A family of two-winged polluters that is, too often, tolerated within our homes.
Apart from the biting flies, all species feed by vomiting saliva on to the food surface, and sucking up the resulting liquid. In the course of doing so, the fly contaminates the food with bacteria from its gut and its feet. Thus, it may transmit food poisoning, dysentery, typhoid or cholera in countries where these occur.
The eggs of parasitic worms may also be carried by flies.
Blow flies are so called because they were believed to “blow” their eggs, or larvae on to exposed meats. It is a general description of a number of species of large buzzing flies, which include the Bluebottle, the Greenbottle and the Flesh Fly. They all like sunlight and are attracted to meat or carrion, and all may be found around dustbins in hot summer weather.
Their feeding habits (they vomit onto food to soften it up) and filthy feet, infect food, especially meat products, as they feed or seek egg-laying sites. Their Latin names indicate their habits; Calliphora vomitoria, Sarcophaga carnaria and Cyanomyia cadaverina are but three members of the group with a great capacity for transmitting the bacterial agents of food poisoning.
The Common Housefly and the Lesser Housefly are the most widespread household flies. The adult is 7-8mm long, grey in colour with black stripes on the back, with a single pair of veined membraneous wings.
The large compound eyes take up most of the head and are wider apart in the female than the male of the species. The smaller Lesser Housefly, rejoicing in the scientific name Fannia canicularis, is the one that cruises around light fittings, abruptly changing direction in mid-flight.
The Housefly has a sticky pad on each of its six hairy feet, and these enable it to walk upside down on ceilings or crawl up windows.
Houseflies complete their life cycle of egg, maggot, pupa, adult in a week during warm weather. The eggs are laid in batches of about 120 on rotting organic matter and the legless white maggots burrow into this food until ready to pupate in loose soil or rubbish.
The answer to “where do flies go in the winter?” is that some hibernate, but most pass the winter in the pupal stage.
Houseflies may transmit a wide range of bacterial diseases.
A family of very small (about 3mm) flies, some with prominent red eyes, characterised by a slow hovering flight in which the abdomen hangs down.
All are associated with rotting fruit and vegetables or fermenting liquids. One species breeds in sour milk, for example, in the residue of forgotten milk bottles.
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