Are Flies Attracted to Ammonia – Ammonia and Insects

This is a million-dollar question, the reason being that it is a general knowledge that insects are attracted by some chemicals and they also tend to be repelled by some others. However, this topic can be discussed under various circumstances, and by considering the type, the species, the stage in which the type of flies are in, whether the larval stage, pupal stage or the adult stage. Within this article, we are going to explore the following question: are flies attracted to ammonia? Flies are attracted to Ammonia. In a scientific experiment conducted by the New Jersey Agricultural College, the results concluded that ammonia was the agent that attracted the house flies.

True flies are insects of the order Diptera, the name was derived from the Greek phrase ‘di’ which means ‘two’ and ‘ptera’ meaning ‘wings’. The term ‘fly’ is most commonly used for any small insect that has wings and can transport themselves from one place to another, there are also those who are wingless, but they are still characterized as ‘flies’.

There are over 100,000 species of flies all around the world, they lay their eggs on food, fruits, leaves of a plant, other animals and rotting flesh. Their larva is known as maggots, flies include many familiar insects such as midges, house flies, mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies, blow flies and so on. They are very abundant in nature and are mostly found in terrestrial habitat in the world.

Housefly in general, are attracted to garbage, decaying organic filth such as feces, rotting meat, and pet waste. Fruit flies, on the other hand, are attracted to sweet and fermented liquids like soda, alcoholic beverages, sugar syrups, rotten potatoes or overripe or rotting fruits. Blowflies feed on decomposing meat and sometimes, they also feed on untreated wounds of live animals and wet garbage. These materials all have ammonia in them either in large content or minute and this is the leading factor which attracts flies to them.

Adult flies will lay their eggs on feces, rotting carcasses, dead and decaying plant and animal materials in order to provide the larvae, also known as a maggot, a source of food. They live off diet based on liquids, therefore, they vomit on their food before eating it. Adult flies most times drink nectar, they also eat animal feces and decaying matter which includes rotten fruits, vegetables, and meats.

When flies find solid food, they rub the food with bristles on their proboscis, which is a tubular appendage located in the mouth. The fly vomits a mixture of saliva and digestive juice onto the food in order to break it down and turn it into a liquid form, thereby contaminating human food.

As they continue to grow from the larval stage to the pupal stage and finally to the adult stage, their food source still remains carcasses or dead and decaying substances of plant and animal origin.

Flies like to feed on manure, which can be animal poop or old garbage, this produces ammonia. flies use their sense of smell a lot which contributes to their ability to easily detect ammonia since it is a gas which smells more like rotting material. Ammonia is one of the most commonly produced industrial chemicals in the world, it is used both commercially and industrially as it is important for many biological processes. Ammonia is a very irritating gas with a pungent smell, and a suffocating odor produced naturally from the decomposition of organic matter, including plants, animals, and animal wastes.

Research has shown that yellow fever mosquito insect is attracted by ammonia in the air when presented together with lactic acid, which increases its attractiveness together with some other components. Humans produce a certain amount of ammonia as a by-product from the body, and as a result, this odor attracts the yellow fever mosquito.

The yellow fever mosquito is very sensitive to ammonia at the levels which are given off by humans with their breath as well as their skin. Some bloodsucking insects also make use of their olfactory cues to detect and to find their sources for bone meal, a promising candidate of such an attractant is ammonia.

Animal urine such as cattle urine, horse urine, goat urine, sheep urine, etc. is also known to be highly concentrated in ammonia, it has the largest amounts of ammonia and urea also has more than 50 percent of the total organic acid. Urine is a liquid by-product from human and many animals, urine during decomposition is broken down into ammonia, and it has then been observed that insect population in ranches is way beyond the normal. This is as a result of the attraction of flies to the strong smell of ammonia.

The blood also has a significant proportion of ammonia in it and this is also responsible for attracting flies. For example, when one bleeds or have an open wound, flies tend to come over and hover around the wounded area (in case of an open wound), or they hover around the area or spot where the blood was spilled, although, this alone is not a solid proof of the hypothesis surrounding ammonia being related to flies, as the blood also constitute various minerals, it contributes a cogent point as to the relationship between ammonia and flies.

The response to ammonia in some insects (flies) is perhaps due to the fact that ammonia odor might have indicated a protein-rich food source, which makes sense because protein is eventually broken down to produce ammonia. it can also be used as an insecticide to get rid of these flies, this is made possible when there is an excessive concentration of the ammonia in use, this is one of the industrial uses for ammonia.


Ammonia serves as both a building block and a breakdown product of amino acids, which is found in the environment. Ammonia plays a very important role in the existence and in the biological system of most organisms. The odor of ammonia is attractive to many flies, and studies have shown that the very existence of these flies is solely dependent on ammonia related materials which could either come from plants or animals.

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