The Purpose of Flies in the Environment

We might think of flies as nothing more than pests, but the purpose of flies in the ecosystem is more important than you realize.

Consider the common house fly as a nuisance and potential carrier of diseases such as cholera and typhus. Since these flying insects hover around our food, and where waste is deposited, our chances of contracting diseases through contact are quite high. This is especially true in areas where general levels of hygiene and health are poor.

Basic Facts About Flies

Belonging to the Diptera order of the insect family, there are more than 110,000 species of true flies. North America has 18,000 species alone. One pair of house flies can lay up to six egg hatches with more than a hundred eggs in each hatch.

We can categorize flies under five heads:

    • Gnats – smallest in size gnats comprise biting gnats, sand flies, and midges.
    • Filth Flies – as the name indicates they lay eggs primarily in garbage and animal feces transmitting dangerous illnesses.
    • Biting Flies – as the suggests these flies transmit disease through biting and include the horse-fly, deer fly, and black fly.
    • Small Flies – a fruit fly is a typical example, it generally has a lifespan as short as ten days, and causes extensive crop damage.
    • Overwintering Flies – usually reside in lofts and attics but reproduce in the outdoors – gardens or lawns.

Physical Characteristics of True Flies

True flies are recognizable by a single pair of wings with a pair of halteres -balancing organs- at the base of each wing. Some species that cannot fly live as parasites in alpine areas or on islands. Some of the more common types of true flies include:

  • fruit flies
  • crane flies
  • bee flies
  • hover flies
  • house flies
  • midges
  • face flies
  • blow flies

However, it’s the house fly and mosquito that are the most famous members of the Diptera family. While true files are feared for their reputation as disease carriersthe fact remains that they play a critical role in balancing nature.

fruit flies inside fruit

Fruit Flies

The True Purpose of Flies in Nature

Quite a few true fly species act as pollinators for some plant varieties. Some of these flies hop from flower to flower and plant to plant.


Some of these species of flies pollinate flowers that are not sufficiently attractive or pleasant smelling to attract bees.

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Red trillium, wild ginger, and skunk cabbage are some of the plants that are ignored by bees but pollinated by true flies instead. If it were not for the midges that pollinate cacao plants, you wouldn’t be enjoying your favorite chocolate bar.

True flies also play a crucial role in the food chain, both as a hunter and the hunted. Flies are an essential food source for other insects, fish, birds, and mammals. Fishers use flies as a lure while some fly larvae prey on other insects or act as parasites.

Even crime investigators determine the time of the death of homicide victims by observing the presence of blow fly larvae near the injury. Maggots or fly larvae are used by doctors to deride burn wounds on patients.

The Conclusion on the Purpose of Flies

Despite their dowdy appearance, flies play a significant role in maintaining the ecological balance in our surroundings. No wonder they are aptly known as nature’s clean-up crew.


From rotting carcasses to fecal matter, flies and their larva help break down decomposing organic matter into its basic blocks.

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In the process, the digestive excrement of flies is released back as nutrient-rich manure into the soil. In this way flies complement the ecological balance while playing a role in the food chain too.

So, the next time you come across a fly, remember it’s not just a nuisance, but also the purpose of flies plays a useful role in our daily lives.***

More articles about flies:

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