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Fruit Flies

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The Bug Farm
San Rafael, CA 94903  USA

2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, J.Atchison

The Bug Farm grows Grindal worms, Fruit Flies, Microworms and more!
Use these for:
  • Betta adults
  • Killifish, particularly larger Epiplaty
  • Newts
  • Salamanders
  • Larger Frogs
  • Larger Gourami adults such as Leeri
  • Apistogramma adults and subadults
  • Guppy adults
  • Angelfish
  • Larger surface feeding fish including live bearing fishes
  • Ask us more about D. hydei studevant

Wingless vs. Flightless

There is a difference. Wingless don't have any wings or may have little clumps of wing material where the wings once could be found. Flightless flies have wings, they just can't use them. We're sure that the flies are feeling pretty silly wearing those wings and then not be able to use them once they hit the top of the water. The wingless fruit fly that we use is a species called melanogaster. They are much smaller that hydei sturtevant flightless fruit flies.

fly_comparison_closeup.jpg (8663 bytes)




Here's an interesting comparisonof
D. melanogaster on the left
and D. hydei on the right...the
scale is the same...yikes!

fly_comparison_closeup.jpg (8663 bytes)

Approximately life sized.

Both flightless and wingless are cultivated the same way, so rather than have to use all of the words...we're just going to call them FF.

We use commercial media to raise our FF in. We are not lazy, it's just a bother to mix up home-made pasty concoctions. The home-made stuff drives the kids crazy because they think we're experimenting with dinner again. Then too, with the home made concoctions you may find mold to be a significant concern. To take care of the mold you would have to consider using chemicals to treat the concoction. We just find that using the "mix it and forget it" stuff is better for us. You might make a different finding. We carry a good quality food mix that's easy to use and produces great's in our catalog under supplies. However, if you still want to try your hand at homemade food for the flies, we offer some recipes for a starting point.

The easiest bottle to raise these critters in a water bottle such that one of your favorite spring waters might come in. We use pint sized (500 ml) units. We like the plastic ones (you will drop one some day). We plug the tops with a piece of sponge. When you use sponges be sure that the sponge is not a "disinfected" one that is designed for kitchen or bath use. We put a small amount of plastic netting into the culture prior to adding the media. The FF. seem to be doing better with the netting. How significant the improvement is we don't know and no one here is going to dump the FF out to count them. We have been using the netting for several years and will not go back to "plain" jars. A while back we started using shredded wood (excelsior) as a filler/climbing medium in our larger cultures with excellent results. The purpose of the netting and the excelsior is the same...the results are the same, both excellent. Without some sort of climbing material the flies seem to get stuck in the moisture that tends to condense on the sides of cultures from time to time.

The pre-mixed media is mixed in a 1:1 ratio with water. When using a pint bottle, we put 1/4 cup of media in the bottle and then 1/4 cup of water. We then add a pinch of Fleischmann's yeast and wait five minutes or so for the mixture to completely solidify. We place the excelsior in the bottle at this time, add 20-30 FFs and put the sponge in the top. 
Animated fly crawling on screen

D. hydei sturtevant take a month to complete the cycle where D. melanogaster, will complete their cycle in as few as 14 days. With both types of flies, development is a little temperature dependant, taking longer with cooler temperatures. The longer wait is worth the patience it takes. Not only are these particular species of fruit flies significantly larger than the standard sized melanogaster, the larger ones flutter attractively on the surface.

Harvesting is not as tricky as with the smaller variety of flies. For whatever reason these flies don't seem to hang onto the sides of the containers as easily as the smaller ones, it might be because they are heavier. With the stopper end UP, sharply tap the bottom of the container in the palm of your hand and then pull out the stopper. Tapping the bottle on the hand knocks the flies to the bottom of the tube. Shake a few or perhaps tap on the container to knock a few dozen flies out onto the water in the tank or terrarium. Remember to put the stopper back into the culture bottle. We find that after a while the fish will come to the surface when they hear the tapping on the palm of the hand, even when you are feeding the tank next door. You will have to experiment a little to find out the perfect number of flies to use, but 6-8 flies per fish per feeding is a good place to start. You might try few less for smaller animals and a few more for larger ones. Each of our Blue Gularis would take a couple of dozen hydei sturtevant at each feeding. Like any food, too many flies and they will not be eaten. In a terrarium environment, extra flies create few problems and are chased done and caught over a period of time, however, in an aquarium the flies will die within a few hours. They probalby don't die because of a lack of something other than rest as they try desperately to escape the tension of the water surface. While the surface tension of the water will keep the vast majority of flies in the tank, occasionally you will find a FF. wandering near the tanks. The flies can escape from small holes in the top of tanks also. We don't find this to be a problem as it is generally only a fly here and there, not like an army of them...oh and are your tanks in your living room.

Feeding is not something you want to do if you think you might be interrupted part way through the process. You will have a hilarious challenge on your hands if you forget to put the stopper back on because of a distraction as benign as a phone call from one of those lovely telephone solicitors...been there.

We start new cultures each week. Depending on the frequency of harvesting, the cultures will become less productive in a month to eight weeks. It actually helps if you remove the majority of the adult flies from your working cultures. The continuous laying of eggs and production of maggots creates the culture environment is actually counter productive and the culture crashes sooner than it needs to. When the culture is overloaded with producing flies, the media will go bad a couple weeks later becoming black and offering little in the way of food for the larvae. There is a balance that you will need to find between harvesting too many flies and not enough flies...some experimentation will be required. Don't wait until the media is bad to start a new culture. You will find that cultures started with younger flies will be more vigorous that those started with older flies.

Beware of extreme heat conditions as it will kill the flies. You want them to be warm (as in the mid 70F degree range) but not extremely hot. If you keep in mind that the flies like temperatures that you like you should be fine. Extreme heat may kill the flies, but if the culutre has only been exposed to the heat for a short period of time, the maggots may be left behind and you can save the culture, but why take the chance? We keep our flies at a comfortable room temperature. Extreme heat (in excess of 100F) can also cause these flies to begin hatching flies which are capable of flying. The culture will revert back to hatching non-flying flies with a reduction in temperature...but prevention is the better path to take.

It is a well know fact that frogs and other herps do very well with fruitflies of all types. Fruit flies are a staple food in the frog hobby. Little known is the benefit to some types of birds, finches in particular. Other insects such as mantids also relish fruit flies.

You will probably find your top feeding fishes going nuts over FF. Surface feeders in particular tear into FF. Some of the bottom feeder/dwellers don't attack the FF. and may not eat well. You will want to observe your fishes' habits and make your own decisions. We find the FF. very helpful with most of our Killies (especially the Epiplatys) and all of our Bettas. Surface feeding livebearers generally go crazy with flies. Both of these groups of fishes are capable of overeating on this food.

"We grow food not bait"


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