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Common types of flies

Flies are found in homes and businesses across the United States. They are a nuisance no matter where they are, and they love populated cities. Flies are a particular problem in cities such as PittsburghClevelandNew York and other large urban areas.

Different fly species are more common than others, like the house flyfruit flies, and drain flies. Some types of flies are only attracted to environments that are suited to their natural habits and lifecycles like the bluebottle flyflesh fly, and sand fly. Knowing about the habits, seasonality, and life cycle of different types of flies can help identify the most effective prevention and fly control methods.

Our Ehrlich Technicians are trained on all fly species and will be able to identify what type is infesting your home, what could be attracting them, and what control method will work the best to eliminate them. If you’re having problems with flies, contact an Ehrlich Technician today at 800-837-5520.


Biting midges (No-see-ums)

Biting midge flies, or no-see-ums, are a significant human pest and are found throughout the United States, primarily in coastal areas and farming operations. These small blood-sucking gnats are known to feed on warm-blooded vertebrates and are often confused with black flies because of their similar bites. Female midges are the ones who bite, needing the protein from blood to begin producing eggs. Biting midges will attack any kind of mammals such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and livestock. Their bite is out of proportion to their size, and the Native Americans in Maine very appropriately designated these tormentors as “no-see-ums”.

The natural habitats of no-see-ums and biting midges vary by species. These flies breed in coastal salt marshes, mud-caked flatlands, freshwater areas, and damp holes in trees. Breeding places are often in densely shaded areas at the edge of grass marshes. Their favorite locations are near decaying leaves that are protected from the heat of the sun. Adult midges prefer to lay their eggs in wet organic matter, such as mud around settling ponds on livestock operations, decaying leaf litter, manure, and other vegetation.

Biting midges and no-see-ums are extremely annoying, but none are known to transmit diseases to humans in the United States. A common observation upon experiencing a bite from this insect is that something is biting, but the person suffering cannot see what it is. While their bites can cause welts and intense itching, these small insects can also transmit diseases to animals. They have a much greater impact on non-humans, both as biting pests and vectors of disease agents. In North America, the most important disease agent transmitted by biting midges is the bluetongue virus, which causes serious diseases in sheep and cattle. Contact your local fly exterminator for assistance with no-see-ums or midges.

Key facts

Size: less than ⅛”
Characteristics: Grayish-black with a pigmented pattern on wings.
Legs: 6
Antennae: 6
Wings: Yes

Black fly

Black flies are small, blood-sucking insects, found in many parts of the United States and Canada. Common names for this pest include buffalo gnats and turkey gnats, and they are known to fly around people’s heads, occasionally getting into eyes and ears, as well as crawling into the hair. Only the females are blood feeders and will readily bite humans and animals. Black flies may sometimes occur in enormous numbers in the late spring and early summer, particularly in the more northern latitudes.

Black flies breed exclusively in running water, and larvae and pupae develop in flowing, typically non-polluted water, with a high level of dissolved oxygen. The immature stages of black flies develop in oxygenated water sources, therefore adults are usually associated with slow-moving streams, creeks, or rivers where the immature stages develop. Flowing water does not necessarily imply white water rapids, but water must be moving. Water in lakes and ponds that are not flowing is unsuitable for black fly development.

Black flies can be annoying biting pests, but none are known to transmit diseases to humans in the U. S.  The bites of black flies cause different reactions in humans, ranging from a small puncture wound where the original blood meal was taken to a swelling that can be the size of a golf ball. Reactions to black fly bites are collectively known as “black fly fever” and include headache, nausea, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Besides being a nuisance to humans, black flies can pose a threat to livestock. They are capable of transmitting a number of different disease agents to livestock, including protozoa and nematode worms, none of which cause disease in humans. If you are dealing with a black fly problem on your property, contact your local fly exterminators.

Key facts

Size: 1 to 5 mm
Characteristics: Black, with some gray and possibly reddish color.
Legs: 6
Antennae: Yes
Wings: Yes

Bluebottle fly

(Calliphora vomitoria)

Bluebottle flies (also known as the blow fly) get their name from their iridescent colors that resemble colored bottles. They can often be seen hovering around garbage cans and are attracted to dog feces and dead animals. The bluebottle fly is known to carry diseases such as typhoid, E. coli, tuberculosis, and many others.

The lifecycle of a bluebottle fly is pretty short. Eggs hatch in roughly 0–18 hrs, and the larva stage lasts 2-3 days. The pupae stage lasts around two weeks, and adults become mature in about two weeks, breeding in mostly meat derived substances or sometimes cheese.

Key facts

  • Size: Adults are ¼ " - ½ " in length
  • Color: Metallic blue
  • Habitat: Barnyards, pastures, pet feces, deceased bodies/animals, decaying food
  • Bite: Do not bite or sting humans or animals

Cluster fly

(Pollenia rudis)

Cluster flies, sometimes called attic flies, are commonly found in quiet, undisturbed parts of your home. They congregate in large numbers and require warm places to hibernate during the cold winter months. You may see a large group of cluster flies around a window in your attic, as they are attracted to the light on sunny winter days.

