Musca domestica characteristics, habitat, life cycle, feeding

Anthony Golden

Musca domestica it is a species of dipteran (Diptera order) belonging to the Muscidae family. It is one of the most common diptera associated with human urban planning and has been widely used in genetic research. They are known as common or house flies.

House flies are small in size, about 8 mm in length, the female being slightly larger than the male. They feed on organic substances in a liquid state, therefore, their oral apparatus is of the "sucking" type..

Musca domestica By Housefly_musca_domestica.jpg: Muhammad Mahdi Karimderivative work: B kimmel / GFDL 1.2 (

The female of Musca domestica it mates only once, storing the male's sperm in structures called spermathecae. When conditions are ideal, the female uses the stored sperm to fertilize and lay the eggs on some decomposing organic waste..

At each clutch, a female can lay around 100 eggs, which hatch about 24 hours later, to produce the larvae. Later they pass to the pupal stage, from where the adults finally emerge. As an adult, they can live between two and four weeks.

The house fly is the most widely distributed insect on the planet and is closely associated with humanity. This species is a common carrier of pathogenic organisms, resulting in an important vector of some diseases such as typhoid fever, anthrax, amoebiasis, cholera, salmonellosis, among many others..

Article index

  • 1 General characteristics
    • 1.1 Head
    • 1.2 Thorax or mesosome
    • 1.3 Abdomen
  • 2 Taxonomy and classification
    • 2.1 Classification
  • 3 Habitat and distribution
  • 4 Life cycle
    • 4.1 Eggs
    • 4.2 Larvae
    • 4.3 Pupa
    • 4.4 Adult
  • 5 Food
  • 6 References

General characteristics

M. domestica it has been characterized since the beginning of the 20th century by various naturalists. Like all Diptera, they only have one pair of functional wings, as the second pair of wings has been reduced to a pair of rockers, which work to maneuver and carry out a more efficient and stable flight..

Your body consists of three divisions or "tagmas" that are the head (prosoma), the thorax (mesosoma) and the abdomen (metasoma)..

Body schematic of a housefly By Al2 edited by Muhammad Mahdi Karim / CC BY (


The head of houseflies is convex in front, with the back somewhat conical and flattened. They have a large pair of compound eyes, which occupy a large part of the antero-lateral portion of the head..

The segments under the eyes, known as “genas” (equivalent to the cheeks), are flattened and extend from the gulo-mental portion to the epicranial plate, presenting vertical sutures.

A narrow strip extends from the inner side of each eye and the epicranium, surrounding the eye until it joins the ventral portion of each gena. This strip is of a metallic tone, between gold and silver.

The genas border the lateral opening of the proboscis, and this margin is covered with thick bristles that extend to the anterolateral region..

The upper region of the head, between the eyes, is known as the vertex. In it there are three ocelli that make up the ocellar triangle, which is surrounded in turn by the vertical triangle.

Below the vertex is the forehead, from where a black front line extends that separates the eyes. In females, the eyes are much further apart than in males.


The antennae originate from the lower edge of the forehead. Each antenna is made up of three articulated segments. The first two proximal segments are short and form the scape.

The third segment is longer and is known as the flagellum. This segment is covered in sensory mushrooms. The end of the antennae or edges is feathery and originates in the upper part of the flagellum.

-Oral appliance

Musca domestica oral apparatus schematic By No machine-readable author provided. Halvard assumed (based on copyright claims). / Public domain

The oral apparatus of common flies is of the sucking type. The mouthparts of these animals make up a proboscis and the mandibles and maxillae have been reduced to maxillary palps. These palps are located in the anterior area of ​​the proboscis, called the face.

The haustelo is membranous and is contiguous to the face. It has a groove that is sealed by the hypopharynx and labrum. This region known as the labrum-hypopharynx results from the fusion of the hypopharynx with the second maxillae, which are modified.

The duct of the hypopharynx is free in its distal portion and at its end the salivary ducts open. At the bottom of the oral surface is the pseudotrachea or labela, which consists of a variety of canals that run from the inner margin of the oral lobes to the outer edge of the buccal apparatus..

When the proboscis lobes are extended, the labela canals are open, absorbing food in a liquid state and directing it towards the mouth by capillary action..

Thorax or mesosome

The thorax of M. domestica it is generally oviform with the anterior end flattened. This can be subdivided into three areas: prothorax, thorax and metathorax. The prothorax and metathorax make up small regions at the anterior and posterior ends of the mesosome.

The dorsal surface of the thorax has three transverse sutures that demarcate the limits of the prescutum, escutum, and scutellum. The color of this surface ranges from gray to black with four longitudinal light bands.


On the dorsolateral border of the thorax, above the alar membrane, are the sclerites of the wing bases. These bases have a yellowish coloration, while the wings are translucent and covered by a layer of fine hair. On the front edge of each wing are several lobes (anal lobe and alula) that make up the calipter. This structure covers the rocker arms.

