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Toronto House Flies: More Harmful to Humans Than You Think

 In Blog, Flies

Toronto House Flies: More Harmful to Humans Than You Think

If you’re like most people, you probably find flies annoying. Maybe you think they’re dirty or gross. Or, if you’ve seen the Cronenberg version of The Fly, kind of horrifying.

What you probably don’t know, though, is that more than 100 years ago, the city of Toronto waged a veritable war on flies. Seriously! Here are just a few of the more choice quotes from The Toronto Daily Star at the time:

“The only way for the city to be uniformly safe is to carry on a vigorous war of extermination.”

Or how about:

Flies are wholesale murderers. Why should they be tolerated?”

The paper even had a contest where they offered $200 in prize money to the people who killed the most flies. It was dominated by the 16-and-under crowd, who would bring dead flies in for the city’s chief medical examiner to count. (Technically, he didn’t actually count them, but rather estimated the number of flies per container.)

This may all sound a bit silly, but the contest was surprisingly serious. The ultimate winner, 15-year-old Beatrice White, became something of a local celebrity at the time, and her father even recounted receiving threats from people who said they were going to mess with her traps.

In the end, Beatrice killed more than half a million flies over a six-week period, and people at the time were said to be thrilled that they could open their windows in peace.

Why so much fuss about flies?

Back then, they were blamed for nearly every major disease and malady, and medical professionals of the time believed that getting rid of the flies would drastically improve health.

Backward thinking from an earlier time? Not completely. While today we know that flies aren’t to blame for every disease under the sun, they certainly can cause their share of sickness.

Why Do House Flies Sometimes Get People Sick?

This one is pretty simple if you think about it for a few seconds. Where do flies roost? What do they eat? If you said dead and decaying matter and fecal matter, you win!

What do those things have in common? Bacteria. Nasty bacteria that can cause sickness. Since flies are not only literally crawling in it, but also ingesting it, some of that bacteria sticks to them.

When they then enter your house and decide to land on your food — or you — that bacteria transfers. Sometimes, when this happens, people end up getting sick.

Here’s the good news. Most people aren’t going to get sick just because a fly lands on food that they are eating and transfers bacteria to it. Why? Because the amount that transfers to your food is just too small to have an effect.

Toronto House Fly Control

There are some caveats, though. Infants, the elderly, and those with otherwise compromised immune systems are more at risk of getting sick from the bacteria. Additionally, the more flies you have buzzing around your house and landing on your food, the higher your chances of contracting an illness from them.

In other words, a few flies aren’t that big of a deal. If you’re dealing with an infestation, however, it could be a problem.

What kinds of illnesses can you get from flies?

The Real Harm That Toronto House Flies Can Cause

As mentioned above, we now know that flies are not responsible for all of the diseases that so many thought they were in the past. That being said, there are all kinds of sicknesses that flies can give to humans. These include but are not limited to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Typhoid
  • Cholera
  • Certain helminth infections
  • Trachoma
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Yaws
  • Cutaneous diphtheria

They are also responsible for some mycoses and even leprosy.

Now, obviously getting a case of pink eye or diarrhea isn’t the worst thing in the world, but most people would probably rather avoid it if they could — especially if they knew they could do so by getting rid of those flies around their house that were already annoying them.

How Do You Get Rid of House Flies and Avoid Infection?

There are a number of things that you can do to help with a fly problem, and they vary depending on the nature of the problem itself.

Keep Them Out

Probably the best way to deal with an indoor fly problem is to not let it start. This means keeping doors closed, making sure window screens are in good condition, sealing cracks and holes, and proofing other areas that could serve as entry points for flies.

Use Traps and Keep Clean

If a relatively small number of flies get inside, it’s still possible to deal with them using DIY and over-the-counter traps. Flypaper can work wonders over time. Also useful are soda bottle traps, dish soap, and vinegar traps, and other methods. Additionally, you’ll want to be extra vigilant about cleaning up food, doing dishes, and taking out the trash.

How Do You Get Rid of House Flies and Avoid Infection?

Call the Experts

It’s worth repeating: Call the experts! Sometimes, DIY methods just aren’t enough. If you have an infestation of flies around your home — inside or outside — the best way to deal with it may be to get in touch with the certified pest control professionals and let them handle it.

Depending on who you call, they may use baits, sprays, dusters, foggers, or other professional-grade tools. Just as helpful, they’ll offer tips and suggestions on what you can do to prevent the flies from coming back.

About the Author:

Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert and a regular guest on HGTV. He is renowned in the industry as an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions. Mackie and business partner Sandy Costa were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.

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