How to Get Rid of Flies in Your Commercial Kitchen

Ready to tell those pesky kitchen flies to buzz off? We’ve got some simple steps for you to correctly identify common fly pests and to prevent them from inhabiting your space. In most cases, fly problems start where the food is – the garbage. And unfortunately, garbage often accumulates near food prep areas, where flies can pose the most health risk. Whether running a restaurant or serving in an eatery, commercial kitchen staff recognize how important it is to get rid of flies. For many guests, swatting away flies during a meal can make or break their opinion of an establishment. However, flies in the dining area is often just the tip of the iceberg. They do much more harm other than cause guests annoyance and frustration.

A fly infestation poses a serious public health risk. Flies feed on decaying organic waste and then transfer pathogens from their feet to human food and food preparation surfaces. Some of the most common flies have the potential to carry more than 100 different pathogens, including Salmonella, Tuberculosis, as well as the bacteria that causes Typhoid fever and Cholera. Since flies can seriously damage a business’s reputation and put patrons at risk, commercial kitchen staff and restaurateurs need to know what to look for, where to look, and how to react in order to get rid of flies.

Before identifying how to get rid of flies in restaurants and commercial kitchens, you need to know what you are looking for. Identifying these pests quickly is imperative because their short lifespan means they reproduce quickly. And since knowing which fly you have will help to find and correct the root causes, it’s best that staff start with the basics. Some of the most common flies for commercial kitchens include:

  • House Flies – House flies belong to the group of flies known as the filth fly since they require decomposing organic material to develop into adults. Once hatched, the larvae, or maggots, feed on decaying matter to gain the energy needed for their next stage of life. Within several days, the adult fly emerges from a pupae and is ready to feed and reproduce. While house flies play a vital role in breaking down decaying matter, their breeding habitats, in garbage often, make them incredibly unsanitary, especially when present in large numbers. They can easily transfer pathogens that were in the garbage they bred in to food areas once they become adults.
  • Fruit Flies – One of the most common commercial kitchen pest issues is fruit flies. Also called vinegar or bar flies, these small, pesky pests get their name for a reason: they’re attracted to old ripened fruit, vinegar, and beer/soda/juice tap lines. Females are able to lay about 500 eggs each in rotted fruit, tap lines, and dirty drains. The eggs can hatch in as little as 24-30 hours, causing an outbreak of these difficult-to-control adult fruit flies to show up overnight.
  • Drain Flies – Drain flies are also called moth flies as they resemble tiny, hairy, triangular-shaped moths. They gather, mate and lay eggs in moisture or standing water, making the hardened, slimy film that forms around kitchen drains a favorite breeding spot. Putting off regular cleaning and maintenance of these areas may attract the drain flies and offer them a place to feed and develop. Once inside, drain flies can spread bacteria from the filth they live in, possibly contaminating food along the process.
  • Phorid Flies – Also called “scuttle flies,” these small flies appear very similar to fruit flies. Phorid flies are quite different, though, known to run up walls, scuttling along the way, rather than fly as readily as fruit flies will. Phorid flies breed in organic materials that are significantly decomposed, including sewage. Often, they are indicators that there is a break in a nearby sewage line or eradication of plumbing fixtures. But they are critically important to control since they breed in the lowest degraded filth you can imagine, and will transfer the pathogens from that material up into kitchens.

All of these flies belong to the order Diptera, meaning “two wing.” Unlike most flying insects, flies only have one pair of wings. The second pair of wings that other insects have are altered into organs that give flies the incredible ability to fly acrobatically. They are strong fliers but land often to rest. Each time they land, they can deposit thousands of bacteria, quickly spreading harmful pathogens from surface to surface.

Fly Prevention Checklist

Protecting commercial kitchens from the dangers of flies begins with regular cleaning and sanitation. Sanitation is crucial to preventing flies from taking over a commercial kitchen as it gets rid of the organic filth that flies will breed within – basically eliminating their breeding sites if done well. To make the most of your sanitation practices and get rid of flies, revamp how you keep your restaurant in pristine condition by adding these steps to your cleaning check list:

  1. Start Outside
    • Keep doors closed as much as possible, including the loading dock doors, especially immediately after deliveries are complete.
    • Add screens with mesh that is small enough to exclude small flies to vents, doors and windows to help prevent flies from entering your establishment.
    • Install large fans, called “air curtains,” at doorways and ceiling fans over outdoor dining areas to help keep these weak fliers away from dining guests.
  2. Seal Entry Points
    • Ensure all entry points are sealed off by checking that windows and doors close and seal properly.
    • Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible to help prevent fly entry. Avoid propping doors or unscreened windows open.
  3. Stay Clean and Dry
    • Wipe down counter spaces and chopping blocks regularly.
    • Keep trash pails, drains and drain traps dry and clean. Avoid the build up of scum at the bottom and prevent it from coating the inside of drains.
    • Clean and dry spills as soon as possible.
    • Sanitize floors, including all those hard to reach areas under kitchen equipment and in corners, nightly at a minimum.
    • Clear dining surfaces of glasses that contain soda and open containers of alcohol.
    • Sanitize your beverage systems regularly, including replacing dirty tap and drain tubes in soda/juice/beer dispensers
  4. Store Food with Care
    • Ensure you use a FIFO (First In-First Out) procedure for all stored foods to ensure that older foods don’t begin to spoil.
    • Toss produce that is no longer fresh. This is a surefire invitation for fruit flies
    • Refrigerate all food when it is not being used.
    • Inspect all produce that comes in for bruising. Cut out spots that may have gone bad.
  5. Practice Waste Management
    • Throw out trash in a timely manner, never leaving it out overnight.
    • Use trash liners for all trash cans in the kitchen, changing them regularly.– *Clean trash cans and recycling bins regularly.
    • Cover trash and recycling containers with tightly sealed lids.
    • Keep compactor areas clean, ensuring all garbage makes it inside the compactor and nothing is left outside the bin.

It is imperative that you do not become complacent with flies in or near the kitchen of your business. It’s not worth the potential risk of spreading disease, failing a health inspection or having a poor customer review. After all, if flies start in the kitchen, it’s quite likely that they’ll eventually permeate the rest of the building.

With help from these preventive measures, commercial kitchen staff will know how to get their business, whether a five-star restaurant or a breakfast cafe, rid of flies. If you suspect that your business may have a fly issue, be sure to contact a pest professional to root out the problem and get your kitchen back on track. Western works with restaurant and hospitality clients to address not just pest problems, but the underlying issues that cause them – including following the clues to the source. Find out more about Western’s approach to commercial pest control for flies.