What Do Fruit Flies Eat? 15 Common Foods Fruit Flies Eat

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: February 13, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/hoja_viva
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The common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) measures about 0.157 inches long and is light brown or tan. Fruit flies are common in homes, supermarkets, restaurants, and anywhere else food is allowed to rot and ferment.

The reproductive potential of fruit flies is massive, and if granted the opportunity, they could lay up to 500 eggs. This means fruit flies have high tendencies of infesting places with fermented foods lying around. It’s no surprise why people are curious about their feeding habits. And most would like to know what exactly fruit flies eat.

What Do Fruit Flies Eat?

What Do Fruit Flies Eat
Fruit flies eat overripe/fermented fruits and other sugary substances

A-Z-Animals.com

Fruit flies eat a diet that consists of fruits and some other sugary substances, and they are predominantly omnivores. They puncture the skin of overripe fruit and vegetables to eat and lay their eggs. Fruit flies commence feeding as soon as they hatch from the eggs. They feed on surrounding tissues of ripe fruits, which results in the infested area spreading and forming a putrid mass reaching the center of the fruit. 

Fruit flies are also attracted to the fermenting sugars present in spilled alcoholic beverages. They get attracted to yeast resulting from the initial decomposition of plant materials. Adult fruit flies, during the preoviposition feeding stage, spend time eating fruits, vegetables, as well as other decaying materials.

Additionally, fruit flies could also feed on the skins and stems of fruits, fungi, and organic materials present in unclean drains. They are also often found feeding in garbage cans and other unsanitary locations.

Fruit flies are notorious for invading homes to eat fruits/foods kept on loose surfaces. Here is a complete list of foods that fruit flies eat:

  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Melon
  • Squash
  • Rotten Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Sap Flows
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Plant Secretions
  • Honeydew
  • Overripe Produce
  • Mushrooms
  • Vegetables
  • Fermenting Fruits

How Does the Diet of Fruit Flies Impact Other Species?

Primarily, fruit flies are nuisance pests. They are also capable of contaminating food with bacteria and other disease-producing organisms.

Also, in severe cases, fruit fly larvae can be found in large portions of harvested crops and fruit, making the yield worthless. This is because it would be more difficult to cut away affected fruit sections on a commercial production scale, unlike in home settings. 

The presence of fruit flies in your area also limits the range of crops you can grow/raise in your garden, except you can put fruit fly control systems in place. 

A fruit fly not only affects the quality of crops grown, but it also affects the harvest quantity. In addition, the decaying matter they eat could become a source of a fungal or bacterial infection or worse, attract undesirable pests such as mice or rats.

However, fruit flies can still be considered beneficial insects in many cases. Fruit flies are also valuable assets to scientists performing genetic research since both humans and fruit flies share about 75% of homolog genes that cause disease in humans. 

How Much Do Fruit Flies Eat?

fruit flies eating fruit
Fruit flies on average eat up to1.5 microliters per day

iStock.com/hoja_viva

Adult fruit flies approximately eat 1.7 microliters per day for up to 3 days after eclosion. After that, the diet gradually increases for the next 4-30 days, which then drops back to an average of 1.5 microliters per day after the 30-day period.

Are Fruit Flies Dangerous to Humans?

Fruit flies do not bite, but they are considered to be a hazard to human health as a result of their hairy bodies and sticky feet that can transmit harmful germs and bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli and listeria, which are capable of causing food poisoning. Severe cases may put you in the hospital and can even be life-threatening.

Moreover, fruit flies are known to spread diarrhea-causing illnesses. Therefore, avoid killing fruit flies with your bare hands. And if you do, ensure you wash your hands afterward.

What Do Different Types of Fruit Flies Eat?

Technically, there are only two types of fruit flies- the wild type and the mutant type. These two types are composed of many species. Some are considered super pests, which can be categorized into four significant species of fruit flies:

  • The Mediterranean Fruit Fly
  • The Mexican Fruit Fly
  • The Caribbean Fruit Fly
  • The Queensland Fruit Fly

However, these different fruit fly species feed on overripe or fermenting fruits and vegetables.

How Do Fruit Flies Hunt for Food?

fruit flies on banana
Fruit flies track down the smell of food with their olfactory receptors

iStock.com/Akchamczuk

Fruit flies are most active during the day and will feed on the surface of overripe or decaying plant matter, as well as honeydew (secretions) produced by aphids. Larvae of fruit flies eat yeast in rotting fruit. They have a high tolerance for alcohol which helps them defend against parasites.

Fruit flies are good at sniffing out clues when hunting for food. The nose of a fruit fly is a pair of pill-shaped antennae present on the front of its face. The antennae contain specialized smelling nerves known as “olfactory receptors,” which respond to particular chemicals that enable it to find food.

A fruit fly flies around in search of good smells and follows its nose. Once in an area with a “good” food scent, a fruit fly reacts quickly and can tell which direction to go. But if a place doesn’t possess this good scent, it does not linger there. When a fruit fly is hungry, its insulin level drops, and the olfactory receptor neurons become extra sensitive.

What Do Fruit Flies Eat in Various Seasons?

Fruit flies eat throughout the year, and their diet is dictated by the fruits and vegetables available in most seasons. Fruit flies are most prevalent during the late summer and early fall because that is the season where fruits and vegetables are most common.

Predators of Fruit Flies

The common predators of fruit flies include:

  • Frogs
  • Spiders
  • Chickens and other fowls
  • Predaceous wasps
  • Mites
  • Crickets
  • Humans: using deterring scents such as basil, eucalyptus, peppermint, clove, lavender, and lemongrass.

However, if you’re looking to eliminate fruit flies, the most effective method to prevent and eradicate them is locating and eliminating their feeding and breeding sites.

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