House Fly Fact File

Appearance

House flies like all insects have a body made up of three parts. At the front of the body is the head from which two antennae stick forward. Another notable feature of the head is the large compound eyes.

Their thorax is colored grey with four black stripes running vertically down the back.

Finally the abdomen is gray or yellow.

On either side of the body are three pairs of jointed legs.

Resting across the back are the wings which are transparent.

Their body measures up to 8mm (0.3in) long with a wingspan of up to 15mm (0.6in) across. An average weight for the species is 0.012g (0.0oz) It is surrounded by a hard exoskeleton.

Diet

As adults house flies can only liquefied foods that are sucked up with their sponging mouth parts. Their saliva is able to liquefy foods though allowing them to consume them.

They are not picky with a wide range of foods consumed including the feces of various animals, garbage and human food.

Maggots feed on decaying organic matter such as dung and rotting animals.

house fly

Scientific Name

Musca domestica

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Weight

0.012g (0.0oz)


Length

8mm (0.3in)

Wingspan

15mm (0.6in)

Lifespan

15-25 days (As adult)

Diet

Omnivorous

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Range

House flies can be found worldwide living alongside humans. They originated in Asia but have been able to spread alongside humans.

Habitat

They make their home in both wild and urban environments. Humans have allowed them to spread as garbage piles, road kill and dung heaps provide perfect places for breeding to take place.

Their abundance is noticed most during summer as most adults do not survive in to winter.

house fly

Reproduction

House flies complete their full lifecycle in just 7-10 days in favorable conditions. A female will live at most for 2.5 months.

During this lifespan she will deposit up to 1,000 eggs in clutches of 120-150 in manure or other warm, decaying material. The small, white eggs hatch in to yellowish-white maggots which resemble a worm after just 12 hours in warm weather or up to a day in cooler climates.

Females can produce all their eggs after a single mating event.

These feed on the decaying matter before digging a burrow in the ground and pupating. In warm weather their pupation is complete in just 6 days while in colder climates it may take as long as a month.

The size of the adults is determined by the amount of nutrients they consume as a larvae.

Sexual maturity is reached within 24 hours of emerging as an adult.

Males perform a courtship display for the female to try and win her attention. If she is receptive she thrusts her ovipositor towards him. If she is not he will fly away.

Behavior

As adults the house fly is active during the day with the peak of activity during the hottest part of the day. They are mostly inactive at night but may fly towards artificial light sources.

In winter activity levels are reduced and they will slow down their development until warm weather when they can breed successfully again.

They have a strong sense of smell which helps them to find their food.

When in flight their wings may beat as many as 1,000 times per minute which produces their buzzing noise. This allows them to travel at speeds up to 24km/h (15mph).

house fly

Predators and Threats

These insects face a range of predators including beetles, mites and birds. Their large clutch size is necessary due to the large amount of predators which they face.

Quick facts

House fly maggots can be used in health care as they will eat away dead flesh allowing a wound to heal cleanly.

Scientists have studied the DNA of house flies in an effort to determine how they can transfer diseases without those same diseases affecting them.

The house fly will taste its food using its feet.

These animals spread diseases which they pick up on their feet and move between their food sources.

house fly

Photo Credits

Top and Middle One

By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91526983

Middle Two

By Dimaoleksii – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97137974

Bottom

By Pavel Krok – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2565573

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Martin, R., Bryan, K., Cooper, D. and Bond, S., n.d. The Animal Book. Lonely Planet

Enchantedlearning.com. 2021. Housefly Printout – EnchantedLearning.com. [online] Available at: <https://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/insects/fly/Houseflyprintout.shtml> [Accessed 19 February 2021].

Doctor, J. 2013. “Musca domestica” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 19, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Musca_domestica/

Bbc.com. 2021. Where do flies go in winter?. [online] Available at: <http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150204-flies-can-be-active-all-year> [Accessed 19 February 2021].

The Australian Museum. 2021. House Fly. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/insects/house-fly/> [Accessed 19 February 2021].

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