If you’ve got a really curious, inquisitive kid at home (or are yourself the really curious type) then you must have heard your kid ask (or you may have asked yourself) this question: where do flies go in the winter? It might sound like a funny question but it is very valid especially when you consider the fact that all summer you see them almost everywhere, distressing your pet, perching on your nerves, and generally making a nuisance of themselves in the yard. But then, winter comes and they are not to be seen anymore.
Unlike bears, whom everyone knows hibernate in the winter, little is known about this infamous pest known as flies? Do flies hibernate during the winter? Or do they go back to re-strategize on how to infuriate human race even further? Today, we have dug deep and gone into research to find the answer to this question and we are excited to share this with you. So, without further ado, let’s find out, where do flies go in the winter?
The first answer we got to this was: To the glass foundry to be turned to bluebottles! Okay, we confess, that was stolen from an online kids jokes site. But that was just to liven the air a little. Now, let’s really get straight to business.
The truth is that although most use the word “fly” to describe houseflies, bluebottles and the like, there are actually over a million different species of flies in existence in nature. And of the 1 million species, only about a tenth of them have been scientifically described (i.e. about 125,000). So you see there are literally thousands of different flies swarming around your house right now, it’s just that you only notice the larger ones because they are more obvious to your eyes. And the same thing goes for the winters too. A lot of flies remain active all year round. So, while most of the more obvious ones go somewhere we are yet to find out, there are still flies that are active in the winter.
Now, that you know that, we will discuss a bit about the life cycle of flies and this should help us gain some small insight into how they survive the winter.
Life Cycle of a Fly
It might be hard to believe the way they seem to be omnipresent and “unswattable”, but flies aren’t immortal. In fact, their lifespans last only about a week to ten days (or max, 20 to 30 days). But if their life spans are this short and it still appears that they never seem to reduce in population, what does that suggest to you? Correct! Their rate of reproduction must be very high.
On an average, a female fly can lay up to about 100 to 150 eggs per time. And, in her lifetime, a female fly will lay roughly 500 eggs. So that’s 500 eggs in about a week to ten days. See why your yard can never lack in abundance of flies?
A typical fly lives to do only three things: and that is to find food, breed, and then die. No grand ambitions over here. Life’s short.
Because flies are typically disgusting creatures, they will usually seek out the filthiest locations to lay their eggs as winter approaches. So, they seek out places like garbage bins, fecal matter, and the like to lay their eggs. Other species may also lay their eggs in the soil, or on developing fruit or even on leaves.
The eggs that are laid will develop into the next stage: maggots. The maggot stage is the stage where they feed voraciously. At this stage, they usually resemble plump, well-fed worms and may display several varying morphological characteristics depending on the species. For instance, some may have legs, others might be legless. Yet others may come smooth, while others may be spiny or hairy. Also, in color, they may be white, brown, yellow or green. However, one thing is sure; they come with mouthparts with which they chew on fruit and foliage. However, there aren’t many changes at this stage apart from the size, which might be on the increase.
From the maggot stage, the potential fly enters the pupal stage. At this stage, the fly becomes dormant. It doesn’t feed or even move. Oftentimes, it forms a cocoon that wraps it up all over. Unlike the larva stage, a lot of profound changes occur at the pupal stage. It is in the cocoon that they change form into the adult insects we all know and hate; developing wings, antennae, and legs.
At this stage, the fly is now an adult fly. This is the shortest but also the most active in a fly’s life’s stages. This is where it fulfills the last two parts of its ambition: breed and die.
Now, where do Flies go in the Winter?
One fly species whose whereabouts during winter we aren’t uncertain about are the Cluster flies. That’s because we often see them in our attics or other such lonely rooms. You’d recognize them with their hairy thoraces, and stocky, grayish appearance. Only thing is that they don’t seem to be very active. We will explain this shortly.
Most scientists purport that flies are of a sub-tropic origin, believing that they evolved most likely in the Middle East and then spread to other parts of the globe as the man began to colonize the rest of the world. This would suggest that flies do not have what it takes to survive the harsh winter conditions in other non-tropical regions of the world. So what do they do?
- Migrate: Migration is one method most flies try in their bid to escape the winter. A foremost example is the Monarch Butterfly. For other insects, they migrate from the southern states into the northern states during spring. The most obvious flies who employ this maneuver are crop pests
- Overwinter as Larvae: Another method they use to survive the weather is to pass the entire season remaining in the stage of an immature larva. By hiding beneath the protective shield of leaf litter, insects like the wooly bear caterpillar survive the winter. Some other insects are even so smart, in the winter, they take in glycerol instead of water. And guess what? Glycerol is actually a form of antifreeze! Other fly larvae escape the winter by digging and making their home deep in the soil
- Overwinter as Nymphs: For flies like the stoneflies, dragonflies, and mayflies, their nymphs live in streams and ponds beneath the ice all through winter. There, they grow and feed until winter is past and they emerge in the spring as full-grown flies ready to torment
- Overwinter as Eggs: Only very few insects can lay eggs which have the ability to survive the winter. Of these few fly species, the most prominent in this category are the Corn Rootworms and the Praying Mantis
- Overwinter as Pupae: Examples of insects that employ this strategy include the Saturniidae and moths from the Silkworm family. Their pupae are often found attached to branches of food plants during the winter
- Diapause: This is a condition when the metabolic activities in flies are reduced very drastically. They are, in fact, kept just high enough to keep the flies alive and nothing more. At this stage, activities, and growth and development are suspended for the time being to resume when winter is over
So, now you know, that’s where flies go during the winter!