Cluster fly eggs are laid in the soil in late summer or early autumn. The larva develops in earthworms and they molt and pupate in the soil. The development time from egg to adult is about 27-39 days.

Key facts

  • Size: ¼” – ⅜” in length
  • Color: Dark grey-olive thorax clothed with crinkled golden-brown hairs
  • Habitat: In warmer months, they prefer grasslands and lots of sunlight. In colder months they hide in attics, cracks, crevices, and wall voids
  • Bite: Do not bite humans or animals

Deer fly

Deer flies and horse flies are large, heavy-bodied insects that are persistent pests of wildlife, livestock, and humans. Their blood-sucking habits also raise concerns about the possible transmission of disease agents. They are notorious pests of horses, mules, cattle, hogs, dogs, and other mammals, including humans. Deer flies, which commonly bite humans, are smaller with dark bands across the wings and colored eyes similar to those of horse flies. An attack by a few of these persistent flies can make outdoor work and recreation miserable.

Deer flies and horse flies can be found near aquatic habitats that support larval development. Most deer flies and horse flies are found in brushy or low-lying pasture areas near creeks, streams, or tanks that provide damp soils in which the immature stages develop. While they don’t typically enter buildings, deer flies can accidentally wander indoors from time to time. Houses or hotels with swimming pools could have more issues with the pest because shiny surfaces and quick movements attract deer flies to people.

Female deer flies and horse flies can and will bite people, and the painful bites may occur on any part of the body. The bite often results in visible bleeding wounds and general first aid-type skin creams may help to relieve the pain from bites. In rare instances, there may be allergic reactions involving hives and wheezing. There is evidence that a deer fly in the western U.S. is involved in the transmission of a bacterium that causes the disease tularemia, which is known as deer fly fever and rabbit fever. These flies are significant livestock pests with their painful and persistent biting behavior. Always contact your local fly exterminator for help with deer flies.

Key facts

  • Size: ½”
  • Characteristics: Long; yellow-brown to brownish-black with mottled wings.
  • Legs: 6
  • Antennae: Yes
  • Wings: Yes

Drain fly


Drain flies are also sometimes referred to as sewage flies and moth flies. Drain flies are very persistent and often associated with sewage beds, where larvae feed on sludge-like organic matter. Their wings are densely covered in hair and hold a tent-like shape over the body when at rest. Adult drain flies lay anywhere from 30-100 eggs, and they hatch in roughly 48 hours. Larvae take anywhere from 10–50 days to mature, while the pupae only take 1–3 days to mature. Adult drain flies live about two weeks.

Drain flies develop in muck or gelatinous material that accumulates in sewage disposal beds, septic tanks, moist compost, or dirty garbage containers. They may also emerge from drains of sinks or bathtubs, from tree holes, rain barrels, moist organic solids, or bird nests that have accumulations of fecal material. Drain flies gather, mate, and lay eggs in moisture or standing water. The slimy film that forms in sewers and drains is a favorite breeding spot. Inside structures, they are strongly attracted to light and will be found on glass windows, doors, lamps, and indoor lighting.

Drain flies do not bite people or animals or do damage to structures or plants. However, because these flies originate from filthy sources, they have the potential of being mechanical vectors of diseases. Populations of these insects can become a nuisance in homes, and their presence is almost always linked to a clogged drain. In residential homes, the most common breeding sites are bathroom drains. Drain flies are weak fliers and when encountered, they are often found crawling on walls and other surfaces.

Key facts

  • Size: 1/16” in length
  • Color: Tan colored body appears as grey
  • Habitat: Moist areas with organic matter - sinks, drains, and sewers; can also be found near compost piles and rotting logs
  • Bite: Do not bite humans or animals

Flesh fly

(Family - Sarcophagidae)

Flesh flies get their name because they plant their larvae in either spoiling meat or in the flesh of a decaying animal. They look similar to the house fly but are slightly larger. Flesh flies are found in both urban and suburban areas, but very rarely make appearances in houses or restaurants.

Flesh flies have a slightly longer lifecycle than other flies. Larvae feed for 3-14 days then move away to pupate in adjacent drier parts. They emerge as adults 10-15 days later, with the entire lifecycle lasting about 2-4 weeks.

Key facts

  • Size: ¼” - 9/16” in length
  • Color: Thorax is light grey with three dark longitudinal stripes; Abdomen is spotted with dark patches to give a checkerboard appearance
  • Habitat: Decaying wastes, excrement, human foods
  • Bite: Do not bite humans or animals

Fruit fly

(Drosophila species)

Unfortunately for home and business owners, fruit flies are very common. They are a huge pain and are present in homes, grocery stores, and restaurants. Fruit flies are often found infesting fruit or hovering around fermenting residues found in pubs, fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, and breweries. They are typically seen anywhere fruits and veggies sit out and spoil.

