Monday, August 24, 2015

Fascinating Facts About Fruit Flies

It becomes abundantly clear that Fall has arrived when quite suddenly the kitchen is loaded with tiny fruit flies. Appearing as out of thin air with the fall harvest they hover about any piece of fruit in a small swarm... jiggling a ripe tomato will cause fruit fly panic. Thankfully they do not bite.

They reproduce in a mere 8 days which is the reason that Gregor Johann Mendel used them in his scientific studies on biological features passed on through inheritance. Mendel noted that varying degrees of red in the eyes of fruit flies were directly passed to offspring and although his findings were largely over looked in 1885, further studies were conducted and by 1915 became the core of classical genetics. The modern studies of DNA began with the humble fruit fly. 

Fruit flies are so small they may fly through a screen and they are beyond detection on fruits and vegetables picked outside or purchased at markets. They eat yeast produced by fermentation, the process that converts sugar to acids or alcohol... it appears as older fruit is beginning to spoil. The flies reproduce on the skin of these fermenting fruits or vegetables and suddenly you have a tiny swarm of adult fruit flies... which can become annoying, especially if you accidentally drink some with your apple juice.

Fruit flies and wine and beer makers have had a mutually beneficial relationship for millions of years. Since yeast is living, yet immobile, fruit flies have the ability land on yeast then transport microbes on their feet that activate it as they land on a batch which is forming. Although machines have been used for this task for years, bioengineer Kevin Verstrepen and his team support a new trend in beer making called ’wild fermentation’. With its fabulous sense of smell, the fruit fly is drawn to the best and sweetest yeast, disregarding bland and non-fruity yeast. Verstrepen believes, ‘It is the first smell-based collaboration’ observed in nature, which is a rarity indeed. The selections of the fly are considered far superior to those selected by mankind and so once again the lowly fruit fly has made a valuable contribution to science.

However if one is not making beer and wish to eliminate them from the kitchen, toss all over ripened fruit and set a bowl of vinegar as a trap for them.... a small jar with vinegar and a plastic wrap 'lid' with several slits in it will work. They get in but can't get out. The season for them is short and they will disappear as quickly as they appeared with the first freeze.
*Tip: If leaving the room, put a coaster over your juice!

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