House Fly
Scientific name Common name(s) Nutritional Content
Musca domestica house fly Moisture: n/a
Fat: n/a
Protein: n/a
Fiber: n/a
General Information
Identifying Features
Appearance (Morphology)
  • Three body parts: head, thorax, abdomen
  • One pair of fully developed wings
  • Hind wings are reduced to halteres (small knob-like structures) used to maintain equilibrium.
  • Adult mouth parts are sponging, lapping, or piercing
  • All adults look like flies, but some may have a metallic color (blue bottle fly).
  • Antennae may be difficult to see.

Adult Males and Females
Males and females are hard to distinguish. Females are usually larger and can extend the tip of the abdomen to form an ovipositor which is used to lay eggs. Sometimes males have enlarged eyes which meet on top of the head.

Interesting Behaviors

  • The eyes of flies are among the most complex in the insect world. They are compound eyes with many individual facets, each representing a separate light-detecting unit. The light reflected from the eye of a horsefly can form a rainbow.
  • Flies taste, smell, and feel with the hairs that cover their bodies. The hairs on the fly's mouth parts and feet are used for tasting. Flies taste what they walk on. If they walk onto something tasty, they put down their mouth and taste it again.
  • Flies use other hairs to tell them when they touch something. These hairs bend when touched.
  • The eyes of a fly do not have eyelids, so flies rub their eyes with their feet to keep them clean.
  • A fly cleans itself constantly.
  • Flies walk on smooth surfaces using sticky soft pads that act like glue. This allows them to walk on vertical glass surfaces and upside down.

Because of their habits of being attracted to feces and decaying meat, flies have been implicated in transmission of disease such as dysentery, typhoid fever, and cholera. It is suggested that feeder insects be obtained from a non-wild source.

The above information is from "Using Live Insects in Elementary Classrooms for Early Lessons in Life",
a set of 20 lesson plans for elementary school teachers that can be accessed at

Life Cycle

The housefly has a complete metamorphosis with distinct egg, larva or maggot, pupal and adult stages. The house fly overwinters in either the larval or pupal stage under manure piles or in other protected locations. Warm summer conditions are generally optimum for the development of the house fly, and it can complete its life cycle in as little as seven to ten days, and as many as 10 to 12 generations may occur in one summer.

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Life cycle of the house fly Adult and eggs of the house fly Pupae development of the house fly Adult house fly
Life cycle of the house fly
Adult and eggs of the house fly
Pupae development of the house fly
Adult house fly

Egg: The white eggs, about 1.2 mm in length, are laid singly but pile up in small masses. Each female fly can lay up to 500 eggs in several batches of about 75 to 150 eggs, each over a three to four day period. The number of eggs produced is a function of female size, which is principally a result of larval nutrition.

Larva: The mature larva is 3 to 9 mm long, typical creamy whitish in color, cylindrical but tapering toward the head. The head contains one pair of dark hooks. The posterior spiracles are slightly raised and the spiracular openings are sinuous slits which are completely surrounded by an oval black border. The legless maggots emerge from the eggs in warm weather within eight to 20 hours, and they immediately feed on and develop in the material where the eggs were laid. The full-grown maggots have a greasy, cream-colored appearance and are 8 to 12 mm long. The larvae go through three instars. When the maggots are full-grown, they crawl up to 50 feet to a dried, cool place near breeding material and transform to the pupal stage. High manure moisture favors the survival of house fly larvae.

Pupa: The pupae are dark brown and 8 mm long. The pupal stage is passed in a pupal case formed from the last larval skin which varies in color from yellow, red, brown, to black as the pupa ages. The emerging fly escapes from the pupal case through the use of an alternately swelling and shrinking sac, called the ptilinum, on the front of its head which it uses like a pneumatic hammer.

Adult: The house fly is 6 to 7 mm long, with the female usually larger than the male. The eyes are reddish and the mouth parts are sponging. The thorax bears four narrow black stripes and there is a sharp upward bend in the fourth longitudinal wing vein. The abdomen is gray or yellowish with dark midline and irregular dark markings on the sides. The underside of the male is yellowish. The sexes can be readily separated by noting the space between the eyes, which in females is almost twice as broad as in males.

Life Cycle information is taken from the University of Forida, Publication Number: EENY-48
Author: Hussein Sanchez-Arroyo, University of Florida
Photographs: Jerry F. Butler, University of Florida; Jim Kalisch, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

click on any thumbnail for a larger image

This is a sleeve cage. It is a 5 gallon bucket with a hole cut in it to fit a 4 inch diameter pvc pipe that is around 10 inches long. You can go to the dollar store and buy a cheap long sleeve shirt and a pair of plus size panty hose (white or flesh). Put the panty hose on the top of the bucket tieing the legs tight around the rim. Slide the sleeve over the pipe and tie a knot in the end. You also need to get 300-500 flies for a breeder colony.

Sleeve Cage for Fly Rearing
You then need 2 deli bowls and a cup for the pupae to hatch out of. In the deli cups are sugar and powered butter milk. Flies need cholesterol in their diet. The other is filled with aspen wood shavings and water so the flies do not drown. Flies need alot of water.
Fly pupae hatching set up
When the flies are around a week old they will start to exchange gentic material. You put a small piece of raw beef liver in their water bowl. Every 24 hours I remove the dish filled with fly eggs. They are the small white specs in the picture. Fly egg laying
Preparation for fly egg hatching: I then fill a 1 gallon bucket with an inch of aspen shavings, a handful of dog food, and sprinkle some powered butter milk over all that. Buttermilk over shavings
Picture of the powdered buttermilk. Powdered Buttermilk
I then dump the water bowl containing the beef liver and fly eggs over the dog food and milk. I fill the bucket with water up to the rim of the wood. Do not use to much water or the baby flies will drown.
I put a flour sack rag over the top of the bucket and tie it off with a rubber band. You can buy the rags at Walmart in the towel section. I cut them up into 4 sections. The buckets can also be purchased in the paint section.
Flour sack rag over top of the bucket
I put whole mess in a sweater box with a paper towel underneath the bucket. Buckets in sweater box
In 4-7 days the baby flies are ready to pupate. They will let you know by soaking the cloth and some escape under the rubberband. Take the cloth of spilling some of the babies into the sweater box. Pour some water into the bucket up to rim of the wood shavings. Not to much water or you drown them. The water makes them mad and they crawl out of the bucket and under the paper towel to pupate. Forcing them out at 4 days makes a smaller fly for 2 week old baby chams. Baby flies pupate
This is the end results. Put about 100 pupae per deli cup and in 4-5 to days they will hatch out. The process does not smell as bad as you would think. Individual containers of maggots
Picture of the fly incubating closet Fly incubating closet
The rearing text and images contributed by Walter

Flies should be fed with a high quality gutload prior to feeding.

Mail Order and Online Resources for Flies

Mail Order Resources:
Beneficial Insectary - pupae

Skipio's - pupae and larvae
American Cricket Ranch - pupae in small quantities
Superior Enterprises - deli cup containers and lids

Other Information Resources:
How to Make a Fly Trap:
Common House Fly Sheet:
Dalabees's Anatomy of a Housefly:
What is Musca domestica (contains interesting nutritional information):
University of Florida Dept of Entymology (excellent photos & general information on life cycle):

This page last modified on: Monday, December 16, 2002

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