As much as fruit flies are harmless to plants, they are dangerous to humans because they depend on decaying matter for survival. This makes them a threat to humans and pets since they can easily spread bacterial infections.
There are up to 4000 types of fruit fly species in the world. However, the Red fruit fly, Mediterranean fruit fly, Flightless fruit fly, and the Mexican fruit fly are the most common types of fruit flies that frequent our homes.
1. Red fruit flies
The red eyed fruit flies are the most common fruit fly. It is attracted to overripe fruits and decaying vegetables. This is because it feeds and breeds on rotting fruits, vegetables and other organic materials.
They also like to hover around garbage cans as the cans are often abundant with decaying organic matter. The smell of wine and vinegar is also irresistible to the red fruit flies.
These fruit flies have a very short life cycle of between 8 and 10 days and can multiply into a complete menace within your home within just a week or two.
The female lays as many as 500 eggs within its short lifespan inside rotting fruits where they hatch into larvae.
The next stage in red fruit fly life cycle is pupation. This is where the larvae pupates in a dry environment and finally emerge as an adult who will be ready to start laying eggs in just 2 days.
Red fruit flies can be pretty annoying given their fast breeding rates but you can always control the situation with a combination of homemade fruit fly traps and natural fruit fly sprays.
2. Mediterranean fruit fly
Scientifically known as Ceratitis capitata, the Mediterranean fruit (or medfly if you like) is one of the most destructive agricultural pests according to the University of Arizona.
As the name suggests, medfly is thought to be native to Mediterranean area of Africa but has since spread to many areas of the world including Australia, Asia, and North and South America.
Medfly is known to infest more than 200 species of fruits and vegetables with fruits such as citrus, stone fruit, guavas, and loquats being particularly vulnerable.
The Mediterranean fruit fly is able to endure cooler climates better than most other fruit fly species and this explains it widespread distribution throughout the world.
It is also able to breed and feed on an unmatched number of hosts which makes it one of the most economically important fruit flies.
It is the pesky bug that the EU has been heard mentioning in their occasional threats to ban fruit imports from various countries at some point or another.
Where do they live?
Although citrus fruits are the all time favorite of Mediterranean fruit flies, med-fly larvae can feed and grow on numerous commercial, garden fruits and nuts.
Those include including peach, avocado, plum, guavas, stone fruits, pear, apple, melon, among others. Certain species of vegetables including tomato and bell pepper are also inclusive.
The fruit fly life cycle begins with the adult laying their eggs into the fruits especially in areas where a fruit’s peel is already broken.
The eggs hatch within 3 days. The larvae then feed on the fruit pulp inside the host fruit while tunneling through it, ultimately reducing a fruit into a juicy, inedible mass. This often leads to massive losses to farmers.
The fly is so seriously damaging to fruits that only earlier varieties of citrus fruits are grown in some Mediterranean countries.
This is attributed to the fact that late season fruits are often too heavily infested to be sold. It is as a matter of fact not uncommon to experience 100 percent fruit fly infestation in stone fruit fields as the University of Florida highlights.
3. Flightless fruit flies (Wingless fruit flies)
Those in the science circles might be already familiar with the terms “flightless fruit flies” and “wingless fruit flies”. These refer to a variety of fly species that have genetic mutations that make them flightless.
Among the specie of fly falling under this category are Drosophila melanogaster, Bactrocera cucurbitae, Drosophila hydei and Bactrocera dorsalis.
As a result of genetic mutations, such flies usually have impaired wing muscles that cannot support flight or no wings at all.
Flightless fruit flies are used extensively in scientific research, particularly in the study of human neuromuscular conditions and diseases.
Those include Myotonic Dystrophy, Spinobulbar Muscular Atrophy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Dystrophinopathies and other inherited Neuromuscular Diseases. They are also often used as test subjects in Aeronautical research.
Flightless fruit flies are also used to feed pets and lab animals such as Betta fish, Dart frog, praying mantis, chameleons, lizards, geckos, spider lings, etc. Wingless and flightless fruit flies are usually available as cultures. You can order a package online.
4. Mexican fruit fly
Mexican fruit fly is yet another serious fruit pest that tends to particularly affect citrus and mango fruits.
As the name suggests, this pest was first detected in Central Mexico but it is also widespread in Central America and numerous other countries including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala among others.
The pest is notable for its yellowish-brown color and 2-3 whitish stripes along its thorax.
The life cycle of the Mexican fruit fly begins with the adult female laying eggs in groups of about 10 under the peels of ripe fruits.
Weather and food directly affects their life span. After 6-12 days, the eggs hatch into larvae which then feed and burrow through the pulp of the fruit.
The larvae continue to develop for 3-4 weeks depending on the temperature, undergoing three instars, and When they are finally ready to pupate, they exit the fruit through small holes and fall on the ground where pupation takes place (in the soil).
Pupation takes 12-100 days depending on the temperature and once through adults emerges from the soil and will be ready to start laying eggs after 8-34 days.
Mexican fruit flies are very destructive to fruits since larvae tunnel through the pulp of the infested fruits making them unfit for human consumption.
They thus have far reaching economic consequences. The fact that Mexican fruit flies have been shown to affect more than 50 species of plants doesn’t make the outlook any better.
Small fruit flies
“I have found very many small fruit flies all over my kitchen after spending a few days away. They seem to emanate from my fruit basket where there were a couple overripe lemons. What should I do?” Kate
It is very likely that you are dealing with fruit flies. Start by eliminating any overripe fruits from your kitchen and ensuring that the counter tops and the floor are clean and free of organic materials.
Next, set an apple cider vinegar trap and place it near the area where the bugs seem to hang out longer.
Simply mix apple cider vinegar with 2 drops of dish washing liquid in a small jar, cover them with a clear plastic bag, fasten it on with a rubber band, and finally poke a few holes with a pen on top of it. Lots of people will swear with their life that this simple trap works wonders.
How to manage all types of fruit flies at home
The most appropriate approach to dealing with fruit flies will depend on the precise type of fruit fly in question.
For Mediterranean fruit flies, foliar spot treatment is often used. This entails spraying the trees with a pesticide.
Permanent fruit flies solutions include:
- Soil drenching (treatment of the soil under affected trees)
- Fruit stripping (removal of affected fruits from the trees)
- Sterile fruit fly release (flooding of the affected area with sterile flies)
As for Mexican fruit flies three control techniques, namely bait spray, insecticide application, and Sterile Insect Technique, are typically used.
In addition to the intervention measures highlighted above, governments monitor fresh food imports to ensure that fruit flies are not brought into their respective countries.
Quarantines are also often imposed on affected areas to ensure that the problem is not spread out.
As for the red-eyed fruit flies that are commonly seen in homes all around the world, you should start by eliminating any overripe fruits and decaying vegetables.
Then adopt a stringent hygiene routine to minimize organic materials in your kitchen counters and floors.
- USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Medfly and Mexfly U.S. Department of Agriculture
- University of Maryland Extension: Fruit flies Key Points– Home and Garden Information Center
Calina Mabel has over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism and communications. Currently, Calina Mabel is the Content Writer for categories such as Cockroach, Ants, Bed Bugs, Mosquito, Rodent, Termite, and Flies on Pestweek.com. She aims to build content for these categories with a focus on providing valuable and accessible information to readers, in order to create the world’s largest knowledge community about Pests.
All content written by Calina Mabel has been reviewed by Emily Carter.