Sleep wake cycle in Fruit flies

Fruit Fly (Drosophila)
Ever heard of them? Many of us must have heard of it in the science class or from textbooks.

Fly in the Kitchen: These are one among the many types of small flies that we often see in our kitchens. You find them buzzing around over your fruit basket or any place where you keep your fruits like mango, banana, etc. It can also be seen over rotting, rotten fruits or vegetables and especially near their peels which we throw in the dustbin.

This fly is what we are talking about.

The common fruit fly, also known as the vinegar fly, due to the fact that it is attracted to vinegar-like smell produced by over-ripe fruits, is scientifically known as Drosophila (Drosophila melanogaster is one of the species of the Family Drosophilidae)

And why is this fly special? :thinking: It is because of the fact that it has proven to be a useful model system to understand many biological phenomena. Thus, various studies using these flies have turned out to become pathbreaking, read Nobel prize-winning work. As many as 6 Nobel prizes have been awarded until now, to scientists for their discoveries based on experiments carried out on this fly. Thus, it is special.

  1. They are small and easily handled
  2. Drosophila are sexually dimorphic (males and females are different), making it quite easy to differentiate the sexes.
  3. Flies have a short generation time (10-12 days) and do well at room temperature.
  4. The care and culture requires little equipment, is low in cost and uses little space even for large cultures.

What is a fruit fly called in our local language?

An interesting part of this exercise will be to start with knowing the different names of the Fruitfly in different regions, in different local languages. Many times, the fruit fly may not have a separate name; all small flies are together known by a common name!

So, when we asked people belonging to different states, we got different answers-

So, we went about compiling the names for fruit flies from different states of India.

The local names of the fruit flies in different languages/dialects:

  1. Uttar Pradesh: Bhunge, Maachi, Choti Makkhi
  2. Haryana: Choti Makkhi
  3. Bihar: Pakhni
  4. West Bengal: Phaler Maachi
  5. Kerala: Podi eecha, Kuzhi eecha (Thrissur), Kunjan eecha (Ottapalam, Palakkad), Phalam eecha, Ponni eecha (Mallapuram), Kuyi eecha (Pathanamthitta), Payam eecha, Manian (Edappal), Kuruteecha (Thiruvananthapuram)
  6. Maharashtra: Mashi (a common name for all the flies visible around, for example, Fruit flies, house flies), Chilte, Kemra, Chachan, Murkut in (Kolhapur).
  7. North Goa: Muskan (muskan with ‘n’ silent, mus pronounced as moose is house fly)
  8. Jharkhand: The Santhali Tribe calls it Rhon and the Oraon Tribe calls it Tingli the place of the Oraon tribe is Urukh and their dialect being Kudukh. Rhon and Tingli is the general name of any fly. Machchi in Jharkhandi, Sadri dialect.
  9. Rajasthan: Kutaar in Marwadi.
  10. Odisha: Machhi.

Understanding Sleep-Wake Cycle, if any, by Documenting Daily Activity Pattern of Fruit Flies.

Life on Earth is strongly influenced by the daily cycles of light and darkness imposed due to the rotation of earth on its own axis. As a consequence, living systems have evolved internal timing mechanisms that help them to anticipate these daily changes in their environment such as gradually rising and falling light levels and temperature, availability of food, predators, or mates at only specific times of the day / night. These internal clocks are referred to as ‘circadian’ clocks from Latin, Circa - approximately, Dies - a day. As humans, we are made aware of our internal, daily or circadian clock when we find ourselves waking before the alarm rings each morning, or tend to feel sleepy at our regular bedtimes at night, or feel the uncomfortable repercussions of late nights in the form of low alertness or lack of general well-being the next day.

But why should we study the daily rhythms of Fruit flies?

We may think that Circadian Rhythms occur in humans too, then why study this behaviour in fruit flies. We are studying it in fruit flies because they can be easily trapped, they can be maintained at home-labs and in school/college-labs (in large numbers) and also, their life cycle gets completed in 10-12 days. Moreover, these flies exhibit daily rhythms in several behaviours including patterns of their activity-rest, feeding, mating, egg laying, propensity to emerge out of their pupal cases (eclosion), etc., AND, THEY ARE THE NOBEL-PRIZE WINNERS.

When we keep a rotten fruit or vegetable and observe it closely after some time, we will be able to observe flies wandering over them.

Objective: To examine / observe whether there is any rhythmicity in activity of fruit flies in our surroundings (Home or Lab)

  1. Take slices of any fruit, for example banana or tomato (fresh\rotting) on a piece of paper or any container.( For replication, make at least 5 replicate baits of relatively uniform quality or degree of ripeness).
  2. Set this up on a shelf or counter with ease of observation but with minimal disturbance due to movement of individuals or strong wind currents.

Without disturbing the same, make note of the number of flies visiting the bait at two hour intervals. Take photographs/videos as evidence, using the mobile camera.

And is there any pattern repeating?

Plot a graph of the number of fruit flies observed against time for each day or averaged across days to find out at what time we get the maximum number of fruit flies.


1.Any ripe fruit, but most preferably fruits that are available throughout the year (slices of ripe tomato, banana, lemon being easily available in our houses) can be baits to attract flies. (Note: Let’s also try out some raw fruits, cut onion, pieces of cucumber etc.)
2. Transparent bottle or container (plastic or glass bottle/jars)
3. Cotton plug, cotton cloth piece or newspaper (to cover the mouth of the bottle/jar once the flies enter it)-

An open bait.

In an open bait set up, we simply keep the bait of our choice on a paper sheet/plate/bowl near the kitchen window/bin, in order to attract the fruit flies.

A bottle/bucket trap with bait inside.

We can keep the bait (pieces of banana/tomato or even peels of fruits) in a bottle and wait for the fruit flies to come.

After introducing the bait in the bottle, the mouth of the bottle should be cleaned with a piece of paper or clean cotton so that when the flies come, they may not roam around the neck (as there is a chance that some part of the fruit might have brushed along the neck due to which particle of fruits may stick on the neck too), but go down inside the bottle.

Once we get flies inside, we can close the mouth of the bottle with newspaper sheets or tissue paper with tiny holes, or cotton plugs.

How do we study life cycle of an insect at Home?


  1. At what time do you see a peak in the number of flies on the bait? When do you see the trough?
  2. Do you see a recurring pattern in the time of day when maximum flies are spotted on the bait?
  3. Is this consistent across baits?
  4. In the assay you performed, did this pattern get affected by any environmental variables or weather conditions in the location of the experiment?
  5. What might be the ecological significance of the timing of the peak in flies on baits
  6. What can you infer about the source of the rhythm? How can we find out whether (a) the rhythm is merely a response to the changing light and temperature in the environment OR (b) the rhythm is driven by an internal clock? Do we need to modify this experiment in some way to satisfactorily answer the above question?

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