By Tim Fine 

Tiny Flies Big Problem in Sidney

 


There are some weeks where I struggle to find something to write about and then there are weeks where calls come flooding into the office and it makes finding a topic to write about so much easier. The latter scenario is what has inspired this week’s article.

Chances are if you live in town, you have been inundated with tiny flies in your home. If not, consider yourself lucky. I have sent some of these flies off to our diagnostic lab (http://diagnostics.montana.edu/) for positive identification but I am fairly certain that they are fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). I want to reiterate before going any further that my assumption is that we are dealing with fruit flies but I will not know for sure until I get a response back from the diagnostic lab that either confirms or denies my assumption.

The identification question is the easy part to answer, the tricky part is trying to figure out why they are here in such abundance and where they are coming from. The general consensus seems to be that these flies are a result of the piles of sugarbeets. At this point, we do not know for sure whether that is the case or not. My assumption on this is that no, this is not the case but it is definitely an avenue that will be explored. I really do not have any other theories besides that but there have been other “outbreaks” of this fly previously in towns that have sugarbeet dumps and that theory was ruled out so I am not going to jump to that conclusion.


Regardless of where they are coming from and why they are here, the question becomes how does one get rid of them. Unfortunately there is no sure fire answer. I have consulted with the entomologist at the Schutter Lab and her best suggestion is traps. These traps can be purchased over the counter (make sure you are purchasing fruit fly traps) or can be home made. One of the traps she suggested consists of a canning jar with a mashed up piece of banana and some yeast placed in the bottom. Then a paper funnel with about a ½” hole at the bottom placed in the jar. The fruit flies will be attracted to the fermenting mixture and will be trapped in the jar. The jar should be replaced every 7-10 days. And because the flies prefer fermenting food as their breeding grounds, all efforts should be made to make sure there is nothing lying around the house that would allow for breeding to happen. Foods should be stored in sealed containers and if garbage is not changed daily, at least ensure there is a lid on the garbage can and to be doubly safe, food waste should be bagged before going into the garbage.


A pesticide labeled for indoor use will also take care of the adults but be cautious with this as you don’t want to use them around food or food prep areas. Besides, just as with the traps, these will only take care of the adults and not the developing larvae. Unfortunately nothing will take care of the larvae until the primary source of food and breeding for these pests is found.

While the flies are definitely a nuisance, some solace can be found in the fact that they pose no human or animal health threat. I should finish with a disclaimer that says that there are various types of flies and gnats that are the same size as what is being described. As I said above, my assumption is that we are dealing with fruit flies but it is highly likely that there are other small flies and gnats invading homes. If you feel that this is not the pest that you are dealing with, I highly encourage you to bring in a sample and we can help with identification.

Hopefully we will be able to find the breeding and feeding source for these pests soon. Until then, if you have questions, feel free to give me a call at 433-1206 or send an email to timothy.fine@montana.edu.

 

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