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Common name: House Fly
scientific name: Musca domestica Linnaeus (Insecta: Diptera: Muscidae)

Distribution - Life Cycle - Damage - Management

Image: House Fly Female house flies live for three or four weeks and lay batches of 75 to 100 small, white, oval eggs, usually in garbage, but also in manure and decaying vegetation. House flies can fly up to 20 miles, although they are found primarily within two miles of the larval food site. When feeding, they regurgitate liquid from the stomach to dissolve food, then use their sponging mouthparts to suck it up.
House Flies leave fecal spots, or "specks," where they have walked, and in this way may transfer disease organisms to humans and animals. In rural areas, house flies can be a nuisance when they gather on the outside walls of homes and buildings on summer evenings.


The house fly, Musca domestica L. is a well-known cosmopolitan pest of both farm and home. This species is always found in association with humans or activities of humans. This is the most common species found on pig and poultry farms and horse stables. Not only are they a nuisance, but they also can transport disease-causing organisms. Excessive fly populations are obnoxious to farm workers, and when there are nearby human habitations a public health problem is possible.

More than 100 pathogens associated with the house fly may cause disease in humans and animals, including typhoid, cholera, bacillary dysentery, tuberculosis, anthrax ophthalmia and infantile diarrhea, as well as parasitic worms. Pathogenic organisms are picked up by flies from refuse, sewage and other sources, and then transferred on their mouthparts and other body parts, through their vomit, faeces and contaminated external body parts to human and animal food.

Life Cycle

The housefly metamorphosises through these stages: egg to larva or maggot to pupal and finally to adult. The house fly overwinters in either the larval or pupal stage under manure or rubbish piles or in other protected locations. Warm summer conditions are generally optimum for the development of the house fly, and it can complete its life cycle in as little as seven to ten days, and as many as 10 to 12 generations may occur in one summer.

Image: House fly life cycle Life Cycle

Egg: The white eggs, about 1.2 mm in length, are laid singly but pile up in small masses. Each female fly can lay up to 500 eggs in several batches of about 75 to 150 eggs, each over a three to four day period. The number of eggs produced is a function of female size, which is principally a result of larval nutrition.

Image: House fly eggs Eggs

Larva: The mature larva is 3 to 9 mm long, typical creamy whitish in color, cylindrical but tapering toward the head. The head contains one pair of dark hooks. The posterior spiracles are slightly raised and the spiracular openings are sinuous slits which are completely surrounded by an oval black border. The legless maggots emerge from the eggs in warm weather within eight to 20 hours, and they immediately feed on and develop in the material where the eggs were laid. The full-grown maggots have a greasy, cream-colored appearance and are 8 to 12 mm long. The larvae go through three instars. When the maggots are full-grown, they crawl up to 50 feet to a dried, cool place near breeding material and transform to the pupal stage. High manure moisture favors the survival of house fly larvae.

Pupa: The pupae are dark brown and 8 mm long. The pupal stage is passed in a pupal case formed from the last larval skin which varies in color from yellow, red, brown, to black as the pupa ages. The emerging fly escapes from the pupal case through the use of an alternately swelling and shrinking sac, called the ptilinum, on the front of its head which it uses like a pneumatic hammer.

Image: House Fly Pupae pupation cycle

Adult: The house fly is 6 to 7 mm long, with the female usually larger than the male. The eyes are reddish and the mouth parts are sponging. The thorax bears four narrow black stripes and there is a sharp upward bend in the fourth longitudinal wing vein. The abdomen is gray or yellowish with dark midline and irregular dark markings on the sides. The underside of the male is yellowish. The sexes can be readily separated by noting the space between the eyes, which in females is almost twice as broad as in males.

Image: Small picture of a house fly adult

Adults usually live 15 to 25 days. The potential reproductive capacity of flies is tremendous, but fortunately can never be realized. It has been stated that a pair of flies beginning operations in April may be producers, if all were to live, of 191,010,000,000,000,000,000, flies by August.

Adults suck liquids containing sweet or decaying substances. Larvae feed on moist food rich in organic matter. Although they are attracted to a variety of food material, house flies have mouth parts which allow them to ingest only liquid materials. Solid materials are liquified by means of regurgitated saliva.

Flies are inactive at night, with ceilings, beams and overhead wires within buildings, trees, and shrubs, various kinds of outdoor wires, and grasses used as overnight resting sites. In poultry farms, the outdoor aggregations of flies at night are found mainly in the branches, and shrubs, whereas almost all of the indoor populations can be aggregated in the ceiling area of poultry houses.


Flies commonly develop in large numbers in poultry manure under caged hens, and this is a serious problem requiring control. The control of house fly is vital to human health and comfort in many areas of the world. The most important damage related with this insect is the annoyance and the indirect damage produced by the potential transmission of more than 100 pathogens associated with this fly.


The more common control measures involved with the control of house flies are sanitation, use of fly killers and traps, fly screens and insecticides, but in some instances integrated fly control has been implemented. The use of biological control in fly management is still at a relatively early stage.

Sanitation or Cultural Control: Good sanitation is the basic step in all fly management. Food and materials on which the flies can lay their eggs must be removed, destroyed as a breeding medium, or isolated from the egg-laying adult. 



Since the house fly can complete its life cycle in as little as seven days, removal of wet manure at least twice a week is necessary to break the breeding cycle. Wet straw should not be allowed to pile up in or near buildings. Since straw is one of the best fly breeding materials, it is not recommended as animal bedding. Spilled animal feed should not be allowed to accumulate but should be cleaned up two times a week. Ordinarily, fly control from 1 to 2 km around a farm building will prevent flies from entering it.



Control should be aimed in two directions: the breeding site and in the house. Elimination of breeding areas is necessary for good management. Dustbins and vehicles carrying refuse should have tight-fitting lids and be cleaned regularly. Dry rubbish should be placed in plastic refuse sacks and sealed up. All rubbish containers should be located as far from building entrances as possible. Plain boiling water is an excellent (and inexpensive) way to kill house fly maggots in rubbish bins. Fly killers, traps, and fly screens are the most efficient methods for adult control. Fly swatters and aerosols can also be used but require regular and persistent effort by householders. Chemical residue of aerosols also needs to be considered, especially near food and food preparation areas.


Waste Disposal Sites

Refuse should be deposited onto the same area as inorganic wastes to deteriorate the capacity of breeding resources, or the disposed refuse should be covered with soil or other inorganic wastes (15 cm thickness) at regular intervals.

Traps: Fly traps may be useful in some fly control programs if enough traps are used, if they are placed correctly, and if they are used both indoors and outdoors. House flies are attracted to white surfaces and to baits that give off odours. Indoors, ultraviolet fly killers collect the flies on glue paper or kill them with an electrocuting grid. One fly killer or trap should be placed at every 9 metres (30 feet) of wall inside buildings, but not placed over or within 1.5 metres (5 feet) of food preparation areas. Recommended placement areas outdoors include near building entrances, in alleyways, beneath trees, and around animal sleeping areas and manure piles. Openings to buildings should be tightly screened with fly screens, thereby denying entrance to flies.

Biological Control: With increasing incidence of insecticide resistant house fly populations, rising costs of insecticides and a growing public concern about actual or potential problems associated with insecticides, interest in alternative house fly control strategies has increased.

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