A Closer Look with Brittany Campbell
Flies are one of the most detested pests around structures – rightfully so, because they can be extremely annoying and spread disease. Flies are known to transmit E. Coli, Salmonella and other food borne bacteria and pathogens, which makes controlling flies extremely important in kitchens and structures to limit human illness. While flies can be an extreme nuisance, there are over 10,000 species of flies and not all come with a reputation that precedes them.
All Flies are Filthy…
Or not! Many of the flies that invade buildings do frequent gross areas, like dead animals, feces, garbage, rotten fruits and vegetables and other undesirable places. However, there are many flies that are attracted to more pleasant surroundings and cleaner habitats. Many fly species live in soil, on plants, in fungus, and underneath bark in natural areas.
Botflies are a particularly disturbing fly that invades the tissues of animals and humans. An infestation of tissue by fly larvae is called myiasis. Most people living in the United States contract myiasis when traveling to tropical and subtropical regions in Asia and South Africa. Adult female flies typically will lay their eggs in an open wound or even open orifices like the nose or ears and then the larvae burrow into the skin. The larvae feed on tissue in the body during development and then bore a hole through the skin to emerge and pupate in soil.
We are most familiar with phorid flies in structures that feed and develop in organic matter. However, there are some phorid flies that parasitize and feed on other insects, turning them into zombies that survive only to feed the fly. One phorid fly, Pseudacteon tricuspis, was actually introduced in the United States and released in several southern states as a biological control agent against red imported fire ants. The adult female fly lays her egg inside of a fire ant body. When the larvae hatch inside of the fly, they migrate to the ant's head and release enzymes that cause the head to fall off, essentially decapitating the fly, allowing the larvae to develop inside of the fly head.
Not so Fast Bees
Flies are important pollinators too! Flies in the family Syrphidae, also called hover flies, often mimic bees and wasps because of their similar coloration and patterns. Similarly, Bombyliidae flies are large, hairy flies that resemble bees and are often referred to as “bee flies”. Both hover flies and bee flies will visit flowers to feed on nectar and pollen and can be important pollinators of plants. These flies do not harm humans and are not a structural pest.
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