Not every fly that you might observe on or near your fruit is a pest. In fact, while there are thousands of species of flies within Australia it is the two commercially important species that are the focus of Prevent Fruit Fly.
There is another fly that sometimes shares the name ‘fruit fly’ and many internet searches will return results for this species. It is Drosophila melanogaster, the fly that many university students and researchers have used as part of their studies into genetics and inherited traits. Alongside Drosophila melanogaster there are other Drosophila species that may also be observed.
Drosophila flies are often seen buzzing around fruit bowls, compost heaps, and around fruit that may have fallen from the tree. What sets Drosophila apart from the true fruit flies is that they attack overripe and already damaged fruit. The better name for these flies is ‘vinegar flies’ or ‘ferment flies’ as they are attracted to the smells of fermenting or decomposing fruits and carry on them a vinegar producing bacteria.
Drosophila are smaller that the true fruit flies and are quite plain in colour. Mostly, Drosophila are about 2-3mm long, tan to pale brown in colour, and have distinctive red eyes. While these can be a be nuisance, they are not a fruit fly or likely to have any impact on undamaged fruit.
While Drosophila (the insect family Drosophildae) is only distantly related to the true fruit flies, there are over 250 species within Australia that are part of the fruit fly family Tephritidae. Very few of these species have any association with fruit, rather being known from flower buds, plant galls, and even a few from rotting timber. If you are interested in seeing images of a range of flies, the Pest and Disease Image Library (PaDIL) might be of interest. This database has images of a range of pest and non-pest species, including many that are exotic to Australia.Go to PaDIL (padil.gov.au)