The Fruit Fly Rodeo: Or, How I Accidentally Learned to See the Beauty in Drosophila

Last week, I was carping on Facebook about the “fruit fly rodeo” in our kitchen.

Like most Americans, our winter has been unusually mild, and I swear that has brought an uptick in winged things.

Along with this came my own uptick in figuring out how to eradicate these hideous, revolting micro monsters. Well, a more thoughtful, proactive way then when I accidentally caught them in our homeschool science beakers in some olive oil and water leftover from an experiment.

An experiment, by the way, that ended weeks ago–and really should have been tidied up by now. Ahem.

Anyway, It seems that everyone has an opinion on the elimination of fruit flies–as evidenced by this (which is only part of the discussion):

I went with my friend Pam’s suggestion, adding a dash of olive oil to the mix. I do, after all, have scientific evidence that the olive oil works, right?

Then, in anticipation of this post, I went about trying to figure out how to illustrate it. I mean, dead flies? Really? That’s going to look nice? I toyed briefly with bribing someone to Photoshop tiny chaps and cowboy hats (with chinstraps) onto a photo of a fruit fly.

Sort of my take on the stuffed weasel thing going on over at The Bloggess.

But tinier. And less cool.

Then I discovered a photograph by Nicolas Gompel and Benjamin Prud’homme. They are UW-Madison professors, and they’ve done some amazing research into the diversity of Drosophila. Check this out:

The description:

Like butterflies, different species of fruit flies decorate their wings with a great diversity of spots and patterns. Digging deep into a single gene that produce pigmentation in the flies, a group led by UW-Madison biologist Sean Carroll has found the molecular switches that control where the pigmentation is deployed. The finding explains how common genes can be controlled to produce the seemingly endless array of patterns, decoration and body architecture found in animals. [Read more here, which is also the source of the image.]


Now I won’t say that I’m feeling too guilty about this:

My silent but deadly bug killer: apple cider vinegar, dish soap and olive oil. (Yes, the good kind. Our flies are classy.)

But knowing what fruit flies look like up close has changed my perspective on them somewhat.

That’s right, I no longer think they are hideous.

Still revolting. But not hideous.

And, to their credit, none of them has tried to lasso our cat.