I do my best not to kill spiders, bugs, and insects but fruit flies can be so overwhelming. Even when I put my fruit in the refrigerator, at some point during the summer I usually end up resorting to trapping them with vinegar. Perhaps because the summer was so warm this year, there were more fruit flies than normal. Once, when I opened my outdoor compost bin, the swarm that emerged was so huge I could barely breathe. One day, I visited a friend’s house only to find a big swarm of fruit flies in her kitchen, even though there didn’t seem to be anything present in the kitchen to draw them.
During the last few months, I have posted interesting facts about ants, aphids and slugs on this blog. I decided to do the same for fruit flies. I was astounded at what I learned about them.
- Fruit flies have red eyes and tan bodies. On their abdomens, there are black bands.
- Fruit flies become .098 inches in length.
- They flap their wings 220 times per second.
- Their eyes have 760 individual lenses. They use 2/3 of their brains for visual processing.
- Fruit flies live 8 to 10 days. During that time females may lay 500 eggs. (One article said they may lay up to 2000!)
- Fruit flies are drawn to decaying fruits and vegetables, as well as greasy items, in garbage dumps, trash cans, restaurants and homes.
- They are also drawn to anything that is fermenting. They love beer and wine.
- They are considered nuisance pests but they can transmit diseases.
- Do not eat fruits that have rotten parts as they may contain fruit fly eggs and disease.
- People who have pet geckos, chameleons, frogs and praying mantises often breed fruit flies to feed them. They must also be a food source to many creatures in the wild.
- Fruit flies have only four chromosomes but those four are similar to human chromosomes.
- Fruit flies are used in genetic research and also for studying evolution and neurobiology.
- Seventy-five percent of genetically linked human diseases can be induced and examined in fruit flies.
- Fruit flies are used in Parkinsons, Alzheimers, aging, cancer, immunity, alcohol and drug abuse research.
- Fruit flies originated in West Africa and then spread to Europe. They probably arrived in North America on slave ships.
- In 1995 three scientists who used fruit flies in their experiments won the Nobel Peace Prize!
Here is an interesting video of the developmental stages of a fruit fly’s life.
Well, the fruit fly may be considered a nuisance pest, but I can see that they provide important services to this world. I will never look at them the same again!
This article will also be published in the November issue of the PNW GreenFriends Newsletter. To see previous issues of that newsletter click here.