House Flys - Help, I've searched

katj75(z8 OR)January 3, 2006

Ok, so here is the story, in as short as possible summary. I started my bin approx 5 months ago. It is in a rubbermaid system (same as discribed in this forum, bin inside a bin with drainage holes and a large place in the lid covered with screen for ventilation) under our indoor rabbit cage. The worms seem happy, although for the size of my bin and the amount of waste the rabbit produces, I have come to the conclusion that I probably should have started with more worms. I purchaed 1lb, where I think I should have started with two pounds. I also think I probably need two bins that I can rotate under the rabbit cage. She just produces alot of "stuff" - poop, excess hay, spilt rabbit food (as she tends to dig through her bowl and pick and choose what to eat, what a princess). Since I also want to add food waste from the kitchen I know that I need more eaters then the 1lb of worms I started with.

Here is the problem I can't seem to solve and I think it is causing tension in the household. We inevitably have the doors open in the summer and aquire a house fly here or there. Well they seem to have made my worm bin their personal palace. I am not bothered by maggots in the worm bin, the problem is the damn flys. If I open the bin indoors it is like a fly cloud is released. And then I spend the next week with fly traps trying to get rid of them. I really don't like flys in the house, they really make a mess. The worst is my sigificant other REALLY doesn't like it. He keeps saying I am going to have to get rid of the worm bin and start over. I think I bought some time by getting the fruit fly problem under control (thanks to tips here about freezing the food first, added bonus frozen bags of rotten goup don't stink)but he is very unhappy about the number of house flys in the house.

Questions - I thought I read through one of the many back posts that some one mentioned beneficial nematodes would keep maggots in check. Is this the case? I ordered some, as I can use them in the garden as well. The problem is they don't ship them until spring, so if that is a solution it won't present itself for a few more months.

Is there anything short of starting over that I can do to at least cut back their numbers? I am realist enough to not expect total erradication, just population control. I heistate to scrap what I have and start over as I just started the bin and it seems to have just really settled into a groove. The worms have started to multiply. But having to carry the damn thing outside from the basement, every time I want to open the lid is becoming tedious, as it is pretty heavy.

Are there particular "conditions" that I may have in my bin that is causing the massive fly population? Would the situation improve if there were more worms in the system? I.e eating the food faster, so there isn't enough left over fot the maggots?

Bottom line - I accept all comers to my worm bin party - the pantry moths (which I think come in on the rabbit pellets), the white mites, the white worms (pot worms?), but these house flys are just a big bunch of party chrashers, that are making us crazy. Nothing like having to explain the relatives over Christmas as to why you have a house full of flys. I took the fly tape down for the day we had them over, becuase I think they are the tackiest thing ever, and by end of day they were back with a vengance. I also really hate to use the fly tape as theyy are pretty toxic stuff, they off gas some nasty crap into the air.

Any and all help would be appreciated, even just condolences.



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billr12(Z5/6 MO)

As long as you use fresh rabbit poop you will have flys. There are a couple of things that will help. Keep the bin more moist as maggots dont like a damp environment as much as they do slightly dry. Find or purchase some burlap or fiber carpet or use box cardboard, not nylon carpet unless that is all you can get, and cover the top of the bin fairly tightly. I spray the carpet on mine with a mist every day and the flys went away after awhile. I still get one or two on really extended warm periods. i dont lift the caarpet or cardboard very often as these are feeding on strictly rabbit poop.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 3:34PM
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katj75(z8 OR)

Thanks Bill. I have resolved to the fact that I am not going to eleiminate them. I am jsut hoping for population control at this point. I have a question regarding your advice. When you say place carpet or cardboard on top of the bin, do you mean right on top of the material inside the bin? Or as a lid for the bin? I have a tight fitting lid on the bin that has screen material for ventilation. I thought the bins needed a certain amount of air flow. WOuldn't laying carpet or carboard tightly over the material smother everything - I mean, make the system anerobic (is that the right word? Which ever word means decomposing without oxygen, I haven't quite got the lingo down).


