How To Prevent Maggots in your Bin or Trash Can
Have you ever wondered why maggots appear to come from nowhere even if your bin or trashcan was closed? Maggots are the larva of flying insects from hatched eggs. They look like small worms. A flying insect lays eggs on decaying matter which provides a food source for fly larvae. The life cycle of a fly (metamorphosis) is generally divided into 4 stages – Eggs >> Larvae Stage >> Pupae Stage (Pupation) >> Fly. The Larval stage is a three-stage development involving the 1st, 2nd and 3rd stage.
Larvae feeds on decaying organic matter such as dead animals, rotting food and plants, as well as animal excrement. According to research, a fly can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, and the eggs will develop into larvae within 24 hours. The complete larval stage before it undergoes pupation takes up to 60 hours depending on the fly species and the shortest metamorphosis is 24 to 36 hours. The pupation stage (development into pupae) takes up to 336 hours depending on the species. Pupation is preceded by pre-pupation which can take up to 144 hours. The shortest pupation and pre-pupation is 96 hours and 168 hours respectively. Temperature plays a role in the rate of metamorphosis , affecting the time it takes for eggs, larvae and pupae to develop. These changes are readily observable in the temperature range 16 °C to 27°C. Using 16°C as the base/control temperature, the time it takes for eggs, larvae and pupae to develop decreases as the temperature is raised from 16 °C to 27 °C. The development time for eggs is reduced by 51% at 21 °C. The time for the first and second larval development stages is reduced by 58% and 62% respectively at 21 °C, while the third larval stage duration is reduced by 51%. Pupation time is reduced by 80% at 21 °C.
At 27 °C, the metamorphosis rate of all stages is increased by a small amount (17% to 25%), with the exception of the second larval stage which is increased 116%.
This research tells us that maggots breed much faster in warmer environments than cooler weather. That’s why it’s advisable to store your food scraps and leftovers in a refrigerator to prevent rotting and being infested with maggots. Cold/freezing temperatures not only keep food fresh but they also repel flies. Flies cannot tolerate temperatures approaching 9 °C. The concept of refrigeration as a way of repelling flies (and thus maggots) has been applied by manufacturers of refrigerated trash cans also known as a solid waste garbage refrigerator.
As you are well aware, house flies are attracted by odours and food/plant aromas. This is a wide range of scents, not just from decaying organic matter but also from delicious food, living things, biological secretions and excretions. In addition to odours and scents, flies are attracted by warm temperatures as we have already discussed earlier. They also love light, that’s why flies will bother you during the day but disappear when the sun sets. In fact, a house fly cannot see in darkness. It’s immobilized and blinded as soon as you switch off the lights. Certain type of flies like the black fly and fruit fly are attracted to carbon-dioxide (CO2) which is produced from fermentation.
What Are Flies Attracted To?
If you want to prevent maggots in your kitchen trashcan and outdoor bin, you must eliminate factors which attract flies in your environment. These three main factors are odours, heat and light. Controlling heat and light in your house as a fly repellent is not practical in many situations because reducing room temperatures to extremely low levels is uncomfortable for the body, and you can’t live or work in a dark room. This leaves us with odours. Odours can be easily controlled and eliminated in a room. If you can manage odours, you can get rid of flies and thus prevent maggot infestation in your house.
There are many sources of odours in your house. Kitchen trashcans are the main source as well as any organic waste and food scraps that are left in the open or unrefrigerated. Foods that you buy at the shops and supermarkets are also exposed to flies which lay eggs on them. When you bring this food home and dispose the leftovers, wrappings and packages in the trashcan, don’t be surprised to see maggots in your trashcan the next morning.
How Do Flies and Maggots Get Inside Your Bin?
