My first attempt at culturing Houseflies began with a fish-baited jar and ended with a house full of buzzing flies and an enraged mother! I quickly learned to chill the little beasts before using them, and was soon happily involved in fly-farming (I fed them moist dog biscuits, evaporated milk and orange juice, instead of the less-agreeable foods they preferred!).
Food and Exercise in One
Houseflies can be a vital source of dietary variety for smaller herps that need soft bodied prey. They are especially valuable to those keeping species that refuse other invertebrates (i.e. most treefrogs rarely take earthworms).
I have found offering flies to be the absolute best way of inducing activity and hunting behavior. Treefrogs and arboreal lizards (Anoles, Day Geckos, Chameleons) in particular go wild when presented with Houseflies…they search and chase about as long as there is a fly left in their enclosures. Even the notoriously sedentary Red-Eyed Treefrog will surprise you with its reactions.
Houseflies are also a great food item for Mantids and Orb-Weaving Spiders, while Scorpions and small Tarantulas will readily accept maggots.
Maggots and Other Flies
Housefly larvae, or maggots, are eaten with gusto by terrestrial salamanders, frogs, lizards and turtles. They are also worth trying on hard-to-feed serpents such as Ring-Necked, Green, Worm and DeKay’s Snakes.
The larger Blow and Bottleflies (Calliphoridae) are also useful, although their larvae are quite thick-skinned and rejected by some herps. Hover Flies (Syrphidae) may be collected by sweeping a net through wildflowers. You’ll need to remove bees that are incidentally caught, however (to complicate matters, many Hover Flies are bee mimics!).
Disease Concerns: Lab-Raised Flies
Although it would seem to “make sense” that Houseflies might pass on diseases to animals that consume them, I’ve not run across such. However, Houseflies, Bottleflies and Blowflies do pose a definite human health hazard so, despite my early experiences, I urge the use of commercially-raised flies only.
Internet-based breeders sell cultures of Houseflies and Bottleflies, along with rearing food and medium. There are even flightless strains available…these are easier to handle, but do not provide the hunting opportunities offered by those able to buzz about. Bait stores sometimes carry maggots, sold as “spikes”.
Freeze Dried Flies
Those not up to fly-rearing can still reap their benefits. Zoo Med Anole Food contains lab-raised flies (use in nectar or feed as is to Newts and Clawed Frogs).
Quick Fly Facts
North America’s 1,000+ Robber Flies prey upon insects, including injurious flies. Even Blowflies have their good points… their larvae eat the maggots of disease-bearing species and play a vital role in decomposition.
Flies feature importantly in Forensic Entomology. By studying the types of larvae present upon a corpse, investigators gain insights into circumstances surrounding the death.
Flies have mastered extreme environments…certain Shore Fly larvae (Ephydridae) live in the 112 degree waters of geysers, while others inhabit crude oil!
Read more about the life cycle and culture of Houseflies.
Please see my article Collecting Live Food for more on non-traditional feeder insects.
Musca domestica image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Muhammad Mahdi Karim
Musca Larvae image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dalius Baranauskas