    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 5:27PM
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billr12(Z5/6 MO)

Carpet or cardboard kept damp wont restrict airflow. My bins stay slightly damp but dont produce leachate. The population in all three bins is expanding very rapidly. Oxygen can penetrate those materials easily if kept damp not wet.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 6:43PM
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If the fly population is out of control, one quick fix is to vacuum them up with a shop vac. You may have to cut a hole in the bin top for wand insertion to suck up the offenders.

Your significant other's "start over" idea may have validity. But convert your bin into an outdoor one. Your description of the bin (heavy and 5 months old) may indicate it's time to separate worms and cocoons from everything else in there anyway.

I know, I know, but it isn't as bad as that. Latex lab gloves, eye protection, coveralls, maybe a tetanus shot, some neighborhood kids promised a bounty for each worm if they help, at least one six pack of beer to start with, and commitment. While you're doing it, you'll learn a whole lot about your bin.

After all that, you may want to rethink the "open-door" policy.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   January 4, 2006 at 10:52AM
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katj75(z8 OR)

Thanks Chuckie, I actually never thought about the shop vac option. We have one that we recently had to use for the water in our basement, gotta love all the rain the west coast is getting.

I do plan to build an outdoor bin this spring when the weather warms. But still want or at least hope to figure a way to use the rabbit hutch /worm bin that was built just for that purpose. Of course the grand idea was a worm bin/ semi-self cleaning rabbit cage. The whole system is working quite well other then the fly's.

Yes, I am not far from having to sort the bin anyway, I was just hoping to wait until the weather warms up enough to do it outside. How long can the poor worms be exposed to cold temps before it becomes life threating? My hope is if I start over, eliminate the fly's in the house then start a new "fly free" indoor bin I can keep them in check maybe with some of the techniques Bill mentioned. I actually looked back at my calendar and my bin is more like 4 months old, but the first couple of months didn't see alot of activity, the bin is only half full. Like I mentioned above I don't think I started with enough worms for the size of my bin, 1lb doesn't seem to be enough. The weight is mostly due to the fact that it is BIG, I used the largest Rubbermaid I could find(without a measureing tape handy I would guess it is 16" x 30" x ?depth, I am thinking next time I will make a more managable size.

As far as the bin sorting, I am not afraid, it is actually the part I am looking forward to. I have always liked getting dirty and playing with bugs, the maggots don't even bother me, if they didn't turn into flys that try and land in the middle of Christmas dinner, we would be living in perfect harmony.

Thanks again, I am going to work with the shop vac this evening.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2006 at 11:13AM
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Hi Kat,

Have you found a solution for the fly's? I have 4 rabbits and the same problem with the fly's in the house. When I read your posting it was as if I was explaining my fly problem. My husband tolerates my pets but the flys and flytape push him over the edge. I just wanted to let you know that there are others that understand how annoying the fly's really are. LOL. Best wishes for a fly free house!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 4:59PM
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I purchase scented fly strips from our dollar store and it attracts everybug. The downsides is they are unatractive to look at and they are really sticky to the touch and hard to remove but it sure beats having things flying around. Use the vacuum first and on accasions and hang some fly strips for all time usage. The big box stores carry these too but they are about$3-$4 for a box of 4 that are rolled up into little tubes, the dollar store has them for $1 can't beat that.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 12:39PM
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OK, well I am new to this whole worm thing. I read this post and it scared me. I live in a small apartment and the last thing I need is a ton of flies all over the place. It got me thinking. Couldn't I just cover my bin with Mosquito Netting to prevent the initial fly infestation? I don't have a problem yet, but if I can keep the flies out, I will keep their babies out. I found mosquito netting online: "Coghlan's Mosquito Netting" for about 5 bucks. I think it may be worth it. Anyone else try this?

Here is a link that might be useful: $5 netting to cover bin?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 10:04PM
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katj75(z8 OR)

Wow suddenly there is activity on this issue. Here is an update. First in repsonse to Janice who also has bunnies. The fly problem didn't occur until I started the worm bin. Prior to the worm bin the rabbit poop wasn't in the house long enough to breed flys.