Flies can crawl under the lid even if the bin is closed. They are attracted by the smell of putrefied matter. Even if the waste matter is tightly wrapped in plastic bags which eliminates oxygen and slows down the decomposition process, the waste matter may already be contaminated with eggs before bagging. Flies can also lay eggs on the external surface of the plastic bag. If you have ever examined the trashcan lid, flies also lay eggs on the internal surface of the lid which quickly develop into maggots. That’s the reason why the underside of your lid will be infested with maggots.
So the internal of your trashcan and the underside of your lid will be infested with maggots because flies are attracted to the putrefied matter. This fact leads us to an important theory which will be helpful in finding a practical solution >> If we could eliminate the odour with a neutralizing substance, detergent or repellent, flies would find the source of odour repulsive and unattractive for laying eggs, making a quick U-turn.
Liquid and viscous detergents which are commonly used as household cleaners are quite effective at repelling flies as well as antiseptic/disinfectant liquids like hand sanitizers. Antibacterial sanitaryware bleach/cleaners in liquid, viscous and powder form are also suitable for repelling flies. There is a reason why these solutions are used in toilets and urinals. If you ever been in a recently cleaned public urinal or toilet, you will most likely be greeted with the strong smell of bleach or disinfectant. The smell of bleach and other cleaning chemicals repels flies. There is a wide range of chemicals that you can try including dish-washing liquid, fabric softener and laundry washing liquid.
Think of non-flammable liquid or semi-liquid chemicals that have household and industrial uses. There is a high possibility of repellent properties in them – for example Vicks VapoRub, floor wax polish, camphor cream, cedarwood oil, mild acids and salts.
Other substances like lubricant oil, mothballs (naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene), methylated spirit, bitumen, tar and paraffin might have repellent properties but they are dangerous and toxic, posing health and fire hazards.
Have you ever been in a hair salon? This is one of the few places which are free from flies. So I did an experiment to find out if hair conditioners can prevent or reduce maggots in a kitchen trashcan. I happened to have a bottle of Palmolive Classic Aloe Vera hair moisturizer which has been unused for 13 years before the publication of this post. Can you believe that? Yes 13 years. It was lying idle on the shelf all this time. I washed and cleaned the kitchen trashcan with a detergent, then left it to dry. After that I applied the viscous Palmolive hair moisturizer on the inner and outer surface of the lid as well as on the internal surfaces of the trashcan. I put the trash back inside and closed the lid. After at least 24 hours, maggots did appear on the underside of the lid but they were fewer by 90%, which means hair moisturizer is effective at reducing infestation. This hair moisturizer expired in 2009. A brand new product might work better.
In a hair salon, flies are deterred by the strong smell of chemicals such as hair-conditioners and sprays. Hair shampoos, disinfectants, tonics and touch-up sprays are some of the chemicals used in the salon. Hair conditioners can significantly reduce maggots in your bin but you also have to try other solutions such as household detergents, bleach and bin-spray fly killers. Bin fly killers are sprayed on the rim of the bin, but you can also spray the underside of the lid as well. Keep the bin closed so that flies have no alternative entries. The vapour is deadly to flies and maggots but it also acts a deodorant that repels them.
Ideal fly repellents should have long lasting effects and deterrence. They should have strong disinfectant /antiseptic qualities as well as deodorizing ability. Poisonous/toxic qualities which are lethal to flies are also preferred although great care and caution should be exercised around children and pets. If you aren’t capable of taking safety measures around kids and pets, then you should avoid using toxic substances in your home.
There are several methods of eliminating odours in your kitchen and trashcan, which will work as fly repellents and ultimately prevent maggots:
This is an aerosol spray insecticide specially formulated to kill flies and wasps. It comes in a 300ml can and is available in many brand names like Raid, Sanmex, PetShield, Doff, Nippon, Alamy , Sainsburys, SC Johnson and Zero-In. In the treatment of dustbins, the insecticide is used as a residual control whereby the aerosol is sprayed around the opening of the bin, on top of the rims. Close the bin immediately after spraying and do not touch the application until its dry. What is residual control? This a method of pest control whereby a residual insecticide is used. A residual pesticide is applied on the surface or opening in which insects gain entry. The pesticide is long-lasting, deterring and killing insects for several days, weeks or months. This is different from a non-residual insecticide which needs to be sprayed directly or indirectly on the insect as a mist. A non-residual aerosol insecticide loses its toxic potency and repellent effects as soon as the particles which don’t come into contact with the insect in that instant are settled. Aerosol particles should come in contact with the insect within the short critical period if they are to be effective.
