Determining the source of house flies (Musca domestica) using stable isotope analysis



BACKGROUND: Intensive livestock units frequently produce flies in large numbers that, on migration, cause nuisance to the occupants of neighbouring dwellings. The resolution of such problems is often reliant on the unequivocal identification of the origin of the flies, particularly when several potential sources exist. This study evaluated stable isotope analysis as a method for differentiating adult houseflies (Musca domestica) on the basis of their dietary history so as to determine their likely source.

RESULTS: Flies were reared in the laboratory on several substrates, including chicken and cattle manure, laboratory diet and household vegetable waste. Different fly parts (wings, heads and legs) and whole flies were analysed immediately after eclosion and after 10 days. The δ13C and δ15N values for adults that had developed on each diet type were highly distinct. Both isotopic ratios altered markedly after maintaining the flies for 10 days on a diet of cane sugar solution.

CONCLUSIONS: Stable isotope analysis readily differentiated flies that had developed on a range of substrates. The technique, therefore, shows potential to be employed to determine the likely source of various nuisance insects, and to contribute to the abatement of such problems. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry