How It Works

Why do flies rub their legs together?

When you see flies sitting on the windowsill rubbing their legs together, they are cleaning themselves. Flies rely on their compound eyes, antennae and the bristles on their bodies and legs to sense the world around them. They have to keep these sense organs clean so they can fly with precision to find food and mates and avoid predators.

Flies spend a long time carefully cleaning their whole bodies; if you watch them closely you will see that they don’t just rub their legs together – they run their legs over their bodies, heads and wings too. Particles of dirt from the rest of the body are picked up by its legs as it cleans, and then the dirt is rubbed down the legs and away.

Hannah Cornish, Angela Marmont Centre, National History Museum, London

  • Mathew Brack

    So does this mean flies are actually clean animals not filthy like people presume they are?

  • jaaziah

    Flies are very fast and cautious creatures. They sense things very easily because they have several ways to sense danger, for ex: they use their legs, antennae, and the bristles on their bodies to sense danger. Flies are also very interesting creatures because they use their legs to clean themselves, kind of like Dogs and sometimes Cats. Flies have over twenty eyes inside of two big eyeballs almost like spiders except spiders have more than two eyeballs.

  • Jason Shwagner

    Funny watching these disgusting worthless POS bugs rub themselves while stuck to flypaper sticky traps. Like they are ever leaving alive HAHA

    • I hate flies

    • Braed

      You’re psychotic. Animals are animals, flies included. Have some compassion.

      • haley smith

        i dont have compassion for my enemies

      • L0wC

        Flies are obnoxious creatures that deserve nothing short of death.

  • Tom Cherry

    They seem to love being clean despite being dirty and disgusting.

  • Heather Spears

    I just saw a bee on my window, and noticed it rubbing it’s back legs together. I’d never paid much attention to bees before because usually I’m running away from them, but with the glass in between us I didn’t have to worry about that so it gave me a chance to observe it. After the bee finished it turned around, and almost looked like it was eating whatever it was that transferred onto the window. I had no idea that lots of insects rubbed their legs together. Interesting little fact that I probably wouldn’t have learned had that bee not landed on my window.