Anisten - You mentioned fly strips. Yes I have used these, but would prefer not to, they can be pretty toxic stuff to have in the house. I was looking for an alternative to the fly strips.

bford23 - Don't worry about the fly's unless you are using manure, like the rabbit poop that I am using. Yes a covering for the worm bin is a good measure to take regardless. I have a lid on my bin as well with window screen over all vents. It keeps the flys in/out, the problem is you have to open the lid to feed and maintain the bin. Open the lid and all the fly's escape.

For all I would recommend reading the responses that were originally given to my question. The responses from Chuckiebtoo and Bill. I have made huge progress with cutting down the fly issue. I have used a combination of the things mentioned above - altering the conditions in my bin to be less fly friendly and using the shop vac. I have a small shopvac that is easy to move around. Before I open the bin, I crack the lid just enough to fit the shop vac wand inside, and suck up anything that is flying about. The other thing that I am going to try that I have seen recommend in other places is beneficial nematodes. The only ship in spring, so I should get them soon. The nematodes feed on the larval stage of many flys and such. We'll see if this makes a difference.

The other thing that helps, especially with fruit flys which is a more common problem then house flys, is to freezer the food you are putting in the bin, freeze for maybe a week or so, defrost then add to the bin. This will kill off any fruit fly eggs.

Now if you are using rabbit poop in an indoor worm bin, emptying the litter box more often will help. I noticed an improvement with this. I switched her to a smaller litter bos and empty it more often, this keeps the flys that do escape from laying eggs in the litter box, which is where I think alot of the fly's were coming from. When I would empty the fly egg litter and poop into the bin. By the time I open the lid the next time they had all hatched. Emptying it more often has, I believe, cut down on the number of fly eggs in the litter prior to adding it to the worm bin, which in turn has cut down on the flys. etc

I hope this helps, but the responses I originally received will probably help you more.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 11:55AM
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wfike(8, Atlanta, Ga.)

Well I will give you something to experiment with. I have had trouble with flys in the garbage cans and was told to put a little lime in the can and that worked like a charm! No more flys for some reason with just a little lime in the bottom of the can. Now you don't want to put lime in the bed in contact with the worms but you might try something like a small plastic container glued or screwed to the inside wall above the worms so the flys can sense it but not effect the worms. You want need but a table spoon or so of it. Might work!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 7:27AM
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synger(MD z7)

I don't use rabbit poo, so I don't get regular flies. But I did have problems with fruit flies at first. If that is a problem for you, here are two things that worked for me.

Freeze fruit peels before feeding. This was easy for me, as our scrap jar is kept in the freezer anyway. Once a week, I let it thaw overnight on the counter and the next day I feed the worms. But if I have scraps that day, before feeding, if it's fruit peels I wait and put them in the scrap jar for next week, so they freeze first. This is especially important for banana peels and soft fruits.

Cover the food in your bin with bedding. When my bedding was getting low at first, I didn't realize when I needed to add more. The foodstock was being exposed to the air more than I realized, and flies were laying their eggs in it before it could decompose and be eaten. Now I make sure to layer up a good couple of inches of bedding on top of hte foodstock each time I feed, to make sure flies can't get to it easily.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 12:52PM
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Hi everybody, I have been reading this post and I have empathy for all you people with fly and or fruit fly infestations. I started my bin a couple of years ago and have been fightin' them for almost as long. I also hate those icky fly tapes but yes they do work. However recently I went to the local feed store and was browsing around and I found som insect trap coating. This stuff works well I just paint a soda can or bottle or a piece of coated cardboard (soda cases, tv dinner boxes) and set them in the worm bin. This stuff works great. I got an 8 ounce can with a brush inside for $6. It is clear and works well without attractants. The best part is no ugly strips hangin from the ceiling. Just dont paint the stuff on regular cardboard or paper as these items just soak up the glue.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 1:39AM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

While I am no housefly specialist or worm bin specialist, it is most likely that the root cause of the flies is feeding food that already contains the spawn of flies which become maggots which become flies.

Go ahead and screen the bin all you want and it makes no difference if fly eggs are being placed into the bin.

If you can freeze or microwave food before putting it into the bin then this will prevent flies from being born in the bin. The screening will prevent flies from laying eggs in the bin. If you can't control the fly eggs in the food introduced, then you have no real control over the flies that result.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 2:52AM
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I've used (and recommend) yellow sticky traps to control flies ('yellow%20sticky%20trap').

