Flies, Gnats, and Fruit Flies
There are more than 120,000 species in the order Diptera, which includes true flies (like the house fly shown here), midges, gnats, and mosquitoes. They vary greatly in size, coloration, body type, and behavior.
One thing all members of order Diptera have in common, however, is that they all have two wings. In fact, that’s what the word “Diptera” means: two wings.
The flying insects that we mainly concern ourself with at Bugaboo are various true flies, such as houseflies and cluster flies; gnats; and fruit flies. These are the flies most likely to become pests in and around homes and businesses, and some of them also happen to be important disease vectors. We provide a variety of treatment programs to reduce or eliminate fly populations in homes and businesses.
House flies (Musca domesticus), shown at the top of this page, are the most common pest flies not only in the Portland and Vancouver areas, but throughout the world. Approximately 90 percent of all flies are house flies.
The house fly is also one of the most important disease vectors in nature. House flies carry a wide variety of bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases. Some of the diseases known to be transmitted by house flies include typhoid, salmonella, dysentery, E. coli, viral hepatitis, and more than 100 others.
They’re passive vectors, which means that they pick up the pathogens in the course of their feeding, and then deposit them elsewhere. They literally “carry” the germs or parasites on or in their bodies.
For example, a house fly may land on a pile of, um, poop to feed on it, and get the fecal material and associated pathogens on their bodies. Then they land on a piece of fruit, and the fecal matter and pathogens rub off on to the fruit. In addition, house flies can transmit diseases through their vomit and feces.
House fly control almost always begins with finding and correcting sanitation problems, and making sure that the door and window screens are in good shape. Sometimes sanitation alone cures the problem, but sometimes traps and / or insecticide baits are also needed to rapidly reduce populations. In some cases, insecticide sprays may be appropriate (for example, around window and door frames if the flies are originating from outside the house).
Cluster flies are a bit bigger than house flies and don’t fly as quickly. The adults feed on nectar, not filth; so they’re not considered significant disease vectors. The young are internal parasites of earthworms.
In Oregon and Washington State, calls to exterminators for cluster fly control tend to happen from the fall through the spring. Most customers don’t understand where the “winter flies” are coming from. And guess what: the flies are every bit as confused about it as the people are.
You see, the reason people see cluster flies inside their homes in the fall and winter is because when it gets cool outside, cluster flies look for a place to spend the winter. Many of them crawl up under the siding of houses, make their way inside, and snuggle up with each other for the winter.
The problem is that when the heat kicks in, the cluster flies think it’s spring, and they slowly make their way toward the warmth. Once they get inside the house, they spend their time flying toward windows and lights and bumping in to them because they think it’s spring and they really want to be outside, not inside. They don’t quite grasp the concept of home heating.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about cluster flies once they’re inside the house. We do have various kinds of traps that will help provide some relief, or you can just wait until they die on their own and then vacuum them up. Professional cluster fly control is best accomplished by treating the outside of the home in the late summer, before the flies move up under the siding to overwinter.
Fungus Gnats and Shore Flies
Fungus gnats (shown here) and shore flies are tiny, annoying flying insects that are common pests in our area.
Adult fungus gnats lay their eggs in soil (including potted plants), and the larvae feed on soil and plant fungi and living plant tissues. When you have them in your home, it’s usually a sign that you’re over-watering your plants, allowing fungi to thrive.
Shore flies lay their eggs in very moist areas where algae is growing, including potted plants, fish ponds, drainage ditches, puddles, and even bird baths. Both the adults and the larvae feed on algae.
Obviously, the solution to an infestation of either of these insects involves removing the breeding medium. In the case of fungus gnats, stop over-watering your plants. You may also want to consider using a soil fungicide that’s safe for your particular kinds of plants. In the case of shore flies, discourage algae growth by removing standing water, changing the water in your birdbath frequently, and so forth.
We have a variety of traps that can help reduce adult populations of fungus gnats or shore flies, but the real solution is to address the breading media problem.
Fruit flies are annoying little insects that average about an eighth of an inch in length, and usually have bright, red eyes. They’re frequent pests in homes, commercial kitchens, supermarkets, taverns, and other places where fruits, vegetables, or fermented beverages are stored or served.
Adult fruit flies usually lay their eggs on or near fermenting fruits and vegetables, or in imperfectly-sealed containers of those products. The larvae develop in the brine or in the slightly acidic juices produced by fermentation. Because adults live only a few days, they’re pretty eager to mate once they emerge from pupation, and they go looking for fermenting fruits or vegetables.
Fruit fly control is accomplished non-chemically. The most important step is eliminating breeding media. For homeowners, this may mean storing fruits and vegetables in a tightly-sealed refrigerator. For a tavern owner it usually means cleaning up spilled beer or wine and storing lemons, limes, celery, and so forth in the refrigerator. In supermarkets, it means constantly checking for and removing fruits and vegetables that are starting to rot, and using proper temperature control and misting practices.
Once the breeding medium is eliminated, we have traps that are very effective at attracting and trapping breeding adults. Because of the very short life cycle of a fruit fly (typically 6 to10 days), proper sanitation and trapping usually results in prompt control of fruit fly problems.
For more information about flying insect control for your home or business, please contact the experts at Bugaboo Pest Control. We look forward to hearing from you.