A fly-ing visit

FliesThe Museum lawn has been buzzing for the last few days. Mostly it’s families enjoying a picnic in the warm sunshine before coming into the Museum for our Easter holiday activities, but there have also been a few insects adding to the hum. Darren Mann, Head of Life Collections explains;

In autumn and spring you may notice large swarms of flies on walls, fenceposts and especially on cars. Most often these aggregations are of the autumn house fly (Musca autumnalis), a beautiful fly which sadly can also be a pest.

The fly occurs across the temperate latitudes of Europe, northern Africa, and central Asia, but was introduced to North America perhaps through military transport or domestic commerce, in the 1940s.

Musca autumnalis
Musca autumnalis


Although Darren says they are one of his favourite flies, he does admit that the autumn house fly has some rather unappealing habits;

They overwinter as unmated adults and emerge in spring, often clustering in large swarms to sun themselves. The breeding seasons begins in spring and after mating females disperse into the surrounding environment to find suitable dung in which to lay their eggs. The yellow maggots (larvae) live exclusively in the dung of cattle, and help the process of nutrient recycling.

Unlike many flies, there is strong sexual dimorphism; the males are marked with orange on their abdomen, while the females tend to be all grey.

Musca autumnalis gather in the sunshine on a Museum sign
The flies enjoying a sun-baked Museum sign

While you’re soaking up the warmth and feeling energised for the summer ahead, remember that these little flies will be doing the same!

Rachel Parle, Interpretation and Education Officer

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More than a Dodo

I'm Public Engagement Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I look after permanent displays and other interpretation. I do a bit of social media on the side, too.

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