As you might expect, fruit flies breed in rotten fruit, unclean drains, and even cleaning utensils. The egg and larval stages last about eight days. Pupae will mature in about six days, and develop into adults in 7–30 days, where they live for 2–9 weeks.

Key facts

  • Size: Less than ⅛” in length
  • Color: Yellow-brown or mottled in color
  • Habitat: Fruit, vegetables, drains, garbage bins, garbage disposals, empty pop and beer cans
  • Bite: Do not bite humans or animals

Horse fly

(Family tabanidae)

Horse flies are a particular pest to horses and other mammals. They are very large flies with mouthparts that work like miniature knives, which they use to slash open skin with a scissor-like motion. Male horse flies are mainly pollen and nectar feeders and are most active during daylight hours, but female horse flies require a blood meal before they can reproduce. Relentless biting attacks by females can result in reduced weight gain in some animals. Eggs are laid in masses ranging from 100 to 1,000 eggs and hatch in 5–7 days. They spend the winter in the larval stage and pupate during the spring and early summer. The whole adult life cycle is 30 to 60 days.

Horse flies and deer flies can be found near aquatic habitats that support larval development. Most horse flies and deer flies are found in brushy or low-lying pasture areas near creeks, streams, or tanks that provide damp soils in which the immature stages develop. Natural environments include freshwater wetlands, saltwater marshes, and open areas within forests. They survive by burrowing down into the sand or gravel substrate of the water body they inhabit.

Female horse flies and deer flies can and will bite people, and the painful bites may occur on any part of the body. The bite often results in visible bleeding wounds and general first aid-type skin creams may help to relieve the pain from bites. In rare instances, there may be allergic reactions involving hives and wheezing. These flies are significant livestock pests with their painful and persistent biting behavior. Heavy attacks can lead to reductions in weight gains of beef cattle, and reduced milk yield in dairy cattle.

Key facts

  • Size: ⅜” - 1”  in length
  • Color: Black to dark brown with green or black eyes
  • Habitat: Suburban and rural areas near wooded areas and water
  • Bite: Bites animals and humans which usually leave skin red, raised, itchy, and sometimes a rash develops

House fly

(Musca domestica)

House flies are major carriers of disease and can infest all property types. The house fly is attracted to all types of food, including human food, pet food, and animal feed, and they also like food waste and feces. Indoors, the house fly can be found resting on walls, floors, or ceilings. Outdoors, they can be seen on plants, the ground, fences, compost heaps and garbage cans.

House flies breed in moist decaying vegetable matter. Their eggs are laid in batches of 120 to 150 and can hatch in 8–72 hours. Larvae can take 3–60 days to mature, while pupae matures in 3–28 days.

Key facts

  • Size: Adults are 3/16” – 5/16”  in length
  • Color: Grey thorax with four narrow stripes; buff or yellow-colored abdomen
  • Habitat: Decaying matter, human food, animal feces, garbage
  • Bite: Do not bite humans or animals

Phorid fly


The Phorid fly is usually mistaken for a fruit fly as they are both incredibly small. Phorid flies are commonly found wherever moisture exists and are most active during the warmer months. They are similar to drain flies and often cause clogged drains and damaged sewer lines.

Phorid flies have a relatively short life cycle. A female can lay 40 eggs in 12 hours, and larvae will feed for several days until it pupates. Adults can survive 1-2 months.

Key facts

  • Size: About ⅛” in length
  • Color: Black or yellowish-brown
  • Habitat: Decaying plant and animal matter, drains, garbage containers, bathrooms, and kitchens
  • Bite: Do not bite humans or animals, but can transmit diseases

Sand fly

(Spiriverpa Lunulata)

Sand flies are a common pest you might encounter when you’re at the beach at night with your feet in the sand. They also live on sandy riverbanks with an open habitat free of shading trees. Adult sand flies can be seen from April to September and they can transmit diseases, such as sand fly fever, through their bite.

Their eggs are laid in damp soil with organic matter or in the water and hatch in about two weeks. Larvae mature in about three weeks, and pupae can take one to two weeks to mature; Adults will typically emerge in the evenings.

Key facts

  • Size: Adults are ⅜”– almost ½” long
  • Color: Body has a pale grey color; eyes are bronze-brown; legs are dark reddish-brown
  • Habitat: Beaches, wetlands, creeks, rock crevices, rodent burrows
  • Bite: Females bite. typically during the evening and through the night

Dealing with fly infestations

Flies are a very common pest and infestations should not be taken lightly. An Ehrlich specialist can help you get rid of flies at your home or business. Your specialist will find out what type of fly is invading your home, implement a control method to fix the problem, and provide you with tips to prevent the flies from returning. Control methods can depend on your specific situation but may include bioremediation, baiting and application of pest control product.

Contact Ehrlich for fly control today at 800-837-5520.

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