Why Flies Rub Their Hands And Legs Together

by | Flies, Insects

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Have you ever wondered why flies rub their hands and legs together?

Flies rub their hands and legs together to clean them. Tiny particles floating in the air and from things a fly sits on get stuck in the hairs on the fly’s legs. Rubbing the legs and hands together removes these particles and is part of a fly’s natural grooming routine.

We all know that many flies love sitting on and eating dirty things, like rubbish and animal feces. So why would a fly be worried about cleaning its legs? Well, a clean fly gets a lot of benefits from shaking germs and dirt off itself and onto your kitchen counters.

In this article you’ll find out:

  • Why flies clean themselves
  • How flies clean themselves
  • Which flies are dirty?
  • How to get rid of filth flies in your house

Why flies clean themselves

Photo of a black fly rubbing its hands together

A fly can smell food from several miles away with its antennae, and it follows the smell to land on the food. But before it starts eating, the fly needs to make sure that the food is something worth eating.

Flies mostly clean themselves so they can taste better and decide what to eat. Flies taste using special taste sensors on their lower legs, feet, and wings. When a fly lands on something, the sensors taste the surface so the fly knows what it is standing or walking on.

But these sensors cannot taste very well when they are covered in dirt and particles. And here’s where the problem comes in…

As a fly flies through the air or lands on things, pollen, dust, germs, microbes, and other tiny particles get stuck to the fly’s legs, wings, and body. A fly cleans itself to rub off all the dirt and debris.

When a fly is clean, it can land on any surface to give it a taste with its sensors to decide if it is standing on something that’s good or bad to eat. This is why cleaning is such an important part of a fly’s daily routine.

But a clean fly is also more likely to:

  • Stay healthy because it regularly removes germs and bacteria from itself
  • Find other flies that are suitable to mate with
  • Stay alive by avoiding predators
  • Fly better and be more accurate with landings now that there is no dirt weighing down the fly’s legs, wings and body

Some people use strong smells to repel and keep flies away. These strong smells overpower flies’ sense of smell, so they cannot find or taste food. When this happens, flies usually leave or stay away. Click here for the full list of smells flies hate and how to use them to repel flies.

How flies clean themselves

Flies tend to follow this routine when they clean themselves:

A fly typically starts cleaning itself by rubbing its head and eyes with its front legs. It then rubs its abdomen (the back or end part of its body) and wings with its back legs. Finally, the fly rubs its thorax (the front or upper part of its body, closest to the head).

While rubbing itself down from head to abdomen, the fly stops every now and then to rub the legs it’s using to clean itself. It does this to remove any particles and dirt that have collected on the hairs of its legs during the cleaning process.

This is why you may see flies rubbing their front or back legs together, depending on what area of their body they are cleaning.

Researchers have found that the average fruit fly spends 1.5 hours a day cleaning itself.

Which flies are dirty?

Not all flies are dirty. Some flies are quite clean and have little or no impact on our health.

Flies that lay their eggs in feces, rotting food and garbage are called filth flies. These flies carry germs on their body from unhygienic sources and spread them when they land on other surfaces or clean themselves and shake off the germs. It’s these germs that make people and animals sick.

Some common filth flies that you might find in your home or yard include:

Click on any of the flies listed above to be taken to a page that gives you more details about that type of fly.

If you have filth flies on your property, it’s a good idea to take steps to kill them off and prevent them from coming back.

How to get rid of filth flies in your house

Below is a list of the best products from Amazon and recommended methods to get rid of filth flies in your house:

  • Go through your house and inspect the areas outside your windows and doors. Clean up any garbage, mulch, dead animals, animal droppings, food, stagnant water, or anything else that might be attracting flies. Close any gaps in the walls or roof, where flies might be getting in.
  • Get garbage bins that seal properly, so there’s no way flies can get into them and lay eggs. Take out the trash more often than you usually do, to see if this helps.
  • Make sure there are no holes in your window or door screens. If you like leaving your doors and windows open and you don’t have any fly screens, hang one of these magnetic screen doors or magnetic screen windows to stop flies from coming in.
  • Make sure all alcohol and vinegars in your house are free from spills, sealed tightly, and packed away. Flies are attracted to these substances.
  • Hang these fly traps outside, at least 20 feet from your doors and windows. One of these traps will kill up to 40,000 flies by attracting them to the trap and then drowning them. They are disposable so clean up is quick and easy.
  • Take all potted plants and fresh cut flowers outside. Gently overturn the top layer of soil in the pots to expose fly eggs. Leave the pots or flowers out in the sun or cold to kill any eggs or maggots.
  • Fix leaking faucets or pipes and remove stagnant water (starting with the tray under the refrigerator) from your home. Pour this gel drain cleaner into your floor drains, garbage disposal, sink drains, stormwater drains, and any other drains or pipes on your property. It will quickly kill fruit flies, drain flies, and sewer flies living and breeding in there.
  • Remove or get a professional in to remove any dead animal or animal pest in your garage, crawlspace, roof, wall, or attic that is attracting flies. If you don’t want to pay for this and you can’t get to the dead animal yourself, be prepared to wait out the fly problem for about 10 days until the flies have eaten what they can and the animal is left with only skin and bones.
  • Sprays and insecticides aren’t a good option for killing flies inside a house. These sprays will spread poison around your home and flies breed so quickly that you won’t be able to keep up with them. Instead, keep one of these electric fly swatters nearby to kill flies that fly past you. Or leave these traps on to attract and catch annoying flying insects in your home (without the poisons).

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