Large Flies and Odors: Understanding the link

Krissie Callahan

Flies. Whether in a business environment, your home, or an outdoor dining or recreational area, these buzzing pests are more than just an annoyance. The presence of flies is a risk to food safety; can give visitors, customers, and guests a negative view of your facility; because for health department or third-party audit failure; and if the problem is severe, can result in costly closures or lost business.

What attracts flies?

Resolving many large fly issues, such as those with house and blow flies, actually begins with understanding the link between flies and odor.

“House and blow flies are attracted to mainly two things: odors and heat,” says Judy Black, Board Certified Entomologist and Vice President of Technical Services at Rentokil Steritech.  “Odors signal a source for food and breeding, and heat provides optimal temperatures for breeding and pupae development.”

When it comes to breeding, large flies need a substantial amount of decaying organic matter to be successful. The odors created by these breeding sources are usually very strong, putrid smells – decaying animal carcasses, rotting organic materials, etc. Most often, these breeding sources will be outdoors.

Flies are amazing odor detectors

In many insects, including the house fly, fruit fly, honey bee, and American cockroach, olfactory ability – how they smell – is influenced by a pair of structures in the brain called the mushroom body. Recent research done on the mushroom body in Drosophila melanogaster, commonly known as the fruit fly, suggests that the olfactory senses, or the ability to detect odor, and memory are linked.

Flies have an extraordinary ability to detect odors from great distances. In fact, house flies have been shown to be able to detect odors from up to four miles away!

How problems begin

“It’s very rare for breeding sources for large flies to be found indoors,” Black explains. “Most humans simply wouldn’t be able to live or work with the odor – it would trigger their gag reflex.”

Instead, most fly problems arise when other odors attract adult flies away from their original breeding sources.  Flies can be attracted to any number of odors at your facility (see our checklist below). Odors that are both “good” and “bad” to humans can be fly attractants.

How to resolve fly issues

Flies can be a problem for just about any commercial establishment. Food processors, restaurants, health care facilities, office towers and complexes – all of these facilities produce products or engage in activities that produce odors that can attract flies.

In reducing health issues associated with flies, the World Health Organization suggests four strategies: reducing or eliminating breeding sites; reducing sources that attract flies from other areas; preventing flies from contacting disease-causing germs; and protecting food, utensils, and people from contact with flies.

4 fly prevention steps to follow:

Identify and eliminate breeding sites, if possible

The best possible strategy is to identify and eliminate breeding sites. Although they are usually not found indoors, potential breeding sites could be located on your property. If they are not, eliminating a breeding site may not be possible. Therefore, a facility will need to look at an integrated fly program to reduce issues with flies.

Reduce fly attractants

Reducing the conditions that attract flies is the next step in an integrated fly program.

If odors are identified as a major attractant, remediation or installing a system to reduce the odors may be necessary. There are a number of low-cost, efficient odor management systems on the market. However, it is important to select an odor management system that does not merely provide a masking agent, but actually works on the molecular level to eliminate odor.

Heat can also be an attractant. This may mean working with your facility’s engineering team to reduce the amount of air escaping through door seals, window frames, and other openings.

Install barriers to fly entry

In combination with reducing fly attractants, putting measures in place to prevent fly entry into a facility is critical. On the interior, this can be as simple as installing door sweeps, screens, air curtains, or plastic strip doors; educating employees to keep exterior doors closed when not in use; or installing insect light traps and other fly traps where applicable. Also, ensuring that there is positive air pressure is important. On the exterior, utilizing fly baiting programs or parasitic wasp programs may be an option.

Work with a pest management provider to achieve further reduction

A customized, ongoing fly prevention program may be necessary depending on your facility and processes. If you are a Rentokil Steritech customer, your Specialist can work with you to design a fly solution customized for your facility.

If you are not already a Rentokil Steritech customer, be sure to select a pest management partner that understands your facility and will be able to recommend the best treatment options or solutions. Or, you can contact Rentokil Steritech today for a free facility inspection.

A smelly situation: An odor checklist

If any of these odors are present in or around your facility – even if they aren’t on your property – you could be at risk for attracting flies.

  • Sewers or sewage
  • Decaying plant material
  • Grease
  • Decaying food
  • Fermentation gases (i.e. beer, bread, etc.)
  • Flowering plants
  • Manure or fertilizer
  • Trash
  • Human food, raw or cooked

If these odors are present in or near areas such as those listed below, consider an odor management program to deter flies:

  • Food production or packaging
  • Kitchens
  • Outdoor dining
  • Patient rooms or areas
  • Drains or grease traps
  • Trash rooms or dumpsters
  • Doors and windows
  • Receiving and loading docks
  • Animal holding areas

Krissie Callahan
Krissie Callahan

As the Communications Manager for Rentokil North America, Krissie specializes in writing, editing, and shaping both internal and marketing messages for the company. When she's not at work, you can usually find her taking in a live music performance in her hometown of Charlotte, NC.

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