Types of Flies You Should Know About
Flies are insects that are seen everywhere around the world. Belonging to the order Diptera, there are almost 120,000 species of flies that have been discovered and analyzed. But the ones that frequent homes and act as pests are fewer in number. All species of flies have two wings (which is where Diptera comes from – Greek origins, ‘di’ means two and ‘pteron’ means wings). Flies love crowded and populated areas, which is why they are so commonly found around human living settlements. Some specific types of flies are attracted to certain environments where they can adjust well, while others adapt to any environment available to them. Flies often indicate a lack of hygiene, which is justifiable as many flies breed and feed on rotting matter.
Flies might be pests at times, but they are extremely important to the environment. They help in pollination and the spread of plant growth. But flies can pose a danger to human health when they become pests. Flies such as the common house fly and mosquitoes are known to spread diseases (such as dysentery and malaria). They often act as vectors and carriers of a range of diseases, many of which can be deadly.
What does a fly look like?
Many insects come under the category of ‘flies’. These include mosquitoes, fruit flies, common house flies, horse flies, moth flies and bluebottle flies. All these insects have a single pair of wings. Some of their common characteristics are mentioned below –
- A single pair of wings
- Large compound eyes
- Small antennae
- Sucking mouthparts
- Presence of halteres (reduced hind wings that give maneuverability)
Types of flies
Some of the common types of flies that act as pests to humans are mentioned below.
House fly (Musca domestica)
Everyone has been annoyed at some point in time but the buzzing of the housefly. This common household pest is the reason for many food-borne diseases. Houseflies sit on all kinds of items – from food to feces. This is the reason why they manage to spread so many deadly diseases to humans. Houseflies and their larvae can become a great source of a health risk if present in human living areas.
They are found all around the world and are highly adaptive insects. These flies are especially attracted to rotting matter (which is why you will find them buzzing around your garbage bin). Flies are associated with lack of hygiene and for good reason. These insects breed in filth, and are even known as ‘filth flies’. They are known to spread almost 65 diseases to humans!
Characteristics of a house fly
- 1/4th inch in length (around 5mm to 8mm)
- A single pair of wings
- Compound eyes
- Dark grey in color
- Pointed tips of wings
- The larva is white in color and is tapered at one end
- Breed in decaying matter (such as garbage or rotten food)
- Found in all visible areas; prefer to rest near a food source
- A female housefly lays around 150 eggs which hatch within 72 hours
Fruit Fly (Drosophila)
Fruit flies are attracted to fruits and other sweet items. Although not particularly dangerous, these flies can be a nuisance and an eyesore. Fruit flies can often be seen hovering around the fruits and vegetables lying on the kitchen counter. They can also be found near fruit and vegetable crops. These flies are commonly used for scientific experiments as they breed very fast and easily. They breed in rotten fruits and even sewage at times.
Characteristics of a fruit fly
- 3mm in length
- Yellowish brown in color
- Red eyes
- Tends to hover around the food source
- The lifespan of around 8 weeks
Horse Fly (family Tabanidae)
Horse flies are large insects that usually attack animals and are found in warmer areas of the planet. Female horse flies can bite animals and even humans for blood (as they need blood protein to produce eggs). Male horseflies seek nectar and pollen. Horse flies are a pest species that has often impacted the livestock and animal husbandry sectors. Animals often end up losing weight due to the repeated bites of the female horsefly. These flies can transmit blood-borne diseases from animal to animal, human to human. Horse flies have also been found to reduce the growth rate of cattle and hindering their milk output.
Characteristics of a horse fly
- Around 25mm in length
- Prefers to fly in shady areas
- Black or dark brown in color
- Females have widely separated eyes
- Males have contiguous eyes
- Females have a sharp stabbing organ and sponge-like lapping organ to get and consume blood
- Long and cylindrical larvae with 12 segments
- Fastest flying insect
Moth fly or Drain Fly (Psychodidae )
As the name indicates, moth flies or drain flies are found in sewage or plumbing systems. They can be a constant source of irritation in households and can block plumbing systems due to their presence in large numbers. They are not known to carry any diseases that can spread to humans. Many species of moth flies are found in tropical areas. Because of the presence of hairs on the wings, these flies look like a tiny version of the moth (which is why it is called the moth fly).
Characteristics of a moth fly
- 2mm in length
- Brown colored body
- Wings that are densely covered by water-repellent hair
- The lifespan of 20 days
- Eggs can withstand large periods of dehydration
- Commonly found in washrooms and other damp places
- Breed in a moist organic decaying matter
- Most active at night, but will get attracted to light sources
Bluebottle fly (Calliphora vomitoria)
Bluebottle flies are commonly seen around garbage bins and other sources of filth. They are attracted to feces and dead animals. Bluebottle flies are a type of blowfly. They are found all over the world and are carriers of various diseases. These flies are pollinators of flowers but are also one of the most notorious pests. The name refers to the blue bottle like the coloring of the fly.
Characteristics of a bluebottle fly
- Around ½ inch in length (larger than a house fly)
- Bottle blue in color (shiny and metallic)
- Red eyes
- Body and legs are covered with bristle-like hair
- Has tiny spikes to protect itself
- Can cause myiasis in animals and humans
Flesh fly (Family of Sarcophagidae)
Flesh flies pose a great threat to human health because they are attracted to feces, dead bodies, and human food. These flies are ovoviviparous and can deposit maggots onto an open wound. Flesh flies also like to feed on sweet stuff, such as nectar and human food items. They mostly live off the fluids they obtain from the dead bodies of humans.
Flesh flies can cause myiasis in animals, and in humans can cause leprosy. It is important to get rid of a flesh fly infestation in your house if one is present.
Characteristics of a flesh fly
- Around 12mm long
- Red eyes
- Bristled abdomen
- Light grey in color with a checkerboard-like an appearance
- Lifespan is around 2 weeks
- Maggots need protein to develop (which is obtained from food or dung)