Different Types of Flies: Exploring Fascinating Species and Their Roles in Nature

Flies are fascinating creatures that can be found in a variety of environments across the globe. One might be surprised to learn that there are over 100,000 different kinds of flies identified by scientists worldwide, including common ones like house flies, horse flies, gnats, midges, and mosquitoes1. All these flies belong to the insect order Diptera, characterized by their two wings, unlike most other insects that possess four wings.

Each type of fly has unique features and habits. Adult flies, for instance, have diverse feeding habits — some have thin sucking mouthparts to feed on liquids like mosquitoes, while others have sponging mouthparts, as seen in house flies2. Their diverse lifestyles and environments also lead to varying control methods, with the most effective way to manage filth flies being keeping your home and yard clean3.

Fly varieties such as small fruit flies (also known as vinegar flies) specifically thrive in overripe fruits4. As a result, proper fruit and garbage storage is essential for reducing their presence. Learning about different types of flies can help us better understand their impact on our surroundings and implement appropriate measures to manage them effectively.

Different Types of Flies

House Flies

  • Also known as Musca domestica
  • Typically less than 3/8 inch in length

House flies are common, cosmopolitan companions of humans and domestic animals. They are more prevalent during the hotter summer months.

Fruit Flies

  • Scientific name: Drosophila
  • Attracted to overripe and fermenting fruit

Fruit flies are tiny insects that feed on the sugars found in ripe and rotting fruit. They are commonly found around fruit bowls and trash cans in homes.

Horse Flies

  • Known for their painful bites
  • Lay eggs near water bodies

Horse flies are larger than house flies and are attracted to livestock and humans. They are known for their painful bites, which can occasionally transmit diseases.


  • Non-biting relatives of mosquitoes
  • Common near water

Midges are small, delicate-looking flies that resemble mosquitoes. However, they do not bite or transmit diseases like mosquitoes do.

Cluster Flies

  • Often infest homes in late summer and fall
  • Breed in soil

Cluster flies are named for their tendency to cluster together in large numbers, often invading homes in search of warmth during colder months.

Crane Flies

  • Long legs and mosquito-like appearance
  • Do not bite or spread diseases

Crane flies are characterized by their long legs and a mosquito-like appearance. Unlike mosquitoes, they do not bite or spread diseases.

Phorid Flies

  • Also known as scuttle flies
  • Breed in decaying organic matter

Phorid flies are small, humpbacked flies often found around decaying organic matter and drains. They can move quickly, earning them the nickname “scuttle flies.”

Flesh Flies

  • Found around meat and animal carcasses
  • Can spread disease-causing bacteria

Flesh flies are attracted to and breed in decaying meat and animal carcasses. They can carry and spread harmful bacteria, posing a potential threat to human health.

Black Flies

  • Biting insects that can transmit diseases
  • Lay eggs in flowing water

Black flies are small, biting insects that can transmit diseases to humans and animals. They are often found near rivers and streams, where they lay their eggs.

Drain Flies

  • Also known as moth flies
  • Breed in drains and sewers

Drain flies are small, fuzzy flies that resemble moths. They are commonly found in and around drains and sewers, where they breed in the organic material.

Comparison Table

Fly Type Biting Disease Transmission Breeding Site
House Fly No Possible Various
Fruit Fly No No Fruit
Horse Fly Yes Possible Water bodies
Midge No No Water bodies
Cluster Fly No No Soil
Crane Fly No No Soil and waterlogged areas
Phorid Fly No Possible Decaying organic matter
Flesh Fly No Possible Meat and animal carcasses
Black Fly Yes Possible Flowing water
Drain Fly No No Drains and sewers

Physical Characteristics


Flies exhibit a wide range of colors, from dull browns and grays to more vibrant hues like greenish-yellow and even metallic tones. For instance, adult hover flies often have black bodies with bands or stripes of orange, yellow, or white, resembling bees or wasps.


Flies also vary greatly in size. Some examples include tiny gnats, small to medium-sized deer flies (10-13 mm long), and larger horse flies (14-19 mm long)1.


Fly shapes can differ from robust to slender. Their heads are usually about the width of their abdomen or wider.


Large eyes are a common feature among flies, which enable them to have good navigational skills.

Wing Patterns

Different fly species can have unique wing patterns. Deer flies often have tinted smokey gray-brown wings or dark patterns, while horse flies have clear wings2.


Some fly species have hairs on various parts of their bodies. These hairs can be sensory or provide insulation.

Comparison Table

Feature Example Flies Details
Color Hover flies Black with bands or stripes of orange, yellow, or white
Size Deer flies Small to medium (10-13 mm)
Shape Hover flies Robust to slender, heads about the width of the abdomen
Eyes Large, for good navigation
Wing Patterns Deer flies Tinted smokey gray-brown or with dark patterns
Hair Can be sensory or provide insulation

Life Cycle and Reproduction


Fly larvae, also referred to as maggots, are the initial stage of flies’ development. They hatch from eggs, typically laid on decaying organic matter or animal waste. This stage usually lasts for about 8 to 17 days, depending on factors like food supply and weather conditions.

