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African Fig Fly (Zaprionus indianus)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the African Fig Fly

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Image Credit: Cade S., taken in OH
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This flesh-colored fruit fly has been seen in North America for at least a decade and feeds on injured fruit.

Updated: 02/15/2023; Authored By ; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Originally from the warm, tropical regions of Africa, the African Fig Fly is now found in North and South America as well as Asia. It has been seen as far north as Wisconsin and Minnesota, though it is believed the winters there are too cold to establish permanent populations. Northward dispersal occurs every summer, expanding the fly's range from hot, humid states like Florida where it was first seen in 2005 and where winters are easily tolerated.

A type of Fruit Fly, the African Fig Fly (AFF) uses more than figs for nurseries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches and grapes are all food sources for larvae. The good news is that AFF only attacks overripe or damaged fruit, unlike the Spotted Wing Drosophila Fruit Fly, which cuts into healthy fruit to lay eggs. Incisions created by the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) may then be used by the female African Fig Fly to also lay eggs, but the African Fig Fly does not cut into healthy produce. That said, when the two species use the same fruit for egg-laying, the African Fig Fly outcompetes and infestations can occur. Research on the species is ongoing to determine if AFF causes crop loss or just expands the damage done by SWD. The impact it has in conjunction with SWD on commercial crops, like vineyards, remains to be seen. The two species are susceptible to the same fruit fly traps, so control measures for Spotted Wing Drosophila are believed to also work for the African Fig Fly.

The yellowish brown fly has big, bright red eyes and two conspicuous silver-white stripes that run down each side of its 'back'. The wings are transparent, without spots or markings. It is slightly larger than the Spotted Wing Drosophila.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the African-Fig-Fly

fig; persimmon; orchard fruits
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Diptera
        Family: Drosophilidae
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          Genus: Zaprionus
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            Species: indianus

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Zaprionus indianus
Category: Fly or Mosquito
Size (Adult; Length): 3mm to 6mm (0.11" to 0.23")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; white; red
Descriptors: white stripes; silver lines; flesh-colored; small; red eyes; flying; clear wings

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 3mm (0.1in) and 6mm (0.2in)
Lo: 3mm
Md: 4.5mm
Hi: 6mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the African Fig Fly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the African Fig Fly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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