for Your Fruit Fly
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Melanogaster" means black-bellied. In real life you need to get real close to tell.
Origins: Fruit flies swarm in every orchard during the hot months. They thrive on the “dead falls” – the fruits that fall from the tree prematurely. August thru October, you’ll also find them buzzing around any bowl of fruit on your kitchen table. They especially love bananas.
Anyone with an apple tree knows these guys personally. If you put your "deadfalls" in a bucket and leave them alone, you will grow swarms of winged fruit flies.
Lab Version: Back in the old days (last millennium), geneticists studied the genes of fruit flies – various eye colors and so forth. Back in the days when students blew up their Universities, someone blew up Drake U's genetic lab. Many mice and fruit flies died in that tragedy. They also found unusual wing types. Since flying fruit flies make more of a pest than a food, we usually culture one of the varieties originally used in genetic studies. The non-flying strains make an easier-to-eat food and rarely develop into those pesky “gnats” that resemble “eyeball floaters.”
Size: At ¼-inch in length (counting their wings), most people consider fruit flies more of a pest than a desirable pet food. But for small predator keepers, fruit flies fill an important niche on their critters’ menu.
Uses: Because of their small size, fruit flies appeal to smaller predators such as:
Container: Small fruit fly containers work best. When you tilt larger containers to pour out the flies, the culture medium wants to plop out. Think small. Maintaining several containers at once will increase your chances of success. Cap small containers with a cotton plug. Cover larger containers with screen wire or cloth.
Container Tip: Make sure your adult fruit flies have access to dry surfaces. They usually drown unless you give them something to crawl on – like crumpled paper.
Eggs: Adults lay their eggs in the culture medium. When they hatch, the tiny fruit fly larvae burrow thru the gooey stuff while stuffing their guts.
Larvae: As they reach their ¼+ inch size, the fruit fly larvae (maggots) crawl up the sides of their container. Tropical fish especially love them at this stage. The maggots supposedly contain special conditioning enzymes that put breeder-size fishes “in the mood.” Not sure about the enzymes, but fish do like the taste.
Pupae: Once they crawl out of their medium, fruit fly maggots begin drying into cocoons. Cocoons develop into adults in a few days. Warmer temps speed up the process.
Adults: Pupae change into adults in their cocoons. The egg-laying adults emerge about 10 days after they started life as eggs. Females have larger bellies than the males (in case you want to know). They start breeding within 24 hours. Female fruit flies easily produce 100+ eggs.
Culture Medium: You need cereal (oatmeal), fruit (baby food), enough water to make a paste, unflavored gelatin to stiffen the medium, and dry yeast sprinkled on top. If you make extra medium, you can freeze it. You’ll need a ¼ to ½-inch layer of medium.
Harvesting. Ten to 15 days after starting your fruit fly culture, begin harvesting the adults. If your culture stays firm, just shake out the flies like salt. If the bottom gets soupy, take the lid off and let your fruit flies crawl out. By the way, if a wild fruit fly gets in your culture, they will all eventually develop wings.
Want more info? You can buy books on Drosophila with more than 400 pages. Several Universities in the USA and other countries still study these rascals. They conduct more seminars and conventions than Trekkies. Evidently their students have not blown them up yet. You can never learn too much about fruit flies.
Last Words. Here’s the Zen of fruit fly farming: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” LA.
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