Flies, ants and mosquitoes are the most commonly reported household pests in the United States, according to a new study. These three insect pests were also the three most searched pests on the internet in 41 states, and they accounted for 34 percent of all online do-to-yourself insect control queries in the country. Flies accounted for the greatest number of DYI pest control searches in the US at 14 percent, followed by ants at 11 percent. In the state of Massachusetts, flies are the most searched insect pests at 14 percent, while mosquitoes were fourth at 8 percent. Boston saw the greatest number of fly control searches online when compared to online searches in all other Massachusetts cities, but fly pests are a serious problem on the state’s coast as well.

Every year cluster and greenhead flies swarm beach tourists in the northeastern coastal states. The month of July sees the greatest amount of greenhead fly swarms on the beaches of Massachusetts, while swarms begin to decrease in frequency during August in the state. Mosquitoes also pose a serious pest problem in urban and suburban regions of Massachusetts, as the disease-carrying Aedes albopictus species continues to grow in population size with each passing summer in the state. While this mosquito species is a direct vector of the west Nile virus and other diseases, fly pests, like houseflies and fruitflies, are known for carrying more than 65 strains of disease causing bacteria. Obviously, both flies and mosquitoes are serious public health threats, but these pests are notoriously hard to control within urban and suburban regions.

Luckily, genetic engineers may be able to render wild fly and mosquito populations benign by releasing genetically modified specimens into the natural environment. This process begins when a device known as a “CRISPR-based gene-drive” alters the disease-promoting genes in a laboratory group of mosquitoes and flies. The genetically modified insects are then released into the natural environment where they mate and pass on their disease-resistant genes. Gene-drive technology can also be used to insert entirely new genes into flies and mosquitoes in order to render them harmless to humans. During 2014, gene-drive technology in the laboratory had proven effective at rendering large fly and mosquito populations disease-free over a short period of time, but genetically altered mosquitoes and flies have not yet been tested on wild populations. However, experts working on this technology believe that disease cases spread by flies and mosquitoes would decrease drastically all over the world once gene-drive technology becomes mainstream. Genetic researchers beleve that this technology could become approved for use in only three years.

Have you ever found yourself in the thick of a fly swarm?