Flies in Australia: How Bad Is It?

ANZ Feb15I’ve been catching up on my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles lately and with this particular reprint, I will be up to date. When people think of Australia they often also think of flies in your face. Irritating, annoying, face pestering persistent flies.

But how bad is it?

For me, living here in Brisbane, I really haven’t found it to be a problem. So I decided to try and find out why and that’s what I wrote about the magazine. This article appeared in their February edition.

How to avoid flies in Australia

FlySeven years I’ve lived in Australia now and I still haven’t seen anybody anywhere in this country wearing the famous Australian cork hat. I have tried one on though; I can’t begin to tell you how irritating those things are to wear. But are flies in Australia even more irritating?

First, a bit of background; where do these flies come from?

The kind of fly I’m talking about breeds in cow dung and the majority of our cattle stations are in the outback or bush. These flies are commonly known as Australian bush flies. The female bush fly pesters you because she wants your saliva, blood, mucus and tears; it’s how she gets her protein. She needs it to breed and it’s why she is so persistent and so in your face.

Outback Queensland currently has a bit of a fly epidemic going on; apparently you can’t open a bottle of water out there without three flies diving in before you get your mouth to it. Hmm, yummy! When the wind blows from north to south it takes a lot of these flies with it and they can land just about anywhere.

It’s impossible for me to speak on behalf of all of Australia all of the time, but I can tell you about my experiences in the places I’ve been to when I’ve been to them.

Easily my most traumatic experience was along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria a few summers ago. We stopped to take a look at the Twelve Apostles which are some rather unusual limestone rocks poking out of the ocean down that way. Like this…

2 ApostlesWhen we got out of the car, we were plagued by flies. At any one time there might be 10 flies on my back and another 10 swarming around my face, inspecting my nostrils, trying to get into my mouth and maybe checking out my eyelids.

Some people can cope with these flies swarming all over them; I’ve especially noticed that in the movies. In real life though, it’s different. Me in particular, I look like a mad man on a mission to beat himself up. I think we only got to see about five of the Apostles before we were back in the car, windows shut tight.

That’s the only time I’ve ever had a real problem with flies here in Australia. I’ve been to many other Australian cities without flies constantly foraging my face, but I do know that most of them can have a bush fly problem from time to time. In the summer mostly and quite literally depending on which way the wind blows.

Brisbane though is different and a place I can speak of with some authority; I live here.

I am shocked at how fly free this city is, I’m convinced I see fewer flies here than I ever did whilst living in the UK. Flies in our house are almost unheard of; we might see one a month on average. I’ve discovered that very few flies get blown here and when they do they just can’t breed. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it’s something to do with our surrounding wet mangroves and marshland. Whatever the reason, I love it.

So how do you avoid flies in Australia? Choose Brisbane.

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • faceslaper December 2, 2016, 9:57 pm | Link

    Bloody flies!! Fair dinkum drive you round the bloody bend,they always seem to want to lick my face when i can’t get to swat the bludgers .Just yesterday while using a machine with both hands,the flies opted to investigate my mouth.I hate the little b………s.By the way there are lot o dairy and cattle farms within 200kms of melbourne and even closer on the Great Ocean rd.But dont let any of this put you off

  • ifeetugga March 22, 2016, 7:13 pm | Link

    Oh my, the flies, the venomous snakes and the scorching heat are probably some of the reasons why I always hesitated about moving to Australia, but then again, no country is perfect. Why, many people hesitate to move to Canada because of our extremely cold climate. In fact, the warmer climate is probably a major reason why many Brits choose Oz over Canada, despite the fact that we are better off in many aspects(economy, size of the country, etc)
    Oh well, like I said,no country is absolutely perfect; depends on what you are looking for I suppose. But seriously, I didn’t realize this was such a major problem.
    If I do visit Australia someday(hopefully I will), I guess I’ll have to invest on sunscreen AND insect repellents!

    • BobinOz March 23, 2016, 11:51 pm | Link

      No, it’s not a major problem, but sharks and crocodiles are 🙂

      Just kidding, but you will probably be pleased to hear we don’t have bears.

  • Bryan October 28, 2015, 8:21 am | Link

    Hi, I live in Melbourne and the flies drive me insane!!!! I live close to the cbd centre but even still on the 1km walk to the train station they are constantly in my face (on warm/hot days). Today one came into the train with me just to pester me some more.
    We had a similar experience at the 12 apostles but it was 40+ that day so we didn’t hang around. That was also the first time my wife experienced the flies and almost lost the plot

    • BobinOz October 28, 2015, 11:51 pm | Link

      That’s interesting. When I was at the 12 apostles it wasn’t warm at all, probably low 20s, but still there were a gazillion flies trying to chew on my face. I’ve also been to Melbourne on three different occasions, all during summer, and generally speaking for 80% of the time didn’t encounter any real fly problems.

