Calliphoridae (commonly known as blow flies (or blow-flies), carrion flies, bluebottles, greenbottles, or cluster flies) are a family of insects in the order Diptera, with 1,100 known species. The family is known to be polyphyletic, but much remains disputed regarding proper treatment of the constituent units, some of which are occasionally accorded family status (e.g., Bengaliidae, Helicoboscidae, Polleniidae, and Rhiniidae).
The name blow fly comes from an older English term for meat that had eggs laid on it, which was said to be fly blown. The first known association of the term “blow” with flies appears in the plays of William Shakespeare: Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Tempest, and Antony and Cleopatra.
Adults may be vectors of pathogens of diseases such as dysentery. Flies, most commonly Calliphoridae, have frequently been associated with disease transmission in humans and animals, as well as myiasis. Studies and research have linked Calliphora and Lucilia to vectors of causal agents of bacterial infections. These larvae, commonly seen on decaying bodies, feed on carrion while the adults can be necrophagous or vegetative. During the process of decay, microorganisms (e.g. Mycobacterium) may be released through the body. Flies arrive at the scene and lay their eggs. The larvae begin eating and breaking down the corpse, simultaneously ingesting these organisms which is the first step of one transmission route.
The bacterium which causes paratuberculosis in cattle, pigs and birds (M. a. avium) has been isolated and recovered from these flies through several different experiments.
Other potential and threatening diseases include rabbit haemorrhagic disease in New Zealand and flystrike. Although strike is not limited to blow flies, these maggots are a major source of this skin invasion, causing lesions, which, if severe enough, may be lethal. Strike starts when blow flies lay eggs in a wound or fecal material present on the sheep. When the maggots hatch, they begin feeding on the sheep and thus irritating it. As soon as the first wave of maggots hatch, they attract more blow flies, causing the strike. Insecticides are available for blow fly prevention, and precautionary measures may be taken, such as docking tails, shearing, and keeping the sheep healthy overall..
Salmonellosis has also been proven to be transmitted by the blow fly through saliva, feces and direct contact by the flies’ tarsi. Adult flies may be able to spread pathogens via their sponging mouthparts, vomit, intestinal tract, sticky pads of their feet, or even their body or leg hairs
As the flies are vectors of many diseases, the importance of identifying the transmissible agents, the route of transmission, and prevention and treatments in the event of contact are becoming increasingly important. With the ability to lay hundreds of eggs in a lifetime and the presence of thousands of larvae at a time in such close proximity, the potential for transmission is high, especially at ideal temperatures.