Collect Your Own Drosophila Lab

1994 Woodrow Wilson Collection


  • small, cheap, empty, plastic juice container; 6-8 oz
  • parafilm OR masking tape OR duct tape
  • index card (5" x 7")
  • Mashed bananas, pumpkin, or any type of fruit OR
  • Oatmeal, water, grape juice
  • Set-up

    Prepare some tasty food to lure the Drosophila into the container. Use either mashed fruit or an oatmeal (1/3), water (1/3), grape juice (1/3) mixture, and add about 2 inches of the food to the empty juice container. This is now a catcher-container!

    Roll the index card into a funnel and fit it into the mouth of the catcher-container. Be sure that the bottom funnel hole is very small and that it does not touch the food in the catcher-container. If the funnel and the food touch, the flies will crawl in and get trapped in the moist food and drown. Wrap the mouth of the catcher-container and the funnel with parafilm to keep the funnel secure.

    Place the catcher-containers wherever you have seen fruit flies: market places, garbage cans, kitchens, fruit storage areas, etc. Clear this project with store owners and check on your catcher-container every 24 hours. Warmer weather is best for collecting flies.

    What to do next

    Once you have trapped some flies, you can examine them under a dissecting microscope. Count and sex them. Classify the flies according to mutations or species. Compare the kinds of mutations collected with the locations where they were acquired (think about environmental factors). Examine this data and set up graphs comparing the number of organisms in particular locations or the number of males versus females for particular traits, etc. Draw the different kinds of flies you have captured and exchange and compare this information with students doing this project in other parts of the country. If the flies are viable, mate them... keep track of phenotypic traits in the offspring and attempt to apply Mendel's rules of genetics.

    Questions to consider - research that can be done

    What scientists worked with fruit flies? When was the great Drosophila work done and why was Drosophila used? When did the research emphasis shift away from Drosophila and why? What kinds of whole organisms (if any) are used in genetic research today? What are some of the exciting data identified through research with Drosophila larval development?

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