September 3 – Quite the buzz

Today’s factismal: Under perfect conditions, a single pair of spotted wing fruit flies could have enough offspring in one year to outweigh all of humanity by four hundred million to one!

There are days when I’m glad that nothing is perfect. And today is one of them. That’s because of the spotted wing fruit fly, aka the spotted wing vinegar fly, aka the spotted wing drosophilia, aka the fly that ate summer. These little pests are just about a tenth of an inch long and weigh just .1 gram – but they can breed like nobody’s business! If the weather is good and food is plentiful, then a single female can lay up to 300 eggs. And if the conditions persist, then there can be up to 13 generations of spotted wing drosophilia in a single summer. And if only half of each generation manages to have babies, that means that the last generation will have 75^13=1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 flies with a total weight that is four hundred million times greater than the total weight of people on the planet!

Fruit enemy #1 (Image courtesy Washington State University)

Fruit enemy #1
(Image courtesy Washington State University)

Fortunately, there are plenty of things that think the spotted wing fruit fly is delicious, ranging from wasps to chickens to pirate bugs. And those mostly keep the spotted wing drosophilia under control in its natural habitat. The problem is, the spotted wing drosophilia isn’t in its natural habitat any more. Because the larvae of this critter live in fresh fruit, they are sometimes accidentally shipped with the fruit to new places. That’s how they spread from Japan to China in the 1930s and from Asia to Hawaii in the 1980s and from Hawaii to the mainland USA just ten years ago. Right now, they are common in California, Oregon, Washington (goodbye, sweet apples!) and moving into Maine (no! my blueberries!), Wisconsin, and Florida (orange you sad?). Because of the voracious nature of this pest and its prolific breeding tendencies, it does as much as $500 million in damage to fruit crops each year.

Obviously, something this horrible has to be stopped. And that’s where you come in. If you see a spotted wing drosophilia swat it and then report it to the folks at the Eastern Spotted Wing Drosophila Volunteer Monitoring Network. It’s that or welcome our new insect overlords. The choice is yours!

One thought on “September 3 – Quite the buzz

  1. Pingback: July 6 – Adam And Eve And Mabel | Little facts about science

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