The dog days of summer are here. For food processing facilities, that means that issues with flies are likely on the rise. These buzzing pests are more than just an annoyance—they spell danger. By understanding how flies operate, you can take action to reduce or even eliminate them at your facility.
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Flies have very clearly been associated with disease causing organisms: E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and more. Every time a fly lands, it is potentially spreading these dangerous bacteria, contaminating the food you produce and your equipment. Depending on where in the process that contamination occurs, the presence of flies could be putting people who eat that food at risk.
And while contaminated food and equipment is certainly the largest concern that flies pose to food processors, there’s another danger that flies can pose for processing facilities. Third-party audits and regulatory compliance are placing an increased focus on risk-based pest management programs. Cockroaches, rodents, and other pests food processing facilities often deal with are nocturnal or cryptobiotic, meaning that they like to hide, which makes them less likely to be out in the open during day-to-day operations. Flies are the complete opposite. They are out during the day and actively flying, and that makes them very visible to auditors and regulatory officials. Simply seeing flies might signal a concern about a facility’s entire pest management program.
Flies are more than just an annoyance. They are a real and present danger that needs to be addressed as part of a pest management program for a food processing facility.
The Science Behind Your Fly Problem
For food processing facilities, the most likely culprits for fly issues will be house flies, blow flies, and on occasion, bottle flies.
Adult house flies can live for up to 25 days—more than enough time for a single female house fly to produce a virtual army of flies. In her lifetime, she can lay between 350 and 900 eggs. Adult females of other filth fly species can wreak even more havoc; blow and bottle flies can produce as many as 2,300 eggs. Simple math will show you how quickly a relatively small fly issue can become a major problem for a processing facility.
Flies are attracted to mainly two things: heat and odors. Heat signals optimal living and breeding conditions, and odors draw them to potential food and breeding sources.
Food processing facilities naturally generate heat through the use of machinery. If heat is escaping through gaps, cracks, windows, and doors, it may be attracting flies toward your facility. Remember, a fly’s sole purpose in life is to reproduce; the optimal temperature for egg production is between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, so flies will seek out that temperature range. If your facility handles livestock or poultry, you may also be generating heat through the presence of animals and their manure.
Odors that are both good and bad to humans can be fly attractants. Flies have an extraordinary ability to detect these odors from great distances. While most house flies will fly about a mile to find food and breeding sources, they have been shown to be able to detect odors from as far as five miles away.
Think about what is in a five-mile radius of your facility. If your operation produces any odor that is attractive to flies, they can find their way from naturally occurring breeding sites, sewage treatment plants, farms, and even something as small as the carcass of an animal on the side of a road.
Using an Integrated Approach
Integrated pest management (IPM) is not a new concept to most processing professionals. The most effective way to resolve most pest issues is to use a variety of control or elimination methods. It’s no different for flies. By using what we know about fly biology, facilities can use a combination of tactics to reduce and eliminate fly issues.