      But sometimes, in some places, the flies were incredibly irritating. There was one town outside of Melbourne along the coast, out on the Mornington Peninsula, they were really irritating. I think it’s often down to the time and place, surely they are not always where you are?

    • Paul November 27, 2015, 4:17 pm | Link

      I’m in country VIC and the flies are horrendous at the moment. Unusual weather patterns have been blowing them in from central Australia and the top end.

      On top of this is the usual cycle that sees them breed in plague proportions every few years.

      I know they’ve got a job to do, but geeez… My food hygene OCD is in overdrive at the moment! Don’t attempt to eat outside.

      Most of the big cities are relativepy free from flies nowadays as there are very few places left for them to breed. When they turn up in large numbers, The wind has carries them. But don’t worry, they’ll be gone again before you know it.

      • BobinOz December 1, 2015, 8:17 pm | Link

        Yes, they can be a real pain when they are around, but mostly they disappear as quickly as they arrived in the first place. I think that’s why they are called blowflies, they blow in and they blow out.

        Hope you become fly free soon.

  • Belle le Caffeinated October 8, 2015, 3:09 pm | Link

    Here, on the Victorian coastline, we have a major problem with massive flies (blow-flies or bush-flies?).

    I have never seen these slow-flying, annoying pests in Queensland or NSW, and they are the size of bees.

    We have at least 20 of these buzzing, easy-swat’s enter the house in less than a minute, if doors are left open.

    This is a dissapointment in spring when having the doors open would be welcomed to take in the Sorrento, sea-breeze.

    Australia, is an interesting place.

    There’s always the chance of a fly in yer ice-cold drink!.

    The beautiful beaches presenting a turquiose dream-come-true, are filled with jelly-fish, sharks and other potentially dangerous creatures.

    The sun is so hot, sometimes it’s just better to stay indoors.

    Australia is not going to be forgotten once visited.

    The genuine, people and the glorious outback, the experience of a million flies stuck to yer back in 100-degree heat, while eating yer tin of baked beans.

    Everyone will come away with a fly story, no doubt…

    • BobinOz October 8, 2015, 8:39 pm | Link

      Victoria again, as I said in my article above, that’s where I had my worst experience with flies. They weren’t those big clumsy looking ones though, although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen those things somewhere, just can’t remember where.

      Move to Brisbane Belle le Caffeinated, I haven’t seen a fly for ages 🙂

  • Valter Russo April 24, 2015, 7:21 pm | Link

    Hi Bob

    I don’t know if you saw my request about a fly post, but if you did and made this in response i’m most grateful.
    keep up the good work and thanks for sharing the experience

    Valter Russo

    • BobinOz April 27, 2015, 2:29 pm | Link

      I did actually Valter and I grinned to myself because I knew that this post was scheduled. I didn’t specifically write it in response, but I was pleased to know I was going to be answering your question in full.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Warwick Wakefield April 17, 2015, 12:55 pm | Link

    The flies in Eastern Australia are mostly found west of the Great Divide.
    They are horrible. You are constantly brushing them away from your face.

    I have never noticed them east of the Divide, even in the dairy farming regions of northern New South Wales.

    • BobinOz April 17, 2015, 8:49 pm | Link

      Well, that explains why I don’t get troubled by them in Brisbane, and also why the vast majority of people in this country live east of the divide. Although I think it’s true to say that the main reason we live east of it is that we get more rain this side of the range isn’t it Warwick?

      Can it simply be though that flies breed on the cattle farms, most of which are west of the divide and when the wind blows north to south or in the opposite direction, they still stay west. But if the wind ever blows west to east, and I’m not sure how often it does, it just can’t blow those pesky flies over those hills?

      • Warwick Wakefield April 18, 2015, 7:26 pm | Link

        I don’t know why it is, Bob, but you find them West of the Divide.
        Most people live east of the divide because the great cities grew up around the ports, on the east coast.

        But in Brisbane, which is hot and humid, you don’t get many flies. Nor do you in Dayboro or Kilcoy, two cattle towns which are north of Brisbane, inland, but east of the divide.
        I knew these towns when I was a kid.

        But when I went to Albury, a town that’s nowhere near as hot but is West of the divide, the flies were a menace.

        • BobinOz April 19, 2015, 1:09 am | Link

          I didn’t know Dayboro is a cattle town, but I have been there, and my wife has been there a few times for horse riding with my daughter, never had a problem with flies there.

          Strange, but I’m very happy with it; I’m more than happy to stay east of the divide.

  • djmcbell April 16, 2015, 5:25 pm | Link

    I can’t say that I noticed any flies at all in all the places we’ve been in Australia (around the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne area, Sydney and Gold Coast).

    • BobinOz April 16, 2015, 8:23 pm | Link

      That doesn’t surprise me, I think we were just unlucky when we stopped to look at those Twelve Apostles. As the article says, sometimes they just blow in with the wind.

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