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House Fly Control

- Control at the source! -

Summary: House flies, and other "filth flies", breed in garbage, excrement, manure, rotting meat and vegetable compost. Controlling or eliminating the source is the best way to get rid of these flies without using insecticides. New methods use "fly predators", which are actually parasitic wasps.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

House fly breeding sites

House flies, Musca domestica (right), are the most common nuisance flies around homes. There are, however, a number of other similar species that may become a problem as well. The little house fly, Fannia spp., the stable fly, Stomoxys calcitrans, and the cluster fly, Pollenia rudis, can all become a nuisance under some circumstances. All but the cluster fly breed in compost, manure, excrement or garbage.

House flies, sometimes called manure flies, breed in all types of animal excrement (manure), rotting meat and vegetable matter. They are most often associated with barns, stables, kennels -- anywhere animals are quartered -- and, of course, garbage containers.

picture of house fly adult

House fly, Musca domestica, about 1/4" long. Alternate names & misnomers: housefly, houseflies, filth flies, manure flies


House fly life cycle

Small, pearly white eggs are laid in groups on manure or garbage. Eggs hatch in a few days into legless, yellowish-white larvae, or maggots. Fly maggots develop through three instars, becoming larger at each molt. The final instar, or prepupa, usually moves away from the garbage or manure source before pupating so you can often find pupae (reddish-brown, cigar shaped cases) away from the source of flies. Adult flies emerge after a few days, live several weeks and can produce hundreds of eggs.

The presence of a few flies is common and no reason for concern. Large numbers of flies, however, should alert you to investigate the source. Look for the sites where larvae develop and eliminate these sources before resorting to insecticides. Large numbers of house flies found indoors can indicate a sewage spill or other unhealthy situation.


Control house flies

The best way to control house flies, and other manure and garbage-breeding flies, is to locate and eliminate the breeding source. This may involve improvements to manure management where animals are kept or relocating garbage dumpsters. Treating these sources with pesticides is usually impractical and not very effective. One common mistake that restaurants make is to locate dumpsters near outside doors where flies from the garbage may enter the building. Dumpsters should be moved as far from outside doors as possible. Dumpsters can also be treated with insecticide when empty.

Another commonly overlooked source of flies is dog, or other pet feces. Be sure to clean pet quarters frequently and dispose of feces in a closed garbage container. Don't put pet (dog, cat) waste in compost bins but horse, and other grass-eating animal manure is ok to compost. The rule is: if the animal eats meat don't compost the manure.

Fly traps and baits

Fly traps are sometimes useful as well. Traps consist of an attractant bait and some type of trap container or sticky trap. They do an excellent job of quickly reducing the number of adult flies but in order to achieve long-term control you must find and eliminate or treat the source, usually manure or rotting garbage. UV light traps can be used to eliminate flies inside food handling facilities, restaurants and grocery stores. These traps attract flies with UV light and kill or capture the flies that land on an electrified grid or sticky surface (see Related Articles below).

Fly baits, for example Maxforce Granular Fly Bait, are another option. These products contain an insecticide and attractive bait that can be used around the outside of commercial facilities and agricultural buildings to suppress fly numbers. Use of bait must be combined with proper sanitation and manure management. See fly baits for professional quality baits.

Related Articles

Why Do Cluster Flies Enter Houses in Fall?

Do UV Light Traps Work?


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Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D.

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