The common housefly is probably the first insect that comes to the minds of most people upon hearing the word “fly”. Of course, the housefly is not the only type of fly that is commonly known, as many Americans are also familiar with nuisance fruit flies, biting horse flies, and maybe swarming greenflies. However, there exists around 150,000 documented fly species from the diptera order, many of which dwell in the US. People living in less developed parts of the world where fly-borne disease is prevalent generally have a greater knowledge of different fly species for obvious reasons. But unlike mosquito-borne disease, fly-borne disease is exceptionally rare in the United States. Despite this, numerous disease-spreading fly species dwell in nearly every region of North America, including Massachusetts and farther north into Canada. These fly species are commonly referred to as “filth flies” due to their habit of routing through feces, dead animal carcasses and garbage where they pick up numerous disease-causing pathogens. Unfortunately, filth flies are in the habit of dwelling within urban and residential areas where human food sources and filth are easy to come by. The filth fly species that gravitate toward homes in Massachusetts include the face fly, the flesh fly, the minute black scavenger fly and even the housefly.

Taken as a whole, filth flies can passively spread  salmonella, tuberculosis, dysentery, typhoid, cholera and 60 other diseases by bringing pathogens from garbage and fecal waste into contact with humans. Humans can also contract these diseases by consuming fluids and foods that have made contact with pathogen-rich filth flies. Luckily, in the US these flies are mostly known as nuisance insect pests within homes, as passive disease transmission cases are rare in the country. However, if filth flies infest a home, the possibility of consuming pathogen-contaminated food becomes a natural concern. Another filth fly species, the little housefly, often congregates in large number around windows and door frames within homes. Replacing tattered window screens and keeping rubbish-waste out of homes will go a long way at keeping filth flies out of Massachusetts homes.

Have you ever eaten food that had made contact with flies?