SLU news

The fungus that attracts male flies to mate with carcasses

Published: 31 August 2022
A fly mates with another fly with a swollen rear body with white stripes on it. Photo.

A parasitic fungus tricks healthy houseflies into mating with infected, dead female flies of the same species. The fungus is specific to houseflies and may, in the long term, be developed into a pesticide that fights houseflies without harming other species.

To ensure being spread, many parasites and pests manipulate their host's behavior. The parasitic fungus Entomophthora muscae kills flies of the species Musca domestica. Then, the fungus produces odorants that change the smell of dead female flies to attract male flies.  This is shown by researchers from SLU together with colleagues in Denmark.

– The fungus lives in houseflies and kills them after a day or so. Then the fungus grows out of the back body of the fly. Infected female fly carcasses give off an odor that attracts male flies to mate with the carcass. The male also becomes infected by the fungus and dies, says Paul Becher, one of the researchers behind the study.

– This fungus is not uncommon and can spread like a deadly disease in fly populations, says Paul.

An odor for fly control

The fungus infects almost only the species housefly and not other fly species. In the future, we may use the odor that attract the houseflies for traps or for a poison that kills houseflies where they need to be fought.


Portrait photography of a man.Paul Becher

Researcher at the Department of Plant Protection Biology
Telephone: 040-415305