Why are flies so hard to swat? Science reveals why; we’ve got tips to kill them

Jan 16, 2021
There's a reason why flies are so much harder to catch, and it's all to do with their hindwings. Source: Getty.

Ever wondered why mosquitoes can be smacked without a second thought but catching a fly feels like an Olympic-level achievement? Well scientists have once again come to the rescue with a very detailed explanation on the sought-after question: Why are flies so damn hard to swat?

According to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, flies are actually faster than other insects because of their ability to have a quicker take-off. This speedy escape comes from their use of hindwings, which helps to “initiate and control a rapid escape”.

Using high-speed cameras, international scientists filmed the take-offs of more than 20 fly species. From their experiments, they found that houseflies, as well as closely-related common pests like blow flies and fresh flies, took off much faster than others.

And the reason they were able to be so fast is because of their halters, which are the specialised hindwings that help to stabilise their flight. To uncover if this was actually the root of their speed, the scientist removed the halters to discover that the flies’ take-offs were slower and less stable than before.

However, in the other fly species, removing the halters had no effect. This showed the scientists that this particular group of flies uses “sensory organs” to help initiate their quick escape.

But if you’re not in the mood to compete with these speedy take-offs, you can always try some easy household hacks to get rid of pesky flies without flapping about with a tea-towel. Firstly, prevention is key, so make sure your bins are emptied, and when you’re able to, turning on the fan will help force them to scatter.

Sometimes, when a fly is smaller, it becomes harder to swat, which is probably why fruit flies are some of the most annoying. But one foolproof way to get rid of these insects is to pour apple cider vinegar into a glass with a few drops of dishwashing liquid as the perfect, fruity-smelling trap that will attract and kill the tiny flies.

There’s also a range of herbs that flies can’t stand because of their very strong scents. Something like rosemary, mint or basil should keep them away while also deterring other insects like mosquitoes, fleas and ants.

Flies also hate citrus smells so next time you go to throw away your lemon or orange peels, place a small slice along windowsills, doorways or near cracks or holes where flies like to lurk. This will also help to deter ants, cockroaches and even fleas!

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Do you have any tricks for getting rid of flies in the house?

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