Thursday, June 23, 2005

Swatting flies

The humble fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, can actually be quite a pesky pest. Come spring and early summer (and a little bit of rain), and the banana that was resting peacefully in your fruit basket is invaded by swarms of flies. All they need are some fruit, or a trashcan and some moist corners, to breed in and soon you have a horde of them. The Pacific Northwest, like many other places, has swarms of fruit flies in early summer (when there's a bit of rain, but also plenty of warm weather), and we are under seige. No trashcan is safe, and no fruit outside can hide. In addition, though these flies are primarily just a nuisance, they can also be disease vectors.

This is the time when people waste their hard (or otherwise) earned money on toxic bug sprays (Even some bug sprays that are "100% natural" can be harmful. Everything natural need not be toxin free). Or else they make multiple trips to the store (because they keep forgetting to buy fly paper). But that needn’t be so.

My friends have patiently waited for me to discover something spectacular, and patent some new drugs (or have some such similar delusions), so that they can buy stock in my imaginary company and become rich. Thus far, I have been singularly useless for them. But today I shall change all of that (and redeem myself) by revealing the flytrap I have made and effectively used to get rid of the pesky flies.

Fruit flies like “fruity”, fermenting smells. They practically live by smell (having 36 classes of olfactory receptor neurons, just to smell!), hunting down their food by sniffing around. So, to make the perfect flytrap, just take a glass (or a beaker, or small cup or any small container), pour a little bit of something fruity and fermenting into it (apple cider is fantastic, so too is vinegar, or some spoilt wine), and add a few drops of dishwashing soap to it. Then seal the opening with plastic wrap, and pierce a few small holes in the seal (with a fork or something small), to create openings a little larger than the fly. Now, keep this on the table (or near the trash can, or fruit basket or wherever) and go take a walk. Or, if you are sadistic, sit and watch. You'll see flies slowly being drawn to it, like iron to a magnet. They'll first alight on the glass, then make their way into the little holes, all the way down to the liquid. And then they'll drown, and….die like flies! The decreased surface tension (due to the drops of soap) is enough to ensure that they cannot escape.

Die fly, die!

So much more efficient and smarter than bug spray and flypaper, don't you think? Works for houseflies also, but less efficiently.

12 comments:

Amrit said...

Gosh! What a deadly trap :-). I wish I had something similar for our ants problem. In minutes they can swarm the entire drawing room in these days of great humidity. Although I do not have great aversion for the insect kind, but when they invade my space I really wish they didn't exist, especially mosquitoes.

Amrit
http://www.writingcave.com

Sunil said...

I really don't like harming insects myself.....but make the exception to flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches.....

I usually try to eliminate sources of their food or breeding grounds, but they always find a way through it all! So, the trap it is for them....

For ants......neem oil works very well to keep them away. A 1-2% solution of neem oil in water, sprayed on a surface, keeps ants (and roaches) away.

Jabberwock said...

Sunil, I bow to you - you are a criminal mastermind of the highest order. Me, I hail from the generation of swatters: got three with one blow once, when I was a child. One of my proudest moments.

Sunil said...

Macavity, Moriarty and moi.....Nepoleon's of crime.

Ash said...

Well, well, creative solution indeed !
:)

Vikram A. said...

Hi Sunil,

I grew to hate D. melanogaster durung the last school year because we had to work with them so much in our Biology lab classes. In one experiment, we had to calculate the recombination frequency between two X-linked genes in D. melanogaster. Basically this entailed crossing some male and female D. melanogaster, waiting until the F2 generation matured, and then counting hundreds and hundreds of these flies while looking for ridiculous mutations like singed hairs instead of normal hairs or scalloped wings instead of normal wings. I refuse to work with D. melanogaster ever again. Screw genetics.

Vikram

Sunil said...

hehe....fly genetics is probably the most painful thing i've seen...and i pity fly geneticists (but they brought it upon themselves).

Usually, most of us (who aren't fly geneticists) make fun of those poor geneticists...

Kraz Arkin said...

I much prefer the lighter and the can of deo method. SO much more satisfying.

Anonymous said...

A very nice blog indeed.Makes me hungry and reminds me of your MIL's wonderful chutney & dosai!!!

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil and anon
Posting the comment in the wrong place can lead to very humorous results. I think the previous comment was about Sunil's great post on dosas and not this post on flies.

Sunil said...

hehehe.......i hadn't noticed this!

Yup...you got to be careful where you say what :-))

Anonymous said...

I discovered a similar fly trap by accident when I noticed that when a cup of tea was left out with a small amount left in the bottom of the mug you would find the flies had gravitated there and drowned after a short time- I take sugar so it seems to appeal to the flies sweet tooth (or proboscis rather)