Raising Fruit Flies for Food

To anoles, young pantodon bucholzi, tree frogs, red efts etc!

Fruit Flies (Drosophila sp.) Are a valuable food for many birds, fish, and herptiles. It is easy to raise these insects.

In an outdoor aviary you can take a bucket and throw in several pieces of rotting fruit. It is important that the fruit has gone bad, for Drosophila can’t colonize fresh produce. The container must be covered with quarter inch wire mesh. This size lets the flies in to breed and the progeny out for the birds to eat. The screen keeps the birds out of the foul mash. If the birds get at the mess they will certainly soil their plumage and possibly consume the tainted fruit with no good result. As long as the air temperature is generally above sixty degrees, wild fruit flies will soon appear. The culture will yield a steady supply of flies. This will provide as much psychological as nutritional benefit. Your birds will occupy themselves by hunting for the insects, as they would in the wild.

You can also culture fruit flies indoors. Mix one tablespoon of sugar with one cup of dried instant mashed potatoes, available from any supermarket. Add one inch of this blend to a wide mouth jar. Pour in water to the same level as the potato-sugar. Sprinkle a pinch of dried yeast on the surface of the mash. The jars must be very clean, preferably sterile, or you will be culturing a host of molds, instead of fruit flies! Cover the tops with a piece of paper toweling held in place by a rubber band.

Your best bet is to obtain a culture of WINGLESS Drosophila. Make sure you get the WINGLESS and not the VESTIGAL WINGED, for the latter will produce normal phenotype WINGED progeny under various environmental conditions. The WINGLESS fruit flies are easier for your pets to catch and are very convenient to transfer from culture to culture. With the WINGLESS flies you just tap the jar until they fall to the bottom and then pour them into new media. With WINGED you have to knock them out with ether or deal with them flying all over the place. Also, if the Fruit Flies escape, the WINGLESS won’t get very far. NORMAL fruit flies will wind up all over the house!

Many suggest placing some sort of stiff plastic in the jar as a roost for the flies and as a surface for the larvae to pupate on. I’ve found this to be unnecessary and an added complication when harvesting. The adults and larvae just use the sides of the jar.

WINGLESS Drosphila starter cultures are available from fish club members, friends at High Schools and Colleges, and by mail order from companies listed in aquarium magazines. Biological supply houses also sell them, but are generally very expensive.

For fish, just pour a quantity of the adults on the surface of the water. With herptiles you can also release a number of the flies as a meal. It is also possible, in a glass covered terrarium, to place a screen over the culture. This way, the flies will just crawl out and get caught.

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