How drain flies manage to almost never get washed away

Nathan Bevan Speirs, Gauri Mahadik, Sigurdur T Thoroddsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Abstract Drain flies, Pshycoda spp. (Order Diptera, Family Psychodidae), commonly reside in our homes, annoying us in our bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. They like to stay near drains where they lay their eggs and feed on microorganisms and liquid carbohydrates found in the slime that builds up over time. Though they generally behave very sedately, they react quite quickly when threatened with water. A squirt from the sink induces them to fly away, seemingly unaffected, and flushing the toilet with flies inside does not necessarily whisk them down. We find that drain flies’ remarkable ability to evade such potentially lethal threats does not stem primarily from an evolved behavioral response, but rather from a unique hair covering with a hierarchical roughness. This covering, that has never been previously explored, imparts superhydrophobicity against large droplets and pools and antiwetting properties against micron-sized droplets and condensation. We examine how this hair covering equips them to take advantage of the relevant fluid dynamics and flee water threats in domestic and natural environments including: millimetric-sized droplets, mist, waves, and pools of water. Our findings elucidate drain flies’ astounding ability to cope with a wide range of water threats and almost never get washed down the drain.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 20 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-29
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): URF/1/3727-01-01
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) under Grant URF/1/3727-01-01.


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