What is a Fruit Fly?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A fruit fly is a fly which is associated with fruit. Two different families of flies are commonly known as fruit flies, which can be confusing for people who are not familiar with the details of fly life. When most people talk about “fruit flies,” they mean flies in the family Drosophilidae, often specifically Drosophilia melanogaster, the common fruit fly. However, flies in the family Tephritidae are also sometimes called fruit flies.

Fruit flies.
Fruit flies.

In the case of flies in the family Drosophilidae, fruit flies are flies which live on ripe and fermenting fruits. They specialize in using the yeasts which arise during the fermentation process for food, and they have highly-attuned chemical sensors which allow them to identify delicacies like rotting bananas and peaches. Fruit flies don't just eat the fruit, they also use it as a substrate to lay eggs, with the maggots burrowing into the fruit to feed on the pulp inside.

Drosophilidae live on ripe and fermenting fruits.
Drosophilidae live on ripe and fermenting fruits.

The life cycle of a common fruit fly is dependent on the ambient temperature, but it can be anywhere from two weeks to two months. Fruit flies can become a huge problem in the kitchen, especially in the summer, because once they are established, they will actively seek out sources of food. Keeping a kitchen clean and ripening fruit covered will help to reduce and discourage the fruit fly population, and it is also possible to use fly traps to cope with a fruit fly influx.

These fruit flies are small and yellow to tan in color, and they are especially popular in scientific research. Because of their short life span, it is popular to rear multiple generations very quickly for the purpose of studying genetics, and the genetic code of the fruit fly also happens to be remarkably similar to that of humans, leading some researchers to study fruit flies with the goal of learning more about humans. Research on the lifespan of fruit flies in particular has revealed some interesting information which could be used to extend human lifespans.

Flies in the family Tephritidae may be called fruit flies, but they operate differently than their relatives. These flies actively burrow into fruits and vegetables as they grow, causing systemic damage. They are regarded as crop pests, because they can destroy a crop before its even harvested, unlike the fruit flies in the family Drosophilidae, which primarily feed on fruit which has already been harvested and sold.

Some people use fly paper to help control fruit fly infestations.
Some people use fly paper to help control fruit fly infestations.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I don't know how they initially got in, but they've been attracted to empty beer cans before I take them out to the recycling bin.


@lonelygod - I hate fruit flies, and because I have a parrot that has a fruit dish they are always around my house. You're in luck though, because there are quite a few way to kill them. First, get some fly paper and bait it with honey or fruit, and you'll definitely catch quite a few.

If you still have a fruit flies problem you can always try a more innovative manner to get rid of them. What I do is take a cup and pour apple cider vinegar into the bottom. Then I cover it with plastic wrap and secure it with an elastic. Finally you jab a few holes in the top and watch as the flies get trapped and die inside. It's pretty satisfying actually.


Can someone tell me how to kill fruit flies?

I have noticed lately that there are a number of fruit flies in my house and they are driving me mad. They are so small that it seems impossible to squish them.

I would love it if I could just buy some fruit fly spray or a fruit fly catcher that would keep my home free of the little insects. I don't even have any fruit sitting out so I am not sure what is attracting them.

Also, are fruit flies dirty creatures? I know that house flies are pretty nasty, but I want to know whether or not my home sanitation will improve if I stop fruit flies from entering.


What animal eats the fruit fly?

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