Flies and Drains: What You Need to Know

Jul 23, 2020, 07:13 AM by Fred Speer

When most people think of fly problems in commercial facilities, they tend to look up. They look for fly activity around windows, ventilation screens or loading dock doors. Rarely does anyone look down and that can be a problem.

Many small fly issues in restaurants, commercial kitchens and food processing plants are generated in the drains and plumbing that run beneath kitchen or production area floors.

Mike Biando, Associate Certified Entomologist, commercial QA supervisor for Clark Pest Control in Auburn, California, says commercial clients often overlook the role drains play in creating a condition conducive for small flies.

“Facility managers and business owners often don’t make the connection between drains and flies,” says Biando. “Drains that are not cleaned regularly allow organic material to build up and become ideal breeding grounds for small flies.”

Failing to make that connection can lead to damage to a restaurant, grocery store or food product supplier’s brand, and create a significant health threat by allowing disease and bacteria carrying flies to land on food or food preparation or serving surfaces.

What can excess food debris and water build up in a drain do? Biando says he recently visited a restaurant that had an issue with small flies and the owner was requesting more fly light traps. Upon further inspection, Biando noticed fly activity coming from one of the floor drains in the kitchen.

Biando showed the owner a drain that had significant organic material build up and was harboring flies.

“The owner thought the flies were coming in by the doors because that is where he noticed them,” says Biando. “The flies were actually trying to get out of the doors but were living in the drain.”

The Clark Pest Control solution included an application of a microbial foam product in the drain and surrounding tile area. The microbial treatment, one of several options in the fly management toolbox Clark deploys, can also be made under kitchen and food processing equipment, sinks and other areas where organic matter builds up and attracts flies.

How to Prevent Small Fly Issues

What can commercial facility and QA managers do to reduce their risk of having a small fly issue? Biando says the focus should be placed on the following areas:

Sanitation and Cleaning – Staying on top of sanitation and cleaning protocols reduces the amount of debris that can find its way into drains. Remind cleaning crews not to leave standing water when washing down floors. Water left overnight can seep into cracked floor tiles, grout and drains causing build up and creating a fly breeding area.

Structural Maintenance – Broken floor tiles, missing grout, baseboard tiles pulled away from the wall and leaking or broken plumbing pipes all are conditions that allow fly-attracting food debris and water to build up. Facility maintenance staffs need to stay current with repairs and be proactive by installing air curtains on loading dock doors, repairing vertical seals on double doors and ensuring there is positive airflow inside the facility.

Biando also recommends having a licensed plumber hydra-jet drains once a year and inspect them thoroughly to make sure they are intact. A broken drainpipe below a cement production floor will not only lead to a potential fly issue, but a significant repair bill and lost revenue due to the shutdown to fix the problem.

The Culprits

Drain Flies

·       Drain flies are tiny, which means they can penetrate screens and get inside structures easily. They’re weak fliers, although they can be carried by wind currents for up to 100 yards – the length of a football field.

·       You can find them resting inside on walls or near drain openings, and outdoors, in the shade. Often, their appearance is noted by their sheer quantity – a lot of them at once, clustering on lampshades, windows, sinks and floor drains in showers indoors, and outdoors in clogged roof gutters and storm drains, birdbaths, moist compost, potted-plant saucers and overgrown shrubs.

·       The larvae feed on fungi, sludge and microbes on the filmy surfaces of stagnant water, which may be why they have an appetite for organic matter in drains.

Phorid Flies

·       Phorid flies breed and develop deep within the plumbing of commercial facilities including restaurants and food processing plants. They can potentially taint food and food preparation surfaces with disease microorganisms.

·       Phorid flies have short and erratic flight patterns and are often mistaken for gnats. They are often seen running across windows, display screens, tables, walls, and plant foliage.

·       Resolving a phorid fly problem could require expensive repairs if the infestation stems from a plumbing leak underneath a floor.

·       Phorid flies will eat moist organic material that gathers in drains or other plumbing, decomposing flour on the floor and under equipment in bakeries and kitchens, and decomposing vegetables including potatoes and onions, fungi and other insects.

If you are looking for a pest management partner that understands your business, and can help you protect your products, employees and customers, give Clark Pest Control a call at (800) 936-3339.