Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bathroom Fly

Bathroom Fly - Clogmia albipunctata - REK
Side view - REK
In line with our policy of presenting the good, the bad and the ugly, here comes old ugly.  We have noted these tiny flies in our bathroom at the creek house for years.  They are very hard to photograph, measuring only 2mm (less than 1/10").  Bathroom lighting is poor and when I get the camera lens close they fly off.  I caught several in a kill jar which yields only twisted specimens.  That said, I finally got a couple of "good enough" photographs to identify them.

C. albipunctata on the wall - REK
Once again, using my post-retirement entomological training, I Googled "Bathroom fly" and came up with a rapid answer of Clogmia albipunctata, aka bathroom fly.  They are in the Moth Fly family, Psychodinae.  They have hairs on their wings which will shed like scales and long segmented antennae.  Our C. albipunctata (white spotted) is the only member of its genus in North America and has distinctive white antennae and white spots on the edges of wings and tips of leg segments.  It is a common synanthropic species throughout the temperate and semi-temperate world.
C. albipunctata larvae - Ashley Bradford

C. albipunctata pupa  - Ashley Bradford
A synanthrop, Greek syn-, "together with" + anthro, "man," is a plant or animal species living selectively near humans and prospering when they find a stable habitat with food, protection and in more recent years a relatively stable temperature range.  These range from house flies, silverfish and cockroaches up to larger species such as house sparrows, pigeons and brown rats.  Some species such as pigeons can no longer make a living without us.  The moth fly family is now found on all continents except Antarctica, probably transported by the movement of human populations.

Until we came along, C. albipunctata probably lived in moist decaying plant and animal matter.  Societies have brought garbage collections, water containers like rain barrels and fire pits, air conditioners and cooling towers and clogged roof drain pipes.  Better yet are all the kitchen and bathroom drains with traps that can hold the gelatinous egg masses.  These are resistant to flushing, hot water, soap and many drain disinfectants and cleaners.

On hatching the larvae feed on algae, bacteria, fungi, microorganisms, and are a welcome addition to wastewater treatment plants.  The cycle from egg to adult is 7 to 28 days with more of the gory details here.  Ashley Bradford has a great series of their life cycle at this Bugguide link and Duke.edu has good closeups of the adult.

Wikipedia has good suggestions for control of our population.  Our source is likely the shower drain and I will collect specimens with a clear glass jar inverted over it.  It will be getting special attention, once I have been able to collect larvae  and possibly eggs to raise.  (Editor's note - "GROAN!!)

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Since the above was written, I failed to trap specimens from the shower and sink drains.  Ashley suggested the grout around the shower.  The tree farm house here is "rustic", a polite way to say poorly built with the bathroom partially below ground level and always damp. I suspect there are tiny little signs in the foundation cracks outside that say, For a good time big boy, come on in here. Free food and fermented beverages!

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