  • Example: Female stable flies lay over 400 eggs during their lifetime, developing in soiled animal bedding or rotting grass clippings.


Maggots are worm-like and white, going through several stages of growth before pupating and becoming adults. In some species, maggots can complete their development in as little as 8 days, while others may require a longer period.

Feeding and Breeding Sites

Flies typically reproduce and feed in damp, moist areas or areas with decaying organic matter or waste. These breeding sites can include:

  • Soiled animal bedding
  • Rotting grass clippings
  • Compost piles
  • Garbage bins
  • Sewage treatment plants

Some flies, like mosquitoes and stable flies, also feed on mammal blood.

Fly Type Feeding Site Breeding Site
House fly Garbage, decaying matter Animal waste, rotting vegetation
Stable fly Mammal blood Soiled animal bedding, grass clippings
Mosquito Mammal blood, nectar Standing water

In summary, the life cycle of flies is crucial to understanding their development, feeding habits, and breeding sites. Understanding these factors can help manage and control fly populations, reducing their impact on humans and animals.

Habitat Preferences


True flies thrive in damp habitats and are most common in humid environments where moisture is abundant1. For example:

  • In rainforests
  • Near water bodies like lakes or streams


Flies can be found in various habitats supporting diverse wildlife, as they play a crucial role in maintaining the ecosystem2. Some examples include:

  • Pollinating flowers
  • Being a food source for other animals like birds and spiders


Flies often use drains as breeding sites due to the presence of organic waste3. As a result, proper drain maintenance can help prevent fly infestations. Some measures include:

  • Regularly cleaning drains
  • Ensuring proper disposal of waste
Habitat Flies Preference Examples
Moisture Damp environments Rainforests, lakes
Wildlife Diverse ecosystems Flowers, animal habitats
Drains Organic waste Homes, public buildings

Impact on Humans and Environment

Biting Flies

Biting flies can be a nuisance and cause discomfort to humans. Some examples include:

  • Black flies
  • Deer flies
  • Horse flies
  • Sand flies

Painful Bites

The bites inflicted by these flies can be painful and itchy. For instance:

  • Black flies may cause swollen and painful bites
  • Horse flies can deliver particularly painful, sharp bites

Harmful Diseases

Biting flies can transmit harmful diseases to humans, such as:


Infestations of flies, like house flies, can lead to unsanitary conditions and spread of diseases. Examples include:

Beneficial Insects

Some flies are considered beneficial insects. These include:

  • Parasitic wasps: natural pest control for garden pests
  • Tachinid flies: help control caterpillar populations


Flies also play a role in pollination. For example:

  • Syrphid flies, also known as hoverflies, are important pollinators for plants
  • Flower flies help in pollinating flowers in gardens and agricultural fields
Insects Pros Cons
Biting Flies N/A Painful bites, disease spread
House Flies (Infestations) N/A Unsanitary conditions, disease spread
Beneficial Insects (e.g., Parasitic Wasps) Natural pest control, garden health improvement N/A
Pollinators (e.g., Syrphid flies) Plant pollination, enhance agricultural productivity N/A

Fly Management and Control


Sanitation plays a vital role in managing fly infestations. An essential step includes maintaining cleanliness around your home and yard.

  • Keep garbage bags tightly tied to reduce odor.
  • Clean garbage cans regularly to remove food and odors.
  • Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids and place them as far away as possible from your home.
  • Remove animal manure, rotting mulch, lawn clippings, and dead birds and animals from your yard.

By diligently keeping your environment clean, it helps to minimize fly breeding sites and prevent infestations.

Pest Control Methods

In addition to sanitation, implementing various pest control methods can effectively manage fly populations. Here are some practical, pesticide-free methods:

  1. Fly swatters – A handy tool to control individual flies that have entered your home.
  2. Vacuum cleaners – Efficiently remove large numbers of dead flies that have accumulated in attics or other areas.
  3. Traps – Various types of traps can be used to capture and kill flies, reducing their numbers.
  4. Biological control – Using beneficial organisms to manage pest species, such as commercially available organisms targeting immature stages of flies.
Pest Control Method Pros Cons
Fly swatters Simple and cheap Only kills one fly at a time
Vacuum cleaners Efficient Requires electricity
Traps Can capture many flies May be unattractive
Biological control Pesticide-free Less effective on adult flies

By implementing appropriate sanitation practices and a combination of these pest control methods, you can effectively manage and control fly populations in your environment.

Scientific Classification

The order Diptera comprises the true flies, which are insects characterized by having only one pair of wings1. With over 150,000 described species, Diptera is one of the largest groups of insects2. Flies can be further classified into various families based on their physical features and behaviors.

