Back to top

Face Flies

Horse with Face Flies
Horse with Face Flies
Face Fly Adult
Face Fly Adult

Biology

The face fly, Musca autumnalis, is a robust fly that superficially resembles the house fly. It is a nonbiting fly that feeds on animal secretions, nectar, and dung liquids. Adult female face flies typically cluster around the animals’ eyes, mouth, and muzzle, causing extreme annoyance. Their activity around the animals’ eyes allows face flies to serve as vectors of eye diseases and parasites such as pinkeye and Thelazia eyeworms. They are also facultative blood feeders, meaning that they gather around wounds caused by mechanical damage or biting fly activity to feed on blood and other exudates.

By contrast, male face flies feed only on nectar and dung. They spend much of their time resting on branches and fences and attempting to catch and copulate with female flies as they move about. Females lay their eggs on very fresh droppings on pasture, and development from egg to adult is completed in about 2 to 3 weeks, depending on temperature.

Face flies are strong fliers that can travel several miles. Unlike house flies, face flies do not enter darkened barns or stables during the summer months. In the fall, however, they enter buildings and overwinter indoors in a state of diapause, or hibernation.

Management

Horn flies and face flies breed exclusively in very fresh cattle manure on pasture. As a result, cultural controls such as manure management practices in and around barn areas that are highly effective against house flies and stable flies will have no impact on horn fly and face fly populations. Masks have proven to be an effective barrier from face fly attacks for horses. Biological control of these pests at present is limited to beneficial organisms that occur naturally in the field. Face flies are attacked by parasitic nematodes, and immature stages of both horn flies and face flies are attacked by predaceous mites, predaceous beetles, and parasitoids. Manure competitors such as dung beetles also limit fly populations by removing and burying cattle dung before immature flies can complete their development. Adult flies are attacked by predaceous yellow dung flies, and face flies are occasionally attacked by pathogenic fungi.

In spite of the diversity and importance of natural enemies of face flies and horn flies, methods are not known for exploiting these biological control agents in pest management programs. Parasitoid releases for house fly and stable fly control are not effective against these pasture pests.

Insecticidal control options for horn flies and face flies include whole-animal sprays and wipes. Whole-animal sprays provide rapid relief from fly pressure. Animal sprays are applied either as a dilute coarse spray or as a fine, low-volume, more concentrated mist.