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Fruit or Filth: Small Flies in New York City | JP McHale
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Fruit or Filth: Small Flies in New York City

In New York City, we are exposed to multiple types of pests, both flying and crawling. Two of the most prevalent flies are the filth fly and the fruit fly.

Phorid (“Filth”) Fly

This fly is also known as the humpbacked fly as it breeds in and feeds on moist decaying organic matter. It also frequents unsanitary areas, and it can spread disease-causing bacteria onto exposed food products or food preparation surface when found in food facilities.

Small filth flies are about 1/8″ long. They are most commonly mistaken for fruit flies. Although their body is similar in color, phorid flies have a distinctive hump in their thorax which starts behind their head. They also lack the red eyes which fruit flies have. The other key to identifying phorid flies is how they move when you swat at them. Unlike other flies which will fly away, the first move a phorid fly will make is to run along surfaces away from you. This unique characteristic alone can be enough to identify them.

Unfortunately, the filth fly is also very dangerous to humans. Hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, pinworm, roundworm, cholera, bacillary dysentery, infantile diarrhea, typhoid and paratyphoid are disease-causing organisms with which these flies are associated. Filth flies pick up pathogenic organisms from sewage, garbage, manure, decaying bodies and other such sources.

Small filth flies are most abundant about decaying plant and animal matter. In structures, these flies can be found breeding wherever moisture exists around plumbing and drains in bathroom and kitchen areas, garbage containers, garbage disposals, crawl space areas and basements.


  • Exposed Garbage
  • Trash containers that are not cleaned regularly and do not have lids
  •  Wet Rags & Dirty wet Towels
  • Dirty Drains
  • Broken Tiles and/or Grout
  • Wet areas under sinks
  • Elevator Pits
  • Over Watered Plants


  • Mop floors, instead of hosing or power washing floors
  • Dry, Dry, Dry! Flies thrive in moist environments
  • Use Floor Fans after mopping to help dry floors and prevent large masses of water
  • Do not use bleach-use a soap detergent with an enzyme and odor neutralizer to break down organic matter
  • Use lids on Trash Cans
  • Scrub & Clean Drains on a routine schedule-2x per month
  • Repair broken tiles & grout to prevent organic matter from building up
  • Wash and hang up mops to dry

Fruit Fly

The Fruit Fly is commonly seen around ripe fruit, ESPECIALLY bananas. They lay their eggs near the surface of fermenting fruits, vegetables, and other moist organic materials including damp mops, cleaning rags, residuals in bottles, cans, garbage disposals and drains.

Fruit flies develop by complete metamorphosis. The eggs (which are difficult to see with the naked eye) are deposited near the surface of fermenting fruit or organic matter. A pair of filaments that are attached to the eggs protrude above the surface of the liquid. The female fruit fly will lay about 500 eggs. The larvae emerge about 30 hours after the eggs have been laid and feed near the surface of the fermenting material. The larvae feed for five to six days then crawl to drier areas of the food source or even out of the food source to pupate. The larva transforms into the pupa in the last larval skin, or puparium, which bears a conspicuous pair of filaments on the anterior end. The adult fruit fly emerges several days later. The newly emerged fruit flies are attracted to light and become sexually active in about two days. The adults mate more than once. Under ideal conditions, the life cycle from egg to adult can be completed in as little as eight days.

The sudden appearance of large populations is not uncommon inside buildings.

The fruit fly is a species of the common housefly. It is distinguished by its red eyes (dark-colored in some species) tan thorax and black abdomen. They get their name because of their strong attraction to ripening or rotting fruit, which serves as a food source as well as a place to lay their eggs.

In food and beverage areas, any type of fermenting organic liquid or solid matter such as spilled beer, soda’s, and food should be considered an ideal breeding ground. These include wet areas under dripping pipes and refrigeration equipment, garbage containers, and discarded bottles and cans. Regardless of where the flies originate, they will be seen hovering above the bar or in kitchens and causing a distraction for customers and workers.


  • Exposed Fruit
  • Bar Area’s
  • Liquor Bottles
  • Sticky surfaces including bar counters (above and below), walls, soda guns, etc
  • Rubber Mats that haven’t been cleaned
  • Soda spills
  • Vegetables-onions and potatoes upon delivery.


  • Keep Soda Guns in Clean Water Overnight
  • Soda Gun Holster is clean and free or slime/sludge
  • Cover Liquor Bottles w/Plastic Wrap and/or use Plastic Caps on liquor bottles
  • Use touch test on surfaces (are areas sticky or not?)
  • Rubber Mats should be washed and hung out to dry
  • Store fruits and vegetables in cooler when possible.