Identifying flies can be easier by examining their:

  • Wing structure
  • Mouthparts
  • Antennae
  • Leg structure

For instance, adult flies usually have either thin sucking mouthparts, like Mosquitos3, or sponging mouthparts, a tube with a wider sponge at the end, like Flower Flies and House Flies4. One of the most distinct features of true flies is the presence of halteres—small, club-shaped balancing organs located near the wings5.

Some common fly families include:

  • Muscidae, commonly known as house flies
  • Culicidae, which includes mosquitoes
  • Syrphidae, or flower flies and hover flies
  • Tachinidae, a group of parasitic flies
  • Calliphoridae, commonly referred to as blowflies and bluebottles

When comparing different fly families, it’s helpful to consider the following table:

Fly Family Wing Structure Mouthparts Antennae Leg Structure
Muscidae 1 pair Sponging 3-segmented Slender
Culicidae 1 pair Sucking Short, hairlike Long and thin
Syrphidae 1 pair Sponging 3-segmented Medium-length
Tachinidae 1 pair Sponging Branched Robust and spiny
Calliphoridae 1 pair Sponging 3-segmented Slender with bristles

In summary, flies belong to the Diptera order and are further classified into numerous families based on their characteristics. Their wing structure, mouthparts, antennae, and leg structure are some of the key features used for fly identification.

Additional Resources


In the world of literature, there are several books and articles about different types of flies and their importance. Some publications focus on their biology, while others discuss their role in ecosystems. For example:

  • “The Life of the Fly” by Jean-Henri Fabre
  • “The Amazing World of Flies” by Alina Brucella


Technological advancements have helped researchers better understand the behavior and lifecycle of flies. Various devices like insect traps and monitoring systems have been developed to control their populations, especially in residential and agricultural settings.

Visual Arts

Flies have been depicted in various forms of visual arts, ranging from close-up photography to paintings and illustrations. These artistic representations often emphasize their intricate body structures and vibrant colors.

World History

Throughout history, flies have played a major role in shaping human civilizations. They have contributed to the spread of diseases, but have also been instrumental in pollination and decomposition processes.

On This Day in History

Flies might not directly relate to historical events, but their presence and impact can be explored within the context of past events, such as how they influenced pest control measures and agricultural practices.


Several online quizzes are available to test your knowledge about flies, their habitats, and their significance. Some examples include:

  • The Ultimate Fly Quiz
  • Can You Identify These Common Flies?


There are podcasts dedicated to discussing insects, including episodes that delve into the world of flies. Examples include:

  • The Insect Hour: Flies
  • Bug Talk: Fascinating Facts About Flies


For definitions and terms related to flies, an entomology dictionary can be a helpful resource. This will provide explanations for specific types of flies, their anatomy, and their behavior.


There are many entomologists and scientists who have dedicated their careers to studying flies. Notable figures include:

  • Jean-Henri Fabre
  • Paul Bert


To better understand the world of flies, you can find various articles and summaries that provide overviews of their life cycles, habitat, and importance in ecosystems. These resources offer a starting point for exploring the fascinating lives of these often misunderstood creatures.


  1. https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g7388 2 3 4
  2. http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Diptera/ 2 3 4
  3. https://extension.umn.edu/nuisance-insects/flies 2 3
  4. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/flies-in-the-home-5-502/ 2
  5. https://www.si.edu/spotlight/buginfo/true-flies-diptera


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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22 thoughts on “Different Types of Flies: Exploring Fascinating Species and Their Roles in Nature”

  1. Hi, this is not a dead Stick Insect being eaten by a Planarium.

    It have six leg , and it can fly. The size of this insect is approximately 10 mm long. I found many of these on the wall of my house.

    • This insect is not missing any legs. It legs is in a weird position.
      – Two legs in front (straight position).
      – Two legs in the middle near the head (in the bent position)
      – Two legs behind (straight position).

    • The photographer, Piotr Naskrecki, frequently helps us to identify Katydids. We will write to him and inquire if your identification is correct.

  2. I saw these in Nashua, NH, Summer of ’95 and me and my Mom have been trying to figure it out ever since. They’d crawl Up the wall. Down to Up. They were slow, defenseless and wingless.

  3. They look to me a lot like some kind of hover fly (Syrphidae). Some hover flies are associated with wasp nests as larvae but these ones look like they might be closer to examples I’ve found that are supposed to feed on rotting wood. Could it be a defunct nest and the hover fly larvae were feeding on the left-over paper?

  4. Bizarre! I just found one in my bathroom!!! What are they!?! It crawls really fast and has stripes down it’s back. They eyes bulge like a fly. It has 6 legs. It’s black it has absolutely no wings. I haven’t had any foreigners in my home and I live on the desert. I placed a coffee cup over the top of it. I’ll let it…stay there. I’ll observe it at a future time and then…let it go….

  5. 10 flies appeared In my home over a couple of days I’m in sc, I feel like this is one of those new mutated bugs like those zombie mosquitoes


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