Swatting season is in full swing and “holy moly, flies are crazy this year”.
If you’ve noticed an army of the annoying pests glued to your skin in recent weeks, you are certainly not alone.
Many Perth people say they can’t remember flies ever being this bad, but a video of a woman swarmed by the winged insects at a tourist hotspot shows the issue extends well beyond the city.
Watch the latest news and stream for free on 7plus >>
Associate Professor Theo Evans, from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, said the capital’s peak period had come early, triggered by warm weather and strong winds which have blown the bugs down from the north of the state.
If you live in Perth, expect to continue deploying the Aussie salute and be shooing them away for a few weeks yet.
Aussie mums reveal new ‘drain fly’ kitchen plague – here’s how you get rid of them
Warning after little girl’s terrifying discovery while playing at popular beach
In winter when the temperature drops below 15C flies struggle and die.
But they can “breed like mad” when the circumstances are right and they thrive in hot and dry conditions.
Flies can also coast in the wind for up to 300km a day, allowing them to travel long distances and quickly.
About a dozen fly species associate with humans and livestock but the one you’re most likely to have encountered is the Musca vetustissima.
It is more commonly known as the Australian bush fly.
‘Walking drinking fountains’
Evans explained flies tend to stick to the coast where they have access to water, but easterly winds can blow them to our beaches where they stick to humans.
Flies are “not the smartest creatures” but even they know they can’t fly out over the ocean in search of a quenching drink, Evans explained.
Thirsty flies look at beachgoers as “walking drinking fountains” and will consume tears from your eyes, mucus from your nose and even saliva from your mouth.
They’ll also guzzle down sweat.
Travel bloggers have shared their fly nightmare at Coral Bay. Credit: Luff, Bryce/Supplied
In October travel blogger Chloe Peter shared a short clip of a huge number of flies attacking her legs at WA’s Coral Bay, 1100km north of Perth.
“It was cooked,” she shared with followers.
Others have taken to social media to vent that flies are so frustrating they “will have you talking to them like they can hear you”.
On Reddit one person posted: “Holy moly, flies are crazy this year. What’s going on?”
Another claimed Bunnings was “absolutely jam-packed” with people looking to pick up fly traps.
A third revealed that flies had killed the joy of a weekend picnic in the city.
“Hasn’t been this bad from what I remember,” they said.
Lord of the flies
While hard to avoid now, fly populations were even worse three decades ago, prior to the introduction of dung beetles from the likes of South Africa, Kenya, Spain, France, and Sri Lanka.
Unlike native beetles, the imported ones don’t drown in wet animal waste and the “ecosystem engineers” get to work breaking down dung, eliminating breeding sites for flies and improving soil.
A lull in beetle breeding patterns leaves a window of about four or five weeks every year when fly numbers can surge — which is what we’re currently experiencing.
Evans predicted it should only be a few more weeks before the insects are back under control.
“It’s a very unpleasant one month, but it’s only a month,” he said.
Pesky flies have been bugging West Aussies for weeks, but the peak period of annoyance should soon be over. Credit: By Eve Livesey/Getty Images
Evans is among researchers hoping to plug the gap when flies can breed uninhibited and is currently investigating three Moroccan dung beetle species.
“We want to narrow that window of opportunity for flies so they don’t have this four or five weeks when they can go crazy,” he said.
He’s also looking at studying flies in the tropical north to better understand the insect’s lifecycle and reduce populations.
For their part, flies, especially hairier ones, have been found to be excellent supplementary pollinators, helping in the production of avocados and blueberries.
Two killed in horrific campervan crash
Perth grandfather dies after falling ill on dream holiday cruise
If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your Cookie Settings.