I would recommend that you make your own with yellow paper and tanglefoot (see link below).

Thanks and credit to my source for most organic pest control tips: Tiny Game Hunting (by Hilary Dole Klein and Adrian M. Wenner).

Here is a link that might be useful: Yellowo sticky traps

    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 10:02AM
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katj75(z8 OR)

This post gets spurts of activity. I guess it is a semi common problem.

First off, my original intent was to find alternatives to the sticky traps, tapes etc.

Second, as I mentioned in my secondary response/follow up, I realized the root of my problem, and that was the fly's laying eggs in the litter box, prior to being added to the bin. Solved that problem, smaller box, empty more often. But that did not entirely elminate the problem. Although I HAVE elminated the problem, no more flies for me and no sticky tape.

Here are the steps that it took to elminate the flys, house fly or fruit fly.

1) Empty rabbit box more often
2) Freeze food scraps prior to adding to bin (But I had been doing this all along, which had already elminated the fruit flies)
3) Feed less, I was, as alot of us do in the begining, was over feeding my system, which was inviting unwanted mouths to the feast. Less is more, all feed should be eaten in a matter of days or you are asking for problems.
4) Less moisture, my system was too wet.
5) Create a "dry" layer on the very top. This, I think, is one of the biggest deterents for house flies. They want to lay their eggs in the moist goodness of your worm material, not a dry layer, and they can not "dig" to get to the moist layer. I use a piece of cardboard or a burlap sack. It has in no way been effected my bin by having this layer on the top. In fact it has help keep it from drying out. Since the bin that I use inside is almost entirely fed with rabbit manure it wasn't getting the moisture that most get from their organic material breaking down, so I would have to add water more frequently then most systems would, the layer on top helped conserve the moisture I barely have to water at all now.
6) Beneficial Nematodes. Now we get into a grey area, some will accept these, others will not. Prior to treating my bin with these I had the problem "under control" but in no way eliminated. I think this is what made the final difference. That said I am not sure I would do this on a regular basis. Due mostly to the cost. Ideally I would like my worm bins to be a free of charge addition to my garden game plan, so dislike the idea of purchasing these. However, I will be getting more this spring to treat my front lawn, so would treat the bins at the same time. I just don't know if I would purchase for the sole purpose of treating the bins. They do not ship the nematodes in winter, so in the end it would not be a year round solution anyway. Since I have my bins out side in the spring/summer and will on bring it back inside for winter, this option looses viability.

So for what it's worth, that has been the solution to my fly problem. Good luck.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 12:20PM
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Is there any way to rescue my bin from the maggots? can they drive the worms off? I initially tried to bury the maggots deeper in the bin and thought this had worked.

At one point, I thought my worms had multiplied to the point of dividing the bin so I moved the ones on top to another bin (didn't fare so well, think I drowned them see above) now I am afraid that somehow the maggots forced most of my worms up top and I am now worm deplete as I cannot find the wriggling masses from before in my original bin. There are a few left, but seem to be skirting the top. There have been a lot of great advice re: fly prevention, but anyone have any advice maggot treatment other than beneficial nematodes?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 8:12AM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

This is a thread that deserves to be revisited periodically. Kat -- Are you sure that the flys were House Flys and not the ubiquitous, infamous Black Soldier Flys (BSF)? Either way, they are a huge pain. I'm vaccuuming, fly stripping, and monitoring, hoping to get them under control

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 11:47AM
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Wow, this is jumping in the way back machine.

First, yes I am sure the maggots were not black soldier fly. I am more then familiar with both, plus the adult flies acted and looked like house flies, not soldier flies. Adult black soldier flies only live a couple days and do not eat or poop in that time frame. If you have ever had an out break of house flies they most certainly poop.

In response to the other persons question. I am not sure maggots can out compete the worms BUT if the conditions in your bin are growing that many maggots then the conditions are less then ideal to the worms.

The biggest issue that can allow maggots in your bin is too much moisture.

leokat75, previously Katj75)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 12:04PM
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