Rockers, also called halteres, have a conical base with several cordonotal sensory organs, which function as mechanical receptors for stress. On the base, a thin rod extends that ends in a spherical bulb. These structures are also innervated by a pair of long nerves originating from the thorax..


The three pairs of legs originate from the ventral part of the thorax and consist of the coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, and tarsus..

The coxae of the three pairs of legs show certain differences. The previous ones are larger and arched, while the intermediate ones are smaller and with well differentiated sclerites. The coxae of the hind legs are similar to the intermediate ones, but in this case, the coxae of both legs join in the ventral part of the thorax..

On the tibiae of the front legs is a set of orange mushrooms, which are used to remove dirt particles that adhere to the hair that covers its body..


The abdomen is grayish or yellowish, has an oval shape and is made up of eight segments in the male and nine in the female. Dorsal segments 2, 3, 4 and 5 are highly developed. The ventral segments or tergitos are very reduced and form a series of narrow plates.

The spiracles are found in the lateral tergitos of the body. At the posterior end of the abdomen is the anal rim.

Taxonomy and classification

The common fly was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in his publication "Systema Naturae”. Two subspecies have been described: M. d. domestic (Linnaeus, 1758) and M. d. calleva (Walker, 1849).


Animalia Kingdom

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Diptera

Family: Muscidae

Subfamily: Muscinae

Genus: Musca

Species: M. domestica

Habitat and distribution

Musca domestica has a cosmopolitan distribution, being able to be found in all the regions inhabited by humans in the world.

This species of insect is probably the one with the greatest association with man. This is because both their life cycle and their diet are carried out in environments that humans are conducive to such tasks. These flies feed and reproduce thanks to the decomposing organic matter that man produces.

Biological cycle

The species Musca domestica has a development with complete metamorphosis, that is to say that they are holometabolos. These animals go through four stages of development that are: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

Under natural conditions, females lay eggs on animal excrement, decaying plant matter, and decaying foods such as meat (carrion).

Life cycle of a housefly. By Unknown author / Public domain


The female can lay between 80 and 150 eggs. These are oval and measure around 1.2mm. Once the eggs have been laid, they take one to several days to hatch, depending on the ambient temperature. At higher temperatures, the shorter time it takes for them to develop to the larval stage.


Once the larvae emerge, they feed and remain in the substrate where the eggs were deposited. This substrate gives them an ideal medium to nourish and develop effectively. The larvae are white, with a reddish-brown head and average 6 mm in length..

The larval stage of Domestic M. It consists of three different instars. This means that the larvae undergo three molts (ecdysis) before moving to the next stage of development. If the ambient temperature is low, the larvae take up to twice the time to develop.

They usually pass to the next stage between two and three weeks after hatching from the eggs..


Once the larvae are ready to pupate, they leave the breeding place and move to a dry, dark place. The pupae are capsules formed by the cuticle of the last instar of the larvae. These capsules measure approximately 1 mm.

As with the larval stage, the duration of the pupal stage depends on the temperature. At high temperatures (between 28 and 35 ° C) the pupa takes about four days to develop. On the other hand, in warm temperatures, it can take up to 20 days for development to complete..

Pupae emerged. Musca domestica. By Agricultural Research Service of United States Department of Agriculture [Public domain]


Finally, the adult emerges from the pupa, using a temporary structure that allows pressing the capsule from the inside, until a small hole is made through which the animal comes out..

After about 24 hours, the flies are ready to reproduce again and continue the cycle..

The lifespan of adult flies is highly related to physical activity and metabolic rate. Some studies have also shown that the adult state is more durable in solitary individuals than those who live in groups..


In common flies there is a change in food requirements depending on the stage of development in which they are. The larvae require a diet containing high levels of cholesterol to develop quickly and efficiently to the pupal stage..

Adults eat mainly rotting meat and feces, although they can also eat foods rich in carbohydrates and sugars, such as rotting fruits and vegetables..

Housefly feeding on sugar. By Dэя-Бøяg / CC BY-SA (

The solid foods that these animals consume are pre-digested thanks to the enzymatic action of the saliva that these flies pour on said foods, in order to be able to be sucked into their mouthparts..

Flies play an important ecological role, as they are one of the main recyclers of organic matter. In addition, they are important vectors of pathogenic organisms such as parasitic protozoa and cestodes..


  1. Bharti, M. (2009). Studies on life cycles of forensically important flies, Calliphora vicina and Musca domestica nebulo at different temperatures. Journal of Entomological Research, 33(3), 273-275.
  2. Hewitt, C. G. The Structure, Development, and Bionomics of the House-fly, Musca Domestica, Linn: Part. 1: the Anatomy of the Fly. University Press.
  3. González, R., & Carrejo, N. S. (1992). Introduction to the study of Diptera. Universidad del Valle Editorial Center, Cali.
  4. Sohal, R. S., & Buchan, P. B. (1981). Relationship between physical activity and life span in the adult housefly, Musca domestica. Experimental gerontology, 16(2), 157-162.
  5. West, L. S. (1951). The Housefly. Its natural history, medical importance, and control. Science, 115, 584.

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