Mediterranean Fruit Fly: Description, Habitat & Facts

Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

One of the world's most destructive fruit pests, the small Mediterranean fruit fly, is a big problem. In this lesson, we'll look at the fly itself, where it lives, and why this small animal is such a big deal.

What Are Medflies?

If you've ever had an infestation of fruit flies in your house, you know how cumbersome it can be to get rid of them. You have to put up sticky fly paper rolls and clean your countertops constantly. And even then, it can take days or weeks to clear them out.

The medfly has black, brown, and yellow markings
Mediterranean fruit fly

A fruit fly infestation in your house is annoying, but an infestation in an entire county, state, or agricultural region is downright disastrous. An infestation of this size and scope is not only costly to eradicate, but can also cause serious damage to farms and livelihoods.

This is a very real concern with the Mediterranean fruit fly, or 'medfly,' which is not your average fruit fly. Originating in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is only slightly smaller than the average house fly and has black, brown, and yellowing markings. Though a female medfly may only live to a year, she can lay up to 800 eggs during that time. It also may take less than a month for the medfly to complete its life cycle and begin contributing to the problem. And with almost 300 different possible fruit, flower, vegetable, and nut hosts, the small medfly is one of the world's most destructive fruit pests.

The medfly is a little bit smaller than a housefly
Mediterranean fruit fly

Where Are Medflies?

The medfly is such a widespread problem because even though it is a tropical fruit fly, it can handle cooler climates. Places that currently have established infestations include Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Central America, North and South America, and New Zealand. In the United States, the medfly is currently found in Hawaii, and there have been medfly infestations on and off in Texas, California, and Florida since the 1900s.

How did the medfly spread so far and wide? It certainly didn't use its tiny fruit fly wings to cross oceans. While they may not get frequent flier miles, medflies are big fans of traveling by airplane because they can be transported across the world in a matter of hours or days. This is one reason agricultural inspection of imported goods is so important.

Medflies are detected with baited traps
Medfly trap

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