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Shoo Fly! Don’t Bother Me

The Fruit Fly

The Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit fly, is a red-eyed tiny insect and one of the most common pests in the US. These flies are notorious for eating and breeding in the fruit we set on our countertops. They reproduce extremely rapidly as a single female fruit fly can lay roughly 500 eggs in her lifetime – which lasts a week. Fruit flies are most attracted to ripe fruit, but also have a tendency to be drawn to moist areas such as sink drains, trash bins, compost, empty bottles, or even dam cleaning rags. 

While infestations of these little flying pests are most common in the summer, fruit flies can be a year-round problem. 

The History of Fruit Flies

Fruit flies may have been buzzing around fruit 10,000 years ago! Believed to originate in Africa, the fruit fly now resides mainly indoors, and is rarely found living “wild.” While they act as human-reliant scavengers now, it appears as though they were originally picky wild scavengers, preferring one type of fruit as their source of sustenance: the marula. 

The marula is a very sweet, tangy fruit. It is yellow in color and medium-sized, similar to a plum. When tested against other fruits that are known to be very enticing to fruit flies, scientists discovered that marula always won out. 

Marula became a part of the San Tribes’ culture, a tribe native to Africa. They harvested and ate the fruit for thousands of years, bringing them into their caves and disposing of the pits there. When scientists discovered the remnants of these fruits in San Tribe caves, they wondered if fruit flies may have followed the sweet smell of the fruit into the caves and remained there with the tribe, feeding off of the fruit remnants. When it was confirmed that this was indeed plausible for the previously wild flies to make this drastic change, scientists began hypothesizing that, as their human companions began collecting and eating different fruits, the flies began to sample these new food sources as well, eventually becoming generalists with their fruit-based diets.  

Prevention

If you tend to be plagued by fruit flies, the best course of prevention is eliminating the “sources of attraction.” Any fruits that have spoiled, cracked, been cut open, etc. should be sealed in bags or containers and stored in refrigerators when possible. 

Citations

Daley, J. (2018) Fruit Flies Began Feeding on Our Fresh Produce About 10,000 Years Ago, Smithsonian Magazine. SmartNews. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/fruit-flies-first-invaded-our-kitchens-about-10000-years-ago-180970974/ (Accessed: May 2020). 

Potter, M. F. (1994) Fruit Flies, The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Entomology at the University of Kentucky. Available at: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef621 (Accessed: May2020).