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Fruit flies

Fruit Fly

Drosophilidae and Tephritidae are the only two families of flies referred to as “fruit flies”. Common fruit flies found in homes and dwellings in North America and around the world are of the genus Drosophila. They are often found lingering around overripe and rotting fruit. Several “fruit fly” species are closely associated with humans, and therefore referred to as domestic species, which have been transported around the world (unknowingly) by humans. The term “Drosophila’ means dew-loving, but common fruit flies are also referred to as “vinegar flies”, “wine flies”, and “pomace flies”.

Identification

  • Coloured tan/yellow to light brown, with bright red eyes
  • Approximately 2.5 to 4 millimeters
  • Three segments in the antennae, third segment appears to be a feathery bristle

fruit fly image

More Fruit Fly Images

What Attracts Fruit Flies

Fruits flies enter homes to seek out food and breeding sources. Fruits flies are generally attracted by fermenting fruits, vegetables or moist decaying organic matter. Such fermentations or decays are caused by yeast or other fungi. The larvae feed on the yeast and other micro-organisms in the fermenting materials. The presence of readily available fruits and vegetables in homes, food processing and handling facilities makes these structures primary target of fruit flies. Adult fruit flies do not necessarily eat the fruit, but instead the fermenting material provides the larvae with a ready-made food source.

Problems/Damage

Why should I be concerned?

Fruit flies are a major concern to everyone concerned about the safety of food supply: storage, and manufacturing, agriculture, restaurants and food service industries, and their customers. Fruit flies cause a high percentage of insect contamination of fruit and fruit products by depositing bacteria and other disease causing organisms.

Fruit flies have sponging mouthparts, similar to houseflies. That means in order for a fruit fly to enjoy a meal it must deposit its saliva onto food and then suck up the solution. The process inevitably leaves behind bacteria that were once inside the fly as well as on their legs and bodies.

Habitat and Behaviour

A day in the life of a fruit fly

Fruit flies are found all around the world and almost everywhere one can find exposed food. Restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, farmer’s markets, trash receptacles, recycling areas, dumpsters, beverage stations, and janitorial closets are some of their favourite areas.

For many years, fruit flies were thought to spontaneously generate on ripe and rotting produce, but that myth has been disproven. In most cases, fruit flies have either found their way inside the home by following the odours of ripe fruit or have been transported there along with the produce. This not only underlines the importance of washing the fruits and vegetables that are brought into the home, but also means that you should not keep excess quantities of produce exposed.

Females lay approximately 400 eggs, about five at a time, into rotting fruit or other suitable materials. The eggs, which are about 0.5 millimeters long, hatch after 12-15 hours. The larvae grow for about 4 days, during which time they consume the yeast and microorganisms which decompose the fruit as well as the sugar of the fruit itself.

Life Cycle

Fruit flies are known for their rapid reproduction and relatively short lifespans. The average lifespan of a fruit fly is about 40 to 50 days. The fruit fly life cycle is made up of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Most of the fly’s life is spent as an adult, with development usually taking less than two weeks. Developmental time and overall lifespan is largely influenced by environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. High temperatures quicken development and may extend lifespans, whereas cooler temperatures may prolongs larval and pupal development and kill off adults.

The fruit fly life cycle begins when a female fruit fly lays a batch of eggs, which usually consists of around 500 eggs. Under the right conditions, a fruit fly egg only takes about a day to hatch. The newly hatched larvae then develop through three instars stages, with the entire process lasting about five days. A larva then encloses itself in a hard case for the pupal stage, which takes about five days. After emerging from the pupal case, the fruit fly reaches adulthood. Females may begin procreating within within two days.

More Info on Fruit Fly Larvae

A typical fruit fly larva emerges approximately 24-30 hours after the egg is laid. The larva also known as a maggot is cream coloured or white, worm-like with no legs or eyes except for hook-like mouthpiece for feeding. A full grown larva is 5 – 6 mm long in length. The larva feeds in the food medium for about 6 days then it leaves the food source in search of, safe, dry place to pupate. Under optimal environmental conditions, the larval stage lasts for 5 – 6 days.

Fruit flies often lay eggs inside fruit with damaged skin or in other moist, fermenting organic matter. After the eggs hatch, fruit fly larvae spend the first two larval instars eating and burrowing throughout the fruit. The first instar typically includes 24 to 25 hours of constant feeding and maturation. The maggot then sheds its outer skin (cuticle) and enters the second instar as a bigger and more defined larva. Larvae in the second instar continue tunneling through fruit or other food sources for another 24 hours before molting again.

During the third and final instar, larvae crawl away from the food source. The creature often climbs up and attaches to a vertical surface to begin pupal development, which typically takes several days. The maggot may darken in colour during this period. Fruit flies emerge from the pupal stage in approximately 10 days and live for several more weeks. Fruit fly larvae often pose massive problems in Canadian orchards and farms, as the pests have the potential to ruin large amounts of fruit in a short time due to their quick development and ability to reproduce rapidly.

Infestations

The most visible sign of fruit fly infestation is the presence of the adults. Usually seen swarming around fruits and vegetables left out on kitchen or commercial countertops or in and around refuse bins and other receptacles in which foods are disposed, fruit flies congregate en masse and feed on the decaying materials until food sources shore up (?). Fruit flies typically remain in areas with suitable food sources. Diners, bars, cafes, and restaurants often need to take special precautions to limit fruit fly infestations. Stowing raw, whole foods in refrigerated or vacuum-sealed units also helps to prevent fruit fly infestations.

Do Fruit Flies Bite People?

No, fruit flies do not bite people. They lack the piercing and sucking month parts of typical blood feeding flies. While considered a general annoyance in homes and other institutions, fruit flies can be significant pests in food processing and handling structures. Because of their habits of visiting unsanitary sites, they have the potential to carry disease causing germs. When fruits infested with fruit fly larvae are ingested accidentally, it may cause gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea.

Fruit Flies in Kitchen

Fruit Flies in Plants

Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Tips for prevention and control

These tips may help you prevent fruit flies in your home:

  • Reduce the presence of ripe fruits and vegetables; place them in a refrigerator or a paper bag
  • Close the lids on all garbage and waste containers
  • Clean up and spills and inspect the environment for potential breeding areas; dirty sponges and washcloths, drains, broken tiles, and standing water
  • Degrease and clean drains and sink areas

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