DON'T TRAVEL VERY FAR, AND AREN'T VERY FAST
Hear that buzzing sound? That's the rapid movement of a house fly's wings, which can beat up to 1,000 times per minute. That's no typo. It may surprise you to learn, then, that they're generally slow fliers, maintaining a speed of about 4.5 miles per hour. House flies move when environmental conditions compel them to do so. In urban areas, where people live in close proximity and there is plenty of garbage and other filth to be found, house flies have small territories and may only fly 1,000 meters or so. But rural house flies will roam far and wide in search of manure, covering up to 7 miles over time. The longest flight distance recorded for a house fly is 20 miles.
HOUSE FLIES ARE RELATIVELY YOUNG INSECTS IN THE WORLD
As an order, true flies are ancient creatures that appeared on Earth during the Permian period, over 250 million years ago. But house flies seem to be relatively young, compared to their Dipteran cousins. The earliest known Musca fossils are only 70 million years old. This evidence suggests the closest ancestors of house flies appeared during the Cretaceous period, just before the infamous meteorite fell from the sky and, some say, triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs.
HOUSE FLIES MULTIPLY QUICKLY
Were it not for environmental conditions and predation, we'd be overrun by house flies. Musca domestica has a short life cycle – just 6 days if conditions are right – and a female house fly lays an average of 120 eggs at a time. Scientists once calculated what would happen if a single pair of flies were able to reproduce without limits or mortality to their offspring.
The result? Those two flies, in just 5 months' time, would produce 191,010,000,000,000,000,000 house flies, enough to cover the planet several meters deep.
HOUSE FLIES TASTE WITH THEIR FEET
How do flies decide something is appetizing? They step on it! Like butterflies, house flies have their taste buds on their toes, so to speak.
HOUSE FLIES ARE ON AN ALL-LIQUID DIET
House flies have sponge-like mouthparts, which are good for soaking up liquefied substances but not for eating solid foods. So, the house fly either seeks out food that is already in puddle form, or it finds a way to turn the food source into something it can manage. This is where things get kind of gross. When a house fly locates something tasty but solid, it regurgitates onto the food (which may be your food, if it's buzzing around your barbecue). The fly vomit contains digestive enzymes that go to work on the desired snack, quickly predigesting and liquefying it so the fly can lap it up.
HOUSE FLIES MAKE THEIR LIVING IN FILTH
House flies feed and breed in the things we revile: garbage, animal dung, sewage, human excrement, and other nasty substances. Musca domestica is probably the best known and most common of the insects we collectively refer to as filth flies. In suburban or rural areas, house flies are also plentiful in fields where fish meal or manure is used as fertilizer, and in compost heaps where grass clippings and rotting vegetables accumulate.
HOUSE FLIES CAN WALK UPSIDE DOWN
You probably knew that already, but do you know how they perform this gravity-defying feat? Slow motion video shows that a house fly will approach a ceiling by executing a half roll maneuver, and then will extend its legs to make contact with the substrate. Each of the house fly's legs bears a tarsal claw with a sticky pad of sorts, so the fly is able to grip almost any surface, from smooth window glass to a ceiling.
HOUSE FLIES POOP A LOT
There's a saying, "Never poop where you eat." Sage advice, most would say.
Because house flies live on a liquid diet (see #6), things move rather quickly through their digestive tracts. Nearly every time a house fly lands, it defecates. So in addition to vomiting on anything it thinks might make a tasty meal, the house fly almost always does poop where it eats. Keep that in mind next time one touches down on your potato salad.
HOUSE FLIES TRANSMIT A LOT OF DISEASES
Because house flies thrive in places that are teeming with pathogens, they have a bad habit of carrying disease-causing agents with them from place to place. A house fly will land on a pile of dog poop, inspect it thoroughly with its feet, and then fly over to your picnic table and walk around on your hamburger bun for a bit. Their food and breeding sites are already overflowing with bacteria, and then they vomit and defecate on them to add to the mess. House flies are known to transmit at least 65 diseases and infections, including cholera, dysentery, giardiasis, typhoid, leprosy, conjunctivitis, salmonella, and many more.