"Attic Flies" are especially abundant this spring. Last summer's abundant rainfall was favorable for development of cluster flies. The result has been a greater-than-normal abundance of these large, black, pesky flies in houses this winter. Unfortunately, this annoyance will persist through the spring.
Cluster flies are named for their habit of clustering in large numbers on outside walls in September and October and inside attics during the winter. Their abundance varies from year to year in relation to the weather.
Cluster flies do not reproduce indoors. They cannot feed or hatch within the attic or walls. Cluster flies develop during the summer as parasites inside the bodies of earthworms. There are three generations of flies produced each summer, and the final generation of the season migrates to houses and other buildings starting in mid to late September. Reports suggest that houses located on an exposed hill top or high ground are most attractive to these migrating flies.
The flies cluster on the warm sides of buildings in late summer during the day. When the sun goes down and the temperatures cool, these flies crawl indoors through cracks under the eaves and around windows or through gaps in the siding. Once inside and secured in a protected location, they remain in hibernation until warmed by heat from the furnace or the sun.
As the flies warm throughout the winter, and especially in the early spring, they come out of their cold temperature dormancy and begin sluggishly moving around. Their random crawling brings them into the house by way of electrical outlets, window pulley holes, and small openings around windows, moldings and base boards.
Cluster flies are difficult to control in homes because they hibernate within inaccessible places. Because they hide inside walls or under insulation, they are usually not vulnerable to treatment until they appear within the living space of the house. Preventing attic flies is a job for the summer and fall. As much as possible, seal cracks and openings around the outside of the house, especially under the eaves, as you would for energy conservation. Insecticides can be used on the outside of the house in mid-September if you have a persistent problem with attic flies. Remember the problem varies greatly from year to year and is worse than average this year. It may not be bad again until we have another wet summer. The outdoor treatment with residual insecticides such as garden sprays labeled for exterior house treatment, or cattle barn fly sprays is difficult and potentially messy. I would not routinely advise this treatment for most home owners.
Unfortunately, there is little that can be done for flies already inside the attic and walls. Space sprays and fogs into the attic have little if any affect, as the flies are usually under insulation or deep in cracks and crevices. Fly paper, fly strips and bug zappers are similarly of little or no value. Flies buzzing within a room can be dispatched with a fly swatter, a short burst from a household insecticide aerosol sprayer or the hand vacuum or shop-vac.
This article originally appeared in the February 28, 1997 issue, p. 17.