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The Fly – Alabama Cooperative Extension System

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – “Be afraid, be very afraid.”

The 1980s horror film, The Fly, put this phrase on the map. While the line was referring to a fly of the mutant variety, this phrase may also be appropriate for the black clouds of flies that Alabama residents experience each summer. These flies can become a real nuisance. The good news is there are several things that people can do to help keep their summer fly free.

Fly Populations

Katelyn Kesheimer, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said like other areas in nature, Alabama is home to a diverse population of flies.

“There is no shortage of biological diversity in Alabama, and that certainly applies to flies,” Kesheimer said. “Most flies will stay outside and won’t be a nuisance, but there are several that can be a headache.”

Fly populations increase during warm weather when there are plenty of food sources and breeding habitats.

“The warm, humid weather during the summertime makes for a great environment for flies,” she said. “Warmer temperatures speed up their development, and we may see higher populations and more generations under these conditions.”

What Attracts Flies?

Flies do not automatically plan to make a beeline, or in this case a flyline, to a person’s home. There has to be something in the area that attracts them. Kesheimer said that outside lighting is often a primary attractor for flies.

“Exterior lights on a house will often attract flies, as well as other insects,” she said. “After being attracted to the light, flies can then move into the house via small cracks or open windows and doors.”

While a major attractor, lighting is not the only thing that attracts them. Strong smells will also cause these critters to descend upon a household. Items that could attract flies include trash, compost, garden or yard debris, damaged or rotten fruits or animal waste.

Controlling Flies

After flies make their ways into a home, some are planning to pull up a chair and stay a while, and others are just passing through.

“Primarily, flies are seeking shelter in our homes and may or may not breed indoors,” Kesheimer said. “Some are just passing through, while others will feed and reproduce in the home.”

Flies such as fungus gnats, drain flies and fruit flies will breed rapidly inside a home, becoming extremely irritating. While most flies are more of a nuisance than anything, Kesheimer said some flies can be contaminated with bacteria that is harmful to humans.

“This is primarily for flies that are outdoors and breed in manure, garbage or carrion,” she said.

These flies can carry illness-causing bacteria and transmit them to humans. This is why prompt control of fly populations is important for homeowners.

Prevention

The best way to control flies is by preventing them from entering the home in the first place. Many flies seek shelter when it gets cold, so Kesheimer recommends having the home prepared for this invasion by late summer or early fall.

“Sealing any areas in your home that would provide an easy entry way will certainly help,” she said. “Utilizing screens or caulk to fill in cracks will be helpful in preventing infestations.”

Inside the Home

Kesheimer offers the following options for controlling flies inside the home:

  • Remove their resources. The best control method is to get rid of potential food sources. Flies will feed on things like fruit, organic matter in house plants and organic matter in shallow water. Fruit that is ripe or overripe should be eaten, covered and refrigerated or disposed of.

“Take out the trash regularly, and clean up spilled food or liquids,” Kesheimer said. “Also, regularly cleaning moist areas –like toilets, sinks and dirty garbage cans– will get rid of the wet organic matter that can attract and sustain fly populations.”

  • Physical removal. Physically removing flies from the home is also an effective control method. When dealing with a large infestation, use fly strips to attract and capture the flies. Remember, it is important to remove any dead flies from the home, so they don’t become a food source for other pests.
  • Chemical control. Kesheimer warns that while chemical insecticides are available, they should only be used as a last resort.

“If you follow proper sanitation procedures, utilize physical barriers and physical removal, then the need for insecticides will be minimal,” she said. “If an infestation requires chemical control, there are many options available.”

Outside the Home

Kesheimer said it is equally as important to manage conditions outside so not to attract more flies.

“Sanitation is as important outside as it is inside,” she said. “Sanitation is the key to preventing large populations in and around your home. We can’t control the weather, but we can create a household environment inside and outside that is less welcoming to flies.”

Kesheimer offers the following tips for controlling flies outside the home:

  • Regularly dispose of garbage and clean out trash bins.
  • Don’t allow yard or garden waste to pile up.
  • If you have a pet, clean up waste regularly so it does not act as a breeding site.
  • Dump standing water regularly to reduce mosquito populations.

More Information

For more information on controlling home pests, visit www.aces.edu or contact the Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests agent serving your area.

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