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The House Fly – Life Cycle
These are the four distinct stages in an average house fly’s life:
Egg: Depending on the size of a female house fly, she can lay up to 500 eggs in a three to four day period. Eggs are white in color and are usually less than half and inch in size.
Larvae: Larvae are commonly referred to as maggots. Maggots emerge from the eggs within eight to 20 hours of being laid. Larvae begin eating whatever they can find in the area they were laid. They prefer warm, moist environments to grow in.
Pupa: After about four to 10 days, a maggot will move to higher, drier ground to move into the pupa stage of its life. This process take about three to six days and is where the maggot encases inself in a reddish-brown skin where the final stages of development take place.
Adult: Once the adult house fly hatches from the pupal stage, it has an approximate life span of 15 to 30 days. Females are able to start producing eggs after two days of life and will continue to lay eggs for about a month. Female house flys are usually larger than the males.
The housefly life cycle closely mirrors that of most insects: a basic cycle that begins with an egg, then develops through a larva phase, a pupa phase, and finally, into an adult. During a warm summer — optimal conditions for a housefly — the cycle, from fertilized egg to adult, spans a mere seven to 10 days.
After a male housefly chases down and fertilizes a female counterpart, she’s ready to lay her eggs. Houseflies are solitary creatures. Like the rest of the insect world, males and females do not stick together after mating and, unlike nesting insects, females do not care for or protect eggs. Females simply leave the eggs where they will be safe from predators and have plenty to eat upon hatching.
The female housefly deposits her eggs in the crevices and corners of the same kinds of decaying organic matter adults feed on. Within a day, the first larvae begin to emerge from the eggs. Also known as maggots, these worm-like creatures are little more than fleshy, sectionless tubes with hooked mouth parts used for feeding.
The maggots grow rapidly. In less than two days they’ve doubled in size and therefore must molt. Molting is a process common to many invertebrates through which a growing insect sheds its former exoskeleton and grows a new one. A maggot will molt twice more, emerging larger and more developed each time.
Following its third molt, larvae will burrow deep into the substance they’ve been feeding on. Their skins will darken and harden as they enter the pupa stage. Inside this protective shell, the larva will fully develop the body segments and appendages of an adult housefly.
The only visible addition to the emerging housefly is a swollen bump on the fly’s head, used to break through the shell. Since the housefly doesn’t have teeth or jaws to chew its way out, it uses this fluid-filled pouch to break through the pupae shell. Once fully emerged, the bump deflates back into the fly’s head.
A new adult housefly has, at most, three months to reproduce before it dies. With so many predators, a housefly’s average lifespan is even shorter: 21 days. Luckily for the housefly, the phrase “breeding like flies” isn’t just a figure of speech. Each female can lay up to 900 eggs during her brief life.
The very thought of a housefly infestation may prove too disturbing for many homeowners. However, the next page will describe how a manageable amount of houseflies helps regulate the local ecosystem.
When threatened by cold temperatures or lack of food and moisture, the housefly’s body can temporarily shut itself down in a process similar to hibernation, called diapause. This process, which comes on gradually and can last for months, can take place at any point in a housefly’s life cycle.
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