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Stable Fly

Key features

Adult flies are between 5.5 and 9 mm length with a wingspan of approximately 15 mm. The thorax has dark stripes on a grey background similar to the housefly and indeed in many countries it is known as the biting housefly. It is easily distinguished from the housefly by the fact that the piercing mouthparts project forwards from the head and are kept permanently in that position. The larva resembles the maggot of the housefly. It moves rapidly and feigns death if disturbed.


Adults mate on the wing. The female flies then deposit eggs in batches of 30 to 40 in cool conditions and up to 200 per batch in warmer conditions in animal manure, particularly that of horses, pigs and cattle. Rotting vegetation may also be used as an oviposition site. The eggs are around 1 mm in length and 0.2 mm across. Each female produces approximately 600 eggs. Larvae emerge from the eggs after approximately 3 days and feed the organic matter in which the eggs had been laid. When the larvae reach maturity they are around 10-12 mm long and then pupate in drier parts of the habitat or in the ground. Adults are found from May to October, and sun themselves on walls, vehicles etc.

In common with other insects, development times are influenced by temperature, relative humidity, moisture content, quantity and quality of food. The following figures are therefore only a guide.


Number of days spent as:





The shortest times are at 30◦c, the longest at 16◦c.






The adult flies of this species are blood feeders and can bite humans, although their preferred hosts are cattle and horses. The bite can be painful and secondary infection can occur from the wound if scratched. They generally bite around the legs and ankles and because the mouthparts are robust, clothing is no barrier to the feeding. Indeed bare skin is rarely attacked, the flies preferring to stap through clothing. Dogs, cats and poultry may also be attacked.

Stable fly has been implicated as a transmitter of poliomyelitis.

In tropical conditions it is a carrier of many diseases.

In rare cases, larvae cause intestinal myiasis in man.


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