Muscidae, Calliphoridae, Ceratopogonidae

There are about 10,000 species of flies in Australia, but only a tiny minority of these flies are known as pests (like Biting Midges) or are a ‘nuisance’ (like House Flies). One of the worst horticultural pests we have in Australia is a fly – the Fruit Fly.

Flies of many families visit backyards and may try to enter houses, but the most common families of ‘nuisance flies’ encountered are Muscidae (e.g. House Flies and Bush Flies) and Calliphoridae (Blow Flies). Another nuisance fly you may encounter in the home is the Fungus Gnat.

Some flies are beneficial insects and should be encouraged in home gardens. The most common of these is the Hover Fly – the adult fly is a pollinator and the larvae are predators of aphids.

Best treatment for Flies

When controlling pests, it is important to be observant, and to gain some knowledge about the insects that you are trying to control. Flies are not deliberately trying to torment us, but are merely doing what comes naturally to them. If we learn a little about the life cycle of pest flies, and their behaviour, then we can use that knowledge against them.

Sometimes flies appear to be causing a problem, but actually aren’t. For example, during summer you may see large numbers of flies (Blow Flies and House Flies) on the walls and windows on the outside of your house. They are simply trying to keep cool on a hot day and when the weather cools down, they usually leave. Even if they don’t leave, if your doors and windows are well sealed, they won’t be able to enter the house. To help ensure they stay out of the home, treat indoor areas and surfaces with Yates Home Pest Long Term Control Barrier Spray. Spray typical resting places, including door jams, flyscreens, curtain rods and around ceiling-mounted fittings. You can also spray outdoors, applying it to eaves, flyscreens and awnings.

What are Flies and How to Get Rid of Them

Flies are members of the insect order Diptera. The word ‘diptera’ is derived from the Greek words for two (di) and wings (ptera). Flies have one pair of wings (i.e. two wings) while all other flying insects have two pairs of wings (i.e. four wings).

House Flies (Musca domestica) have been associated with human activity for a long time, and arrived here in Australia with early European settlers. House Flies are now naturalised in nearly every country in the world.

Bush Flies (Musca vetustissima) are those pesky little flies that get in our eyes during summer, and are largely responsible for the ‘Great Aussie Salute’.

Blow Flies (Calliphora spp.) are large, bristly, buzzing flies that are drawn to kitchen windows or BBQs when meat is cooking. There are about 70 species in the genus Calliphora found in Australia.

Stable Flies (Stomoxys calcitrans) are blood-sucking flies that bite people and domestic animals. Stable Flies are also associated with livestock (hence the common name), and were introduced into Australia in the late 19th century.

Biting Midges (Culicoides spp.) aka ‘Sand Flies’, are tiny blood-suckers that torment people at dawn or dusk outdoors. They are so tiny that in other countries they are called no-see-ums - you don’t see them, you just feel them. There are several genera of Biting Midges in the family Ceratopogonidae – one of the most common ones that impacts humans is Culicoides. More than 150 species occur in Australia.


House Fly

  • The adult House Fly is about 5 - 7 mm long with reddish eyes, is greyish on top with four black stripes on the thorax, and yellowish underneath. Eggs are white and about 2 mm long. Larvae are creamy coloured maggots up to about 10 mm long. Pupae are dark brown and about 2 mm long.

Bush Fly

  • The adult Bush Fly is similar in appearance to the House Fly. It is 4 – 6 mm long and has two black stripes on the thorax which split into four - resembling two parallel ‘Y’s. Eggs, larvae and pupae are similar in size and appearance to those of the House Fly.

Blow Flies

  • Adult Blow Flies are typically large, robust, and hairy flies. Common species are about 11mm long – almost twice the size of the House Fly and its relatives. Eggs, larvae and pupae are similarly supersized.

Stable Fly

  • The adult Stable Fly is similar to a House Fly and is typically 5 – 7 mm long. Stable Flies have a chequer board pattern on the abdomen which is absent in the House Fly. All other life stages are similar to the House Fly.

Biting Midge aka ‘Sand Fly’

  • Adult Biting Midges are about 1 - 3 mm long, greyish, and often have spotted wings. Larvae are small (2 – 5 mm), aquatic, gilled and worm-like.

Life Cycle:

Flies typically have a life cycle of complete metamorphosis - egg, larva, pupa and adult. Most female flies are capable of laying hundreds of eggs, and most flies are at their peak during the warmer months of the year.

House Flies tend to congregate where humans are and may breed in all sorts of organic waste, including in poorly-managed open compost bins and animal droppings. Adult House Flies need to feed before breeding and are especially drawn to sweet foods in houses. There may be anywhere between 10 and 20 generations per year, depending on the climate.

Bush Flies breed in animal dung and large populations can build up around intensive livestock operations. Bush Flies are present all year round in northern Australia, but populations may decline during the wet season, especially in coastal areas. In the southern third of the country they are present over the warmer months of the year, but cannot survive southern winters.

Blow Flies breed in carrion and the females can lay live young. Adult Blow Flies are attracted to flowers where they feed on nectar, and because they are hairy they are very efficient pollinators. Pollination, along with the other ecological service Blow Flies perform - breaking down animal carcasses - makes them beneficial insects rather than pests. If their buzzing annoys you, just screen them out of the house.

Stable Flies have piercing mouthparts which they use to feed on blood. They can bite humans, but are more of a problem for domestic animals and livestock. Stable Flies are unusual bloodsuckers in that both sexes feed on blood - usually only females feed on blood. Stable Flies breed in moist, decaying organic matter such as manure mixed with straw, silage, crop residue, hay, grain, manure and soiled animal bedding.

Biting Midges breed in the sandy edges of rivers and estuaries and are particularly problematic to communities located in such environments. Only the female bites, because she needs the protein in blood to lay fertile eggs. Feeding time is usually dawn and dusk.

What Plants are Impacted by Flies

No plants are directly impacted by these flies. The most serious pest fly which impacts plants is the Fruit Fly.

Symptoms of Fly Presence

  • Maggots appearing in kitchen tidies or compost bins.
  • Fly droppings (‘spotting’) on window sills or benches.
  • Bite marks on human skin or on pets’ ears.
  • The smell of decomposing carcasses.
  • Flies circling over animal droppings.

How to Prevent Flies Appearing

  • Check all screens on windows and doors are intact.
  • Use sealed compost bins, or if using an open compost system turn it frequently to make it too hot for House Flies to breed in.
  • Seal all gaps around doors and windows to prevent House Flies and Blow Flies coming in.
  • Seal gaps to prevent rodents or possums entering roof or under-floor spaces. A dead rodent or possum is a magnet for Blow Flies.
  • Change pet bedding and clean the area regularly to prevent Stable Flies breeding.
  • Clear up animal droppings frequently.
  • Screen outdoor entertainment areas if Biting Midges are an issue where you live. Standard mesh will not stop Midges - you need a finer ‘midge’ mesh which is 20 x 20 per inch.
  • Wear insect screen hats when outdoors, to prevent Bush Flies crawling in your eyes.
  • Wear repellent and/or long sleeved clothing to prevent Midge bites when outdoors.
  • Contact your local shire or city council for Biting Midge information in your particular area.

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