No more Mr. Nice Fly:
An interview with a fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster).
Fruit fly (FF): All right, let’s get this interview over with. I’m a busy fly.
Pest Management Professional (PMP): Understood. Let’s see, I’ll start by noting your physical description: 1/8 inch long, tan thorax; abdomen is black on top and gray underneath —
FF: Oh yeah? What’s it to you?
PMP: And red eyes. A little surly in demeanor.
FF: You’d be irritated, too, if you could fly up to 6.5 miles a day but today you can’t, because you have to deal with the media. There’s a pickle factory over in the next town calling my name — with a winery next door to that!
PMP: Ah, is that why you’re sometimes referred to as a vinegar or pomace fly?
FF: Probably. Drosophilidae, my family, isn’t too picky about where we eat and breed — especially my dark-eyed cousins. Food-processing plants, restaurants, bars, homes that have rotting food and vegetables or drain buildup, you name it. Dirty mops. Unwashed bottles. If it’s kind of smelly, slimy and fermenting, it’s up our alley. Oh yeah, alleys, too.
PMP: Is that the case for all stages of your species?
FF: We like to lay our 400 or so eggs on the surface of something that is fermenting. That’s because after they hatch about 30 hours later, they will have some good stuff to eat. However, within about 96 hours, our larvae — after a couple of instars — tend to look for a drier area in which to pupate. Within about 12 days, the generation has become adults and the cycle starts all over again. We’re a fertile bunch.
PMP: I understand you’re also somewhat romantic.
FF: [blushes, scrapes a tarsus shyly in front of him] Guys have about five courting behaviors. We’ll make a song by extending and vibrating our wings. We try to kiss the girl — well, perhaps humans would call it licking. Then we try to get lucky, but sometimes, she’s simply not having it. She’ll pull away. I’ve even gotten kicked before! Generally speaking, the ladies just aren’t into romance as we guys are. Sometimes, though, all it takes is nice weather and a suitable environment to get them in the mood.
PMP: That makes sense.
FF: They also tend to prefer their brothers over an unrelated suitor.
PMP: That… is gross.
FF: Says you! We say it keeps the gene pool nice and clean.
PMP: And shallow.
FF: [indignant] Hey, it seems to work for all the researchers who use us in countless gene mutation studies. They seem heavily invested in our love lives, but I don’t judge. They sort us by gender by noting the guys are a little smaller than the ladies and have a darker back. Our species’ entire DNA genome was sequenced about 17 years ago, so we’re quite in demand on the university circuit.
PMP: Except for inside the dorms, cafeterias and bars, of course.
FF: [rolls compound eyes] Is this interview going to take much longer?
PMP: [hastily] Sorry, sorry. Let’s see, your wings beat up to 220 times a second. You’re able to rotate 90 degrees in less than 50 milliseconds —
FF: If the wind isn’t blowing.
PMP: OK, sure. And as for controlling your populations —
FF: [indignant again] Why would you want to “control” us?
PMP: Because you’re a pest, and a prolific one at that.
FF: [chuckles] We do like to get the best of you humans. You’ll think you cleared our populations, when all you really did was get rid of the adults. Next thing you know, our eggs hatch and boom! It’s like we never left!
PMP: [nodding] It can be really hard to get rid of you.
FF: Look, if I share our Achilles heel with you, can this thing be over so I can be on my way?
PMP: [excitedly] Yes!
FF: [looks around, whispers conspiratorially] Keep your garbage bins and sink drains clean. Wipe your counters. Put produce in the refrigerator when we’re around. Outside, clean up debris from fruit trees and the like. It’s really not rocket science: If there’s nothing around us that’s fermenting so we can raise our young, we’ll move on.
PMP: [scribbling hasty notes] OK, enjoy your trip to the pickle factory! [Looks up. FF has already left]
Editor Heather Gooch can be reached at email@example.com or 330-321-9754.