Plague of flies hits Melbourne

Plague of flies hits Melbourne
By Danny Buttler
18Dec03

THE black plague has returned to Melbourne with a vengeance.

Millions of tiny bushflies have descended on the city for the first time in several years.
The CSIRO said that as insects had been unable to breed properly during the drought, people forgot how many flies usually buzz around in summer.

Entomologist David Yeates said fly plagues were widespread.

"The drought's broken in a lot of parts of eastern Australia, so the insect activity is back to normal - we've all forgotten," he said.

This month's flood seems to have spawned the population explosion.

"Flies and all those little critters love humidity -- they love warm, wet conditions," Mr Yeates said.

"When Melbourne gets hot and wet in summer, the insects get quite active."

The fly problem could become worse before the end of the month. More hot and wet weather is likely to follow yesterday's top of 38.3C in Melbourne.

Storms, showers and humid conditions are expected for the next few days - ideal breeding weather for flies. "A lot of the larvae are soft-bodied and need a moist place to live in, so they do better when it's high humidity and raining," Mr Yeates said.

And it is our smell that attracts the flies to humans.

"They come to us because our skin is covered in lovely flaked-off skin, sweat, tears and maybe even a bit of blood . . . so humans are a great source of protein and salts and liquid that flies feed off," Mr Yeates said.

Apart from a heavy dose of insect repellent, Mr Yeates can offer only one solution for keeping the flies at bay.

"I always say that flies are coming to people who sweat, so the best thing to do in the Australian summer is to get under a shady tree with a beer in hand and stay cool," he said.

This report appears on NEWS.com.au.



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