Fly Identification

There are many flies that you can encounter within your dwelling. Despite being a nuisance, many are disease vectors as well. Controlling the problem is of utmost importance to the well being and safety of your family!

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Drain Flies

Identification Tips:

  • Color: Brownish-gray to blackish with fuzzy appearance
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: Adults measure 1/5 to 1/6 inches long
  • Identifying Characteristics: Body and wings are densely covered with hairs; antennae are long and fuzzy as well (13 segments); V-shaped appearance

Characteristics of this insect:

  • Fly in short, jerky movements. They are weak fliers and are seen resting or crawling on walls nearby breeding site
  • Females lay 30 to 100 eggs in irregular masses on the surface of gelatinous material, or polluted, shallow water nearby or inside drain pipes. Development time from egg to adult is 7 to 28 days depending on conditions. Adults live about two weeks, but are quickly replaced by others emerging into adulthood
  • Troublesome for the homeowner if present in the drain system. It is possible that the drain/sewage pipe is cracked and these flies are breeding in the moist organic matter as a result of water seepage
  • Most active at night. During the day, you may find them in shaded areas by plumbing fixtures or the sides of showers and tubs

House Flies

Identification Tips:

  • Color: House flies are mostly dull gray with 4 longitudinal stripes on thorax and velvety stripes (silver above and gold below) on face
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: 1/8 to 1/4 inches long
  • Identifying Characteristics: Females lay eggs in clusters for a total of 75 to 150 per batch with 5 to 6 batches in her lifetime. Depending on conditions, egg to adult can take as little as 6 days

Characteristics of this insect:

  • Most common fly found in the home
  • Is not only a nuisance, but of great concern as a potential carrier of disease organisms
  • Are general feeders being attracted to a wide range of substances from excrement to human foods
  • Prefer warmer temperatures. On cooler days, they are attracted warmer air being expelled from structures

Flesh Flies

Identification Tips:

  • Color: Flesh flies have 3 black and gray longitudinal stripes on the thorax and checkering on the abdomen.
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: 1/4 to 7/16 inches long
  • Identifying Characteristics: Females lay 325 larvae (not eggs) during their life span and complete their life cycle in 10 to 25 days.

Characteristics of this insect:

  • Name comes from the fact that the larvae develop in spoiling meat and decayed flesh
  • Because they develop in fecal matter and garbage, some species are of human health concern
  • Females give birth to larvae/maggots instead of laying eggs
  • Dead rodents, birds, and other small animals can be the source of flies within structures while dog excrement and garbage are the common outdoor source

Bottle Flies

Identification Tips:

  • Color: Metallic blue, green, bronze, brassy or black in whole or part.
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: 3/8 to 5/8 inches long
  • Identifying Characteristics: Females lay about 2,300 eggs (depending on species) during her lifetime and complete their life cycle in 10 or more days.

Characteristics of this insect:

  • Of medical importance due to their mechanical transmission of disease organisms and ability to cause an infestation of tissues/cavities in humans and animals
  • Most species develop in meat or animal carcasses
  • Dead rodents, birds, and other small animals can be the source of flies within structures while dog excrement and garbage are the common outdoor source
  • These flies are usually the first insects to arrive ad infest after an animal dies

Fruit Flies

Identification Tips:

  • Color: Dull brownish-yellow to brownish-black
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: Adults measure 1/8 to 1/5 inches long
  • Identifying Characteristics: Red eyes; wings have two “breaks” in the leading edge near body; third antenna segment is oval or long with the outer bristle nearly always feathered

Characteristics of this insect:

  • May be seen around decaying or rotting fruits and vegetables. Inside may be seen hovering around: over ripe fruit and vegetables; baked goods containing yeast; garbage cans; sweetened beverages including beer, wine, and vinegar; dirty garbage receptacles; and drain water in refrigerators or iceboxes to name a few. Some species are attracted to human and animal excrement
  • Fruit flies lay approximately 500 egg near fermenting fruits and vegetables. Eggs will hatch in about 30 hours
  • Newly emerged adults will mate in 2 days. The life cycle from adult to adult is 8 to 10 days at 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Some species of the fruit or vinegar fly have been responsible for human intestinal myiasis (form of diarrhea) common among workers in grape vineyards

Phorid Flies

Identification Tips:

  • Color: May be black, brown or yellowish
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: Adults measure 1/8 to 1/4 inches long
  • Identifying Characteristics: Humpbacked appearance; runs about in a erratic manner; strong, heavily pigmented veins in front area with remaining veins faint

Characteristics of this insect:

  • Females lay up to 100 eggs one at a time on, in, or close to larval food. Egg to adult is dependent on temperature (11 days at 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 28 days at 72 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Common food sources include: moist residue on bottom of trash receptacle or garbage disposals; moist material in cracks of or under kitchen equipment; drains with excessive gelatinous build-up; dirty mop heads; faulty septic tanks; over-watered/rotting plants to mention a few
  • Troublesome for the homeowner if present in the drain system. It is possible that the drain/sewage pipe is cracked and these flies are breeding in the moist organic matter as a result of water seepage
  • Troublesome for mortuaries, morgues and mausoleums as they can breed in human corpses and often referred to as coffin flies
  • Troublesome for healthcare facilities because the fly is quite unsanitary and the larvae of this fly has been found in open wounds of patients

Cluster Flies

Identification Tips:

  • Color: Grayish with black patterns and golden hairs
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: 1/4 to 1/2 inches long (Slightly larger than the common house fly)
  • Identifying Characteristics: Cluster flies are known to hibernate or “cluster” in wall voids or attics during colder months.

Characteristics of this insect:

  • Cluster flies are named after their habit of grouping together like a cluster. In the winter, these flies attempt to enter your home to stay warm during the colder months. They gather near windows to seek warmth from the sun
  • Unlike other fly species, they do not breed in your home. They only stay there to seek warmth
  • Cluster flies will not damage your home nor carry any harmful diseases to humans. However, they may leave small dark-colored spots of excrement on windows and walls
  • Cluster flies can be a problem in particularly sensitive areas such as hospitals

Darkwinged Fungus Gnat

Identification Tips:

  • Color: grayish-black with smoky colored wings
  • Legs: 6
  • Size: Adults grow only to be about 1/8th inch in length. The larvae are slightly larger than the adults at about 1/4 inch in length
  • Identifying Characteristics: Dark winged fungus gnats are typically found around areas with high humidity. They tend to remain low to the ground near soil and plants. These pests can cause problems for greenhouses and mushroom growers in particular. They can be seen in other areas such as leaky roofs, damp woodwork, compost piles, & decaying mulch

Characteristics of this insect:

  • Female fungus gnats lay eggs in soil or other damp, organic plant material. The eggs hatch into larvae. Some species of this gnat feed on fungus in overwatered soil. Some feed on plant roots. This can diminish the health of the plants and can lead to stunted growth. The gnat larvae can also carry plant pathogens which may put some plants at risk of various plant diseases
  • The larval stage typically lasts 6 to 8 days. After they pupate in the soil, adults emerge about 3 days later
  • The key to controlling fungus gnats is finding and eliminating all of the breeding sources. All potential sources must be examined with the attention to damp areas that will support fungal growth
  • To control the problematic fungus gnats, one must remove damp areas that support fungal growth. For indoor areas, it may be useful to improve the ventilation, install a dehumidifier, or turn on air conditioning. For outdoor areas, consider turning over the top 2-3 inches of mulch or soil to speed the drying process

*Image courtesy of The author John Tann from Sydney, Australia (Dark-winged Fungus Gnat) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons