Fruit flies can be a nuisance in the house

We all know that if you place fruit in a bowl, fruit flies will surely begin flying about. Several weeks ago, Mary Alice said, “Where are all these fruit flies coming from when we have no fruit sitting out?”

Mrs. Clean very seldom has dirty dishes in the sink and our garbage is in a covered container and removed every day. So, it was a mystery as to what was attracting the fruit flies.

The flies were becoming quite annoying, so Mary Alice Googled to find out what to do. The answer was to pour apple cider vinegar in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the top. The idea was that the fruit flies would be attracted to the vinegar and crawl through the small holes and be trapped. The trap worked but not as fast as the fruit flies multiplied. A few days later we purchased commercial traps made just for fruit flies.

Eventually the mystery of where the fruit flies came from was solved. Mary Alice had been given a gift of Bonsai tree seeds and after planting the seeds she placed the pots on our kitchen window sill. Immediately fruit flies began flying about. The fruit flies had been in the potted soil.

Fruit flies can be tricky to spot because they are small, about the size of the “B” in the word “Liberty” written on a dime. Although small in size, fruit flies are usually fairly easy to spot because they have poor flying skills and can be seen awkwardly flying about.

The average natural lifespan of fruit fly adults in optimal temperatures is 40 to 50 days. Female fruit flies are capable of mating and laying several batches of eggs in that time, allowing the fruit fly population in a home to multiply quickly. The life span of the fruit fly is heavily influenced by temperature. The time it takes for fruit flies to mature changes depending on environmental factors. When temperatures are high, the insects can complete their entire life cycle in 8 to 10 days.

The tiny fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been employed extensively in the study of animal genetics. It has a short life cycle and is easily reared. The fruit fly will produce a number of mutant forms; therefore, it has proved to be an ideal insect for the study of heredity. There are over 600 species of fruit flies recorded. More is known about the heredity of the small fruit fly than any other animal.

The fruit flies are able to endure strains that would be fatal to man. In one study, 10 fruit flies were placed in a bell jar, with most of the air sucked from the jar (equal to being 17 miles above the earth’s surface); without any protection, these tiny flies endured the near-vacuum condition, flitting about four minutes after they were released as though nothing had happened. This experiment was done 24 times in a four-hour period. Two of the 10 flies not only survived but produced families shortly thereafter.

The fruit flies Drosophila are attracted to decomposing fruit. The larvae actually eat the yeast and fungi in the decomposing fruit and not the fruit itself. The longer the fruit is allowed to ripen (decompose), the more flies will be attracted.

If you want to deter fruit flies from coming to the fruit on your counter, place a lemon in the fruit bowl. The lemon gives off a gas that drives the fruit flies away.

All flies have four stages of development. In a few days the eggs, hatch into tiny larvae, known as maggots. These maggots grow rapidly and mature in a few days. Then the maggots dissolve almost completely within their skins, with the fluid changing to a jelly like substance, which in turn hardens into the body and organs of the adult fly. This amazing transformation occurs in a few days.

The wing-beat of the little fruit fly is 250 beats per second; a smaller fly (the midge) has a wing beat of up to 1,000 times per second; the butterfly has 8 to 12 beats per second and the fly has super-fast wing beats.

Although flies are a very interesting group, they are not well liked. However, some flies are considered helpful because their larvae are scavengers. They eat almost anything of animal or vegetable origin and help keep the air pure by devouring carcasses. Some flies help control pests as their larvae feeds on such things as mites and chiggers; some help cross-pollinate flowers, and then, flies themselves are food for other birds, animals and fish.

Even people who like and study insects do not regard flies with much enthusiasm. However, flies have a big impact on civilization, and like it or not, we have to live with them.

That is except my wife, who hopes to wipe out the fly population with a fly swatter.


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