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House Fly (Musca domestica L.) Attraction to Insect Honeydew


House flies are of major concern as vectors of food-borne pathogens to food crops. House flies are common pests on cattle feedlots and dairies, where they develop in and feed on animal waste. By contacting animal waste, house flies can acquire human pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp., in addition to other bacteria, viruses, or parasites that may infect humans and animals. The subsequent dispersal of house flies from animal facilities to nearby agricultural fields containing food crops may lead to pre-harvest food contamination with these pathogens. We hypothesized that odors from honeydew, the sugary excreta produced by sucking insects feeding on crops, or molds and fungi growing on honeydew, may attract house flies, thereby increasing the risk of food crop contamination. House fly attraction to honeydew-contaminated plant material was evaluated using a laboratory bioassay. House flies were attracted to the following plant-pest-honeydew combinations: citrus mealybug on squash fruit, pea aphid on faba bean plants, whitefly on navel orange and grapefruit leaves, and combined citrus mealybug and cottony cushion scale on mandarin orange leaves. House flies were not attracted to field-collected samples of lerp psyllids on eucalyptus plants or aphids on crepe myrtle leaves. Fungi associated with field-collected honeydews were isolated and identified for further study as possible emitters of volatiles attractive to house flies. Two fungal species, Aureobasidium pullulans and Cladosporium cladosporioides, were repeatedly isolated from field-collected honeydew samples. Both fungal species were grown in potato dextrose enrichment broth and house fly attraction to volatiles from these fungal cultures was evaluated. House flies were attracted to odors from A. pullulans cultures but not to those of C. cladosporioides. Identification of specific honeydew odors that are attractive to house flies could be valuable for the development of improved house fly baits for management of this pest species.

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