This time of year, you may be serving more than patrons at your restaurant. Fruit, phorid, moth and other “small fly” infestations can become all too common as the weather heats up.

Should they descend on your restaurant, they can damage your reputation and potentially contaminate what’s coming out of your kitchen—flies can carry billions of harmful microorganisms on and in their bodies, making them a potent disease vector.

Flies can transmit pathogenic microorganisms that cause E. coli, salmonella and shingles. To make matters worse, a 2010 study by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Orkin documented five more bacteria species carried by common house flies that were not previously linked to the pest. These diseases can cause food poisoning or even respiratory infections in humans.

The good news? You can manage these pests by taking several preventive measures, which all fall under an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Instead of reacting to fly and other pest problems with chemical treatments, IPM proactively controls pests through sanitation, facility maintenance and exclusion tactics.

Blow them out. You can guard the entrances to your restaurant by installing two sets of doors, which add an extra boundary line for flies to get through. Install wall-mounted fans that blow air out against pests and check with an HVAC professional to ensure that your establishment has positive airflow. This means air flows out of, not into, your building when the doors are opened, and your boundary lines get even tougher to cross.

Clean up trash and clutter. Flies are attracted to your restaurant because of food odors. To keep those odors to a minimum, rotate your produce stock frequently and line and regularly empty garbage cans and recycle bins. Clean up any spills inside your kitchen or dining room immediately and use a bacterial cleaner to dissolve organic material on drains and floors that can attract fruit and drain flies.

Protect your patio. The food odors that attract flies can come from outside your restaurant, too, especially if you offer patio dining. Cover all trash cans outside with tightly sealed lids to prevent odors, and clear customer plates as quickly as possible. Wipe down tables after every serving, and sweep away any standing water. You can also replace outdoor mercury vapor lights with sodium vapor bulbs, which flies are less attracted to.

Mind the details. There are several small but significant IPM tactics you can implement to deter flies at your restaurant. Caulk any cracks or crevices around the exterior of your building and seal all doors and windows with weather stripping. Additionally, install correctly fitting door sweeps to help keep flies out. You can also set up fly traps in food storage areas and the type of flies trapped can help identify the source of the flies.

Like many pests, flies are more than just a nuisance; they are a symptom of a greater problem inside your restaurant. Once you correct any issues at your restaurant that may be attracting flies or allowing them to thrive, you can guard against them.

Work with your pest management professional to identify the types of flies plaguing your establishment and develop a custom IPM plan. Together, you can keep flies from showing up and stealing a meal from your restaurant.

Greg Baumann is Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin. A degreed chemist and licensed pest management professional, his global pest management experience spans 30 years. For more information, e-mail gbaumann@orkin.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.