Wheelie Bin Spray
This is similar to the residual aerosol fly killer but it’s specially made for dustbins and it includes a strong deodorant to neutralize the putrid smell from garbage bins. Spray the aerosol around the bin opening and close the lid.
Pine gel is commonly used as a clinical deodorizing detergent for cleaning floors and tiles. It leaves a fresh and shiny effect on surfaces, killing germs, removing dirt and leaving a distinctive pine smell that kills all odours in the room. It’s a multi-purpose cleaner that is safe to use on kitchen tops, sinks, basins, toilet seats and bowls. It removes grime, scales and stains. It’s perfect for cleaning and deodorizing your rubbish bin. The diluted solution for light work is 1:100 (gel to water). Heavily soiled surfaces will need a strong undiluted application. After cleaning your rubbish bin with a diluted solution, leave to dry and then apply undiluted pine gel around the opening as well as under the lid. Pine Gel will repel flies with its strong deodorant and antiseptic qualities.
Sanitaryware Bleach Cleaners
Bleach is a common household cleaning solution used for cleaning sanitaryware – toilet bowls, sinks, basins, bathtubs and other heavily soiled surfaces. It contains the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite (2.2% w/v). Thick bleach also contains baking soda as well as a pleasant deodorizing scent like potpourri, citrus and lavender. Bleach is used undiluted for sanitaryware, but it needs to be diluted when cleaning floors. The mixing ratio is 30ml to 5 litres of water. Do not use bleach on wooden surfaces. It’s suitable on hard surfaces like ceramic and porcelain tiles, as well as stone and concrete. Ingredients used in bleach will repel flies as well as kill bacteria and viruses. Examples of bleach include Clorox, Harpic, Domestos and Flash. To treat your garbage bins, clean the bin and then apply clinging bleach gel around the opening as well as under the lid. Clinging beach gel is a suitable solution as it coats the surface well.
Disinfectants are found in many household cleaners. They are formulated to kill a wide range of pathogens including viruses and bacteria found on home surfaces like kitchen tops, sinks, toilet bowls, floors, walls and basins. This chemical also kills fungi, mildew and other microorganisms. Retail disinfectants include Lysol, Purell, RMR-141 RTU, Clorox and Comet.
According to the Department of Agriculture at the Texas A&M University (AgriLife) and EPA laws, disinfectants and sanitizers as well as all types of antimicrobial agents are regarded as pesticides, so they have the same toxicity and repellent properties as the labelled insecticides.
Whereas disinfectants kill a wide range of pathogens, a sanitizer is more of a specialist, a bactericide used to kill bacteria on home surfaces. Therefore, do not expect to kill viruses with this chemical. Sanitizer brands include SaniDate, GermX, Lucky Super Soft, Purell Advanced, CurX, Savlon, Dettol, Surface and CareX.
A detergent is a surface cleaning agent that dissolves and removes dirt. It is also known as a surfactant. The soluble hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules in a surfactant reduce the surface tension between water and the dirt particles, whereby the hydrophilic molecules are attracted towards water and the hydrophobic molecules are attracted towards the dirt. This tug of war enables the dissolution of dirt as well as its separation from the surface being cleaned or washed. Detergents are used in most household cleaners such as dishwashing, laundry and bleach cleaners. They are also used in sanitizers and disinfectants.
NOTE: A typical household cleaner is a solution containing a detergent, disinfectant and deodorizer. It may also contain bleach.