Prelude to lessons learned with spotted winged drosophila

It’s now three weeks into the spring semester, and a lot of my time is devoted to training my new students in how to handle, breed, rear, and care for spotted winged drosophila (SWD). When reviewing the techniques I’ve been perfecting over the last 7 months, I always follow the HOW with the WHY. I started these colonies with very little prior knowledge or guidance on how it should be done, so the WHY is usually based on personal experience, and the experience is often “…because they die.”

The spotted winged drosophila is of growing/continuing concern in agriculture across North America and Europe. As the public eye turns toward them, so too does the academic. I know many people who are beginning to consider adding this species to their research programmes because knowledge garnered on this species right now would be both timely and potentially high impact.

I say “timely” because they were first introduced to North America just 4.5 years ago in the summer of 2008. In 2009/2010 there were farms that lost up to 80% of their crop due to this one generalist pest!* Research done now will be “high impact” because results will be immediately important to both (1) the public (stakeholders) who are in desperate need of a knowledge base from which to make management decisions, and (2) the academics interested in testing theories in ecology, evolution, and invasion biology.

This is why I chose dedicate my graduate degree to this species… I’m assuming the other interested scientists have been following similar lines of thought.

The lessons I’ve learned and am imparting to my new students have been very hard won, and I hope I’ve persuaded you that there is (or should be!) interest in rearing these little insects beyond just my little crew and thesis**. Thus, I’m going to start trying to amalgamate my insights on SWD rearing and care into blog posts.

My goal here is to save some other poor M.Sc. or Ph.D. the same months of trial and error by explaining my HOWs with illustrative and colourful WHYs (sweat, tears, burns, and close calls). I wont claim to be an expert in all potential problems; all I can do is impart my experiences and subsequent conclusions. It’s up to you to draw your own conclusions.

It’s still my goal to post here once per week (or more IFF time permits) so the going may be slow as I write about various other topics that interest me from week to week. If you’re interested in learning more about something I write, or want me to speak more to a topic, please feel free to comment or contact me.

As usual, hold on to your hats, toupees, and cocktails.

*If you’re interested in references for these facts, contact me. I’m omitting them here for readability and brevity (in post-length and in time to write).

**Hopefully this also means you’ll be interested in reading MY thesis and publications when they come out – stay tuned!

4 thoughts on “Prelude to lessons learned with spotted winged drosophila

  1. For me it was all about the flyNAP and the small containers! I had low relative humidity issues to contend with here so that added its own challenges. I am probably not working with these guys this year and can’t say I was too sad about letting the colony fade away. Hope the project is going well!

  2. I tried flyNAP, but the dosages must be different between species and I lost a lot of flies… it was so scary and at such a delicate time that I switched back to using ice to knock them out. Luckily I got a hold of environmental chambers to take care of the humidity problems though.

    The project is truckin’ along! =] I’m a little sad your colony is fading away… It’s nice having SWD comrades.

Leave a Reply