Summertime brings out houseflies

Published 5:08 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2011

By NELSON WYNN / Guest Columnist

Summer brings not only barbecues and baseball, but also unwelcome pests like houseflies.

You can help minimize flies near your home by understanding their behavior and using sanitation and other measures, says an Extension entomologist.

Houseflies aren’t just annoying, they are a potential hazard, says Faith Oi, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Houseflies are suspected of transmitting human diseases, including typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera and tuberculosis.

They feed on fecal matter, discharges from wounds and sores, and decaying matter such as spoiled eggs, fish and meat. Houseflies spread disease organisms by regurgitating and excreting wherever they land. The tiny specks on many surfaces visited by house flies are the excreted wastes.

While house flies live only about two and a half weeks during the summer, they can survive up to three months at lower temperatures. Flies normally stay within a half to two miles of their point of origin, but may travel up to 20 miles to find food and egg-laying sites.

Oi said there are four basic ways to control houseflies. Sanitation is most important, because flies can’t breed in large numbers if their food sources are limited. Don’t let garbage, grass clippings, weed piles or other decaying organic matter to pile up.

Keep trash cans clean and tightly covered. Don’t wash the cans where the rinse water drains into the soil, because flies may breed in the soil. Maggoty garbage should be dried out or disposed of in fly-proof containers or landfills. Window and door screens also keep flies outside. Make sure screens fit tightly and have no holes. Keep doors closed, with no openings at the top or the bottom. Caulk or plug any openings around water or gas pipes or electrical conduits that go into the home. Flies also can enter a home through ventilation holes, so use screening to exclude them.

Non-chemical control such as sticky fly traps, fly swatters, baited fly traps and other devices can eliminate many flies inside a home. But a fly swatter remains an economical way to control the occasional fly.

Chemical control for flies should be a last resort. All pesticides are poisonous, and sprays give only temporary relief.

Nelson Wynn is an extension agent with the Shelby County Extension office. He can be reached by email at