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House Fly

The most prolific pest among humans, at one point or another in your life, you will encounter a fly in your home, at work, or at school. However, did you know that nearly 90% of all flies encountered belong to the species musca domestica (a.k.a. a “housefly”)?


  • Adults range from 4 to 7.5 mm in length; females are generally larger than males
  • Light-grey in colour with four black, longitudinal stripes on the thorax
  • Large, bulbous, multi-faceted eyes
  • A pair of transparent wings
  • Abdomen is yellow or partially yellow with a dark median line

Image of house flies

House flies pictured for identification purposes


Why should I be concerned?

It is estimated that over $10 billion worth of agricultural products are contaminated or destroyed by flies each year. Businesses that rely on the safe manufacturing, handling, and storage of food need to be extremely vigilant. Houseflies are often attracted to garbage, rotting food, and feces. However, it is their ability to move quickly from waste and unsanitary areas to exposed food and utensils that causes concerns and frustration.

House Flies & Diseases

Global pests, house flies are common insects in Canada and the rest of the world. Closely associated with humans, the house fly poses numerous health threats because of its tendency of breeding in garbage and other filthy decaying matter. House flies have the ability to pick up, carry, and spread microorganisms that potentially cause disease. At least 65 different diseases are known to be linked to house flies, including anthrax, cholera, dysentery, leprosy, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever. Some of the most common pathogens transmitted by house flies include Salmonella and E. coli bacteria, which cause food poisoning.

House flies transmit diseases mechanically by unwittingly picking up pathogens from contaminated sites and physically carrying the pathogens to other locations. Decaying organic matter and animal feces are full of pathogens. When a house fly rests on and walks across such materials, it picks up the pathogens on its body hair and the sticky pads on its feet. When house flies enter indoor structures, they often come into contact with food preparation surfaces and human food, thereby spreading the disease-causing organisms to materials directly involved in the process of preparing and eating meals. House fly saliva and feces can also contaminate food items and cause humans to become ill.

Habitat and Behaviour

A day in the life of a housefly

Houseflies do not bite. Instead of a typical mouth opening they have a proboscis which is used to suck up liquids. In order to eat, the housefly will repeatedly eject its own saliva onto the solid matter and then suck up the resulting mixture. As you can imagine, this is an extremely unhygienic process.

There is evidence to suggest that houseflies have evolved to live with humans and even followed us on our migrations across continents. In the modern day, there is a seemingly endless list of places where you can expect to find these pests; near dumpsters, dishwashers, garbage and refuse, food preparation areas, elevator pits, sewer drains, food storage areas, recycling areas, the spaces between appliances and equipment, and so on…

Life Cycle & Life Expectancy

Musca domestica, the common house fly, like other members of true flies, goes through complete metamorphosis with four distinct stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults.

Over a period of three to four days, females may lay up to 500 eggs in batches on the surface of a suitable food material such as garbage, animal carcasses, or feces. The eggs hatch within 12 hours into tiny, whitish, legless larvae also referred to as maggots, and they can grow up to 12 mm long. The larvae go through three larval instars before becoming pupae. Early stages of house fly larvae typically abhor light and may remain difficult to detect. At a later stage, the larvae leave the breeding source and wander around looking for dry, quiet sites to pupate in. The pupae may vary in colour from yellow, brown, red, or black and undergo this developmental stage for about six days before becoming adults.

The duration of the life cycle depends on environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature. Under normal conditions, it takes about 7 to 10 days for a house fly to complete its life cycle from egg to adult. A single female may produce as many as 12 generations per summer. An adult house fly may live between 15 and 30 days after emerging from pupa and reach sexual maturity by the end of the first day of life. Read more info about How Long House Flies Live.

Tips for prevention and control

These tips may help you prevent house flies in your home:

  • Clean all drains and sink areas
  • Replace broken windows and screens
  • Reduce the presence of ripe fruits and vegetables; place them in a refrigerator or a paper bag
  • Create an air current to prevent them from landing in their favourite areas
  • Close the lids on all garbage and waste containers

Test Your Knowledge of Houseflies


    1. True or false: houseflies can carry and transmit diseases.
    2. Over a 3-day period, female houseflies can lay up how many eggs?
      1. 100
      2. 250
      3. 500


    1. True. They have the ability to move quickly from waste and unsanitary areas to exposed food and utensils. Houseflies are linked to anthrax, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and food poisoning.
    2. C. Eggs hatch within 12 hours into tiny, whitish, legless larvae. A single female may produce as many as 12 generations per summer. An adult house fly may live between 15 and 30 days after emerging from pupa and reach sexual maturity by the end of the first day of life.

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