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NMSU professor focuses on house fly research

Not every idea for scientific research comes from deep intellectual conversations. Sometimes, the most mundane situations can spark the interest of the scientist.

Man shows house flies in a lab.
Alvaro Romero, NMSU professor of Urban Entomology, will start researching house flies in January 2015. His research aims to inform and educate people about the possible health dangers of large populations of flies. (NMSU photo by Angela Simental)

Alvaro Romero, New Mexico State University professor of Urban Entomology, who is known for his bed bug program, is interested in researching urban pests that most affect people?s everyday lives including house flies.

?This summer I attended an outdoor wedding in Hatch,? he recounted. ?I was surprised at how many flies there were. Usually, flies appear when there is food, animals, fecal matter or garbage in the area, but there were no such things in the proximity of that area. The number of flies around tables was very irritant.?

The focus of his research is primarily to shed light on the role of house flies in the transmission of human and animal pathogens. This research will provide the public useful information about health issues that can arise from fly infestation.

Romero plans to collaborate with other NMSU researchers as well as experts from other universities.

?House flies are present all year round, especially during the summer and they are definitely a nuisance,? Romero said.

In 2013 heconducted a survey asking Las Cruces residents which insects they saw most frequently and about 50 percent reported house flies, followed by ants and cockroaches.

?This survey confirmed to us that flies are a big problem in this area,? Romero said. ?We are in an area where temperature is high almost all year and that creates a great environment for the reproduction of flies, which can complete their life cycle very quickly - in 10 days or less.?

Another factor that contributes to the abundant population of house flies in the area is the presence of habitats favorable for fly reproduction. In urban settings, flies gather in any decomposing organic material, which can include household garbage, pet manure, kitchen and garden waste and garbage cans, because they will use these habitats for feeding and reproduction. In other places, such as barns or farms, animal fecal matter, animal food or any decomposing material will attract large numbers of flies as well.

?These are perfect habitats for flies to complete their cycle,? Romero explained. ?Flies go to these places to eat. In addition, female flies go to these places to lay their eggs because decomposed organic material provides nutrition to larvae and allow the production of new generations.?

He that in these areas flies can pick up disease pathogens, which can be carried out to human or animal food or food preparation areas.

?Presence of bacteria-infected house flies, sometimes antibiotic-resistant bacteria, represents an enormous public health threat for humans, farm animals and pets,? Romero said.

?Part of this research will also deal with elimination and control of this pest,? Romero said. ?Flies impact people?s lives, so we need to find how to manage the populations in different environments.?

Romero has been collecting flies for several months and keeps them in his lab for present and future research.

?Our research goal is to contribute to reducing the impact of flies on people?s lives,? he said. ?Flies are everywhere and we need to find solutions for this urban problem.?