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The Fly

A man builds a machine that can teleport him from one room to another. His molecular DNA is broken down in one pod, and reassembled in another. Upon entering the first pod, a fly has also entered the pod unnoticed. The DNA of the fly is now mixed with the mans DNA and a hybrid fly-man is born out of the second pod he teleported to. 

This is the plot of the 80s movie The Fly. It is perhaps just science fiction, but outlines how a basic pest like the fly, can wreak havoc on sensitive science experiments and medical equipment. Truth is, flies, gnats and mosquitos are the biggest pests known to mankind. In the research and development of life saving vaccines and medicine, it is of utmost importance to have a sterile working environment. Great lengths are taken to isolate samples from ever coming into contact with the outside world. Without these precautions, life saving medicines would not ever be able to be produced. And as for our fictional fly-man, he meets his demise rather quickly, like many flies do.

 

The House Fly

 

       The most common and annoying pest of man undoubtedly is the house fly. An adult fly can lay up to a thousand eggs. There are over 90 thousand different species of flies.  Nothing can disrupt your zen of cooking a meal for your family more than the common house fly.  Or perhaps you are at a fancy restaurant, hailed by foodies and bloggers for the best bacon wrapped rib-eye steak this side of the Mississippi. You see a fly buzzing and zipping past you, only to land on your steak. You try in vain to swat, slap and smash this uninvited pest. But alas your efforts are futile. Not to mention your dining experience was fouled by one little fly. You think to yourself, “If I see one more fly, I’m out of here”.

So-what exactly happens when a fly lands on your food? Why is it so bad? To get a better understanding, let’s look at some of our most loathed pests in more detail. 

     

Beatior Quam Musca In Stercore

 

The house fly is a true insect. It belongs to the order of insects named Diptera. This name is from ancient Greece and means two wings. There are over 90 thousand different species of flies. The two wings on the house fly fold back and give it a triangular appearance and are transparent. Being a true insect, the common house fly has three body parts. The head, the thorax and the abdomen. Flies have a compound eye and are very large. They are divided into over 4000 individual facets or “lenses”. This mosaic vision gives the house fly incredible sight during day, and the night. In addition, between its compound eyes, flies have three simple eyes called oceli. Despite having this incredible vision, the house fly depends on its highly sensitive antenna for sensing odors it is attracted to. 

Flies have feet called pulvilli which enables them to stick to almost any surface. They can climb walls and walk upside down. These specialized feet also are what enables flies to transmit bacteria, germs and disease.

Flies are attracted to rotting and decaying organic matter. This would include not only rotting food, but also decaying animals and excrement as well. Thousands of tiny hairs on the fly would pick up bacteria from these items and can transfer them to your food. If that is not bad enough, flies do not have mouth parts for biting and chewing. Instead, they vomit up enzymes which break down the food and they suck it back up with a tube like snout called a proboscis. A most disgusting way to eat indeed. This feeding organ can be extended and retracted almost completely into the head. Disease, germs and parasites can attach to the lips of this feeding organ and be deposited on other surfaces. They can travel up to 20 miles, which means it is very possible for a fly to land and feed on a dead animal in the road somewhere, and then land on your birthday cake at home.

 

Drosophila Melanogaster 

 

       Drosophila Melanogaster is the common fruit fly. It can smell food from over a kilometer away (0.62 miles). Rotting fruit gives off a chemical smell that can be received by the flies attene fixed on the flies head. Acidic acids, decaying fungi and bacteria are picked up by the fly and once they hone in on the sent, it is nearly impossible to keep them at bay. 

       Fruit flies are about the size of a sesame seed. They can fit thru the smallest of gaps, cracks and screens in your home. The adult fruit fly has a stripped abdomen and large eyes. One female fruit fly can lay up to 100 eggs a day and hatch within 24 hours. The larval maggots tunnel under the fruit skin and feed off the microbes as the fruit rots. In a few days the hatch as fully grown fruit flies and start the cycle again. A home can go from zero fruit flies to a full blown infestation in 2 weeks.

       Swatting fruit flies is impossible as they have 270 degree vision. They can see you coming from the front, the side, and the back (just about every angle possible). They can calculate your angle of attack and escape with ease. They do all this in as little as 100 milliseconds. Fruit flies can even change directions in .01 of a second and flap their wings over 200 times per second. Trying to kill fruit flies by swatting them is truly fruitless.

If fruit flies become a problem in your kitchen, you can create a simple trap by filling a jar with apple cider vinegar. Cover the jar with plastic wrap and poke holes in it. Fruit flies will be attracted to the acidic vinegar and get them selves stuck in the jar. They will find a way in, but will not be able to get back out.

 

Phoridae

The Phorid Fly

 

       Phorid flies, also known as humpback flies, are a common problem in both commercial and residential kitchens. They have dark colored eyes and are often hovering over sinks and drains. About 1/8 of an inch long, they will feed and breed on decaying organic matter around moisture. The slime inside your your kitchen or bathroom plumbing is all they need. This is why they are most often seen hovering above kitchen and bathroom sinks. They are also found around floor drains, trash cans, potted plants and cat litter boxes. Plumbing lines should be checked regularly for leaks.

       Practicing good sanitation and keeping your plumbing lines clean is the best way to keep these pests away. There are biological microbial grease degraders that come in liquids and foams that naturally eat away at the microbial film that builds up on all drains and garbage disposals over time. In addition to keeping your drains clean, do not let food spoil on counter tops. Take trash out frequently and clean litter boxes daily. 

Psychodidae

Drain Flies

       Drain Flies look like small fuzzy moths and breed in dirty garbage disposal units, water “P” traps in plumbing lines and any other location with decaying organic matter. They are often called sewer flies, sewer gnats, filth flies or sink flies.

        The presence of drain flies could mean you have a plumbing leak or a moisture problem. Inspect for leaks regularly in kitchens and bathroom sinks. Homes built with a crawl space should be inspected for leaks also. A small drip every 10 minutes would build up over time potentially causing not only flies, but also many other insects into your home.

 

Commercial Kitchens and Restaurants

 

       Commercial kitchens spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in controlling pests in kitchens. Flies are a constant issue in all food preparation and food serving establishments. These annoying pests are directly attracted to the protein nutrients, which is in abundant supply. They tend to live off small areas that are not often cleaned or noticed. They can spread diseases like Samonella, Tuberculosis and bacteria that causes Cholera and Typhoid fever.

       When pest control professionals are dealing with flies in a residential or a commercial kitchen, they should know the difference between fruit flies, phorid flies and drain flies. Although they have similar breeding habits, their location could be vastly different meaning different treatment methods would be required. 

       Fruit flies have red eyes and have different feeding sight preferences compared to the dark-eyed phorid fly. For example, the red-eyed fruit fly prefers rotting produce while the dark-eyed fruit fly prefers the organic matter in drain lines, beer taps and soda stations. Good sanitation practices are needed in trying to control flies. Even the small areas on the bottom of chair legs could be a perfect breeding sight for small flies.

       With a good understanding of the most common flying pests in our kitchens today, we can eliminate many of the food born bacteria and germs they can transmit. If you’re having a problem with flies in your home or business, give Dave’s Pest Control a call.

 

Dan Coffey

dcoffey@davespestcontrol.com

 

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