Researchers from Emory University have recently published a study describing how adult fruit flies protect their larvae from parasitic wasps. A mother fruit fly will protect her larvae from predators by…well…forcing alcohol onto them. Despite the fruit flies liking of fermented fruit, the mothers are not trying to share the joys of alcohol intoxication with their young, rather the mother’s use of the alcohol works as a method of repelling parasitic wasps looking to feed on fruit fly larvae.
The fruit fly larvae are indeed forced to consume much of the alcohol that they become submerged in. However, this is not a problem for the larvae since fruit fly larvae already consume fermented plant matter on a regular basis. In fact, about fifteen percent of a fruit fly’s larvae diet consists of alcohol.
Researchers have noted that a diverse group of flies use toxins located within their environment to protect their young. This fact serves as further evidence that toxins found in the natural environment are used to protect offspring in many different species within the animal kingdom.
Is it possible for the fruit flies, like humans, to enjoy recreational effects of alcohol? And could either the fruit flies or their larvae actively seek out alcohol in their environment?