. Over time, this material begins to resemble a dry, gray mud. There is only one spotted lanternfly generation per year, and they overwinter as eggs.

Do spotted lanternflies bite?

Spotted lanternflies traditionally do not bite humans. Instead, they feed on the stems and leaves of plants, sometimes leaving behind significant damage.

Do spotted lanternflies cause damage?

Spotted lanternflies can do damage to their host plant. This pest often coats the plant with its sugary secretions which later causes mold growth. Spotted lanternflies leave behind “wounds” in the host plant that ooze sap, in turn attracting other pests. Additionally, when these insects are present, the host plant sometimes gives off what has been described as a “fermented odor.”

Tsetse Flies

How do you pronounce “tsetse fly?”

Tsetse fly is pronounced [tset-see flie].

What is a tsetse fly?

Tsetse flies are blood-feeders. These fast-moving insects transmit a number of pathogens and are the sole vectors of Trypanosomiasis, or African Sleeping Sickness, in humans.

Where does the tsetse fly live?

Luckily for those of us in the United States, tsetse flies are currently only found in sub Saharan Africa. If you’re planning international travel, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travelers’ Health page for what you should know about known disease threats in your destination country.

Essential Guide to Flies Ehrlich Pest ControlWhat does a tsetse fly look like?

Tsetse flies look quite a bit like house flies, but the way they hold their wings can help distinguish the two types. Tsetse flies fold their wings one over the other instead of holding them side by side like the house fly does. Additionally, tsetse flies have a lengthy proboscis (mouthpart) extending from their head that is absent in house flies.

What happens if I get bitten by a tsetse fly?

Both female and male tsetse flies bite, as they feed only on blood. Their bite is painful and may leave behind red bumps or ulcers at the bite site. If bitten by a tsetse fly, it is very important that you watch for signs and symptoms of African Sleeping Sickness as described in the following section.

Do tsetse flies transmit disease?

As discussed above, tsetse flies are the sole vector of African trypanosomiasis. There are two main types of this disease: West African and East African.

West African trypanosomiasis begins with a swelling skin legion, spreading to swollen cervical lymph nodes. If untreated, the parasite soon enters the central nervous system, sending the infected individual into a stupor (thus the “sleeping sickness) and eventual death.

East African trypanosomiasis attacks the circulatory system instead of the nervous system, beginning with a fever, dizziness, and a headache. Early on, the infected individual may experience heart problems such as arrhythmia. The interaction of the body’s immune response and the parasite begins to kill off blood cells and damage the organs. From here, the parasite enters the central nervous system and the disease progresses like West African trypanosomiasis, albeit more rapidly.

No matter what kind of fly is causing a problem for you, Ehrlich Pest Control can take care of it. Our fly control specialists are the best in the business. Using methods that you can depend on, Ehrlich will help you get rid of flies and get back to enjoying life pest-free. Send us a message or give us a call today.

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Ashley Smith

Ashley is a Digital Content Manager with Rentokil. She loves drinking coffee and spending time with her dogs.

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