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Fruit Flies Medicate Offspring With Alcohol

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the a-friend-of-mine-does-that-too dept.

Science 64

Copper Nikus writes "In yet another fascinating example of insects being smarter than we give them credit for, this article describes how fruit flies are able to fight back against deadly wasps by using alcohol. Quoting: 'These wasps lay eggs on the larva or pupa of the flies, and their offspring feed on the animal internally, often killing them in the process. (Flies have larval stages, during which we call them maggots, and pupate just as butterflies do before emerging in their adult form.) Once infected, there isn't much one of the larva can do to get rid of the parasite. Its one option: booze (abstract). Fruit flies, as their name implies, like to dine on fruit, especially during the larval stages. In many cases, that involves ingesting the alcohol that's produced by natural fermentation of rotting fruit (this can approach 20 percent alcohol content). Some species of flies have developed the ability to tolerate this alcohol as they chew through the fruit as maggots. But for most of the wasp species, even moderate levels of alcohol are toxic."

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Sounds familiar (1)

qsqueeq (586979) | about a year ago | (#42984429)

Just like humans.

Re:Sounds familiar (3, Informative)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | about a year ago | (#42984653)

Only when they go to Applebees.

Re:Sounds familiar (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42984715)

1. don't go to Applebees.
2. It was some girly drink, not going to hurt any kid.

Re:Sounds familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42984959)

Only when they go to Applebees.

They don't serve minors at Applebees. Not that I've seen anyway.

Re:Sounds familiar (4, Funny)

unitron (5733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42987691)

Only when they go to Applebees.

They don't serve minors at Applebees. Not that I've seen anyway.

Well, they're not on the menu, but if you know anyone on the kitchen staff just tell them you want the "special veal".

Re:Sounds familiar (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year and a half ago | (#42987935)

It's probably the beer in the beer-battered fish that gets them drunk ;-)

That was just... (1)

unitron (5733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43028757)

...a modest proposal of mine.

Re:Sounds familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42986935)

People go to Applebees in order to apply rum to their children's gums to help soothe the pain of teething?

WTF, dude ? (-1, Offtopic)

KublaCant (2847303) | about a year ago | (#42984927)

You live in a neighbourhood where you get mails about the fucking grass being too long, or the ( can't believe this ) "mailbox is mildewed" ?? What police state are you living in ? Make sure you get away from there. Soon you'll get email reminders to change your underpants. The thought police will come soon after that. Man, man, man.

Re:WTF, dude ? (2, Interesting)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#42985721)

"mailbox is mildewed"

That mailbox has to be handled by a mailman every weekday who may deal with hundreds of mailboxes. Mold and mildew release spores that can spread from mailbox to mailbox transported by the mailman, The mailman himself may inhale those spores, become infected, become ill and, depending on the fungus, possibly die. If it was only effecting the mail box owner then rant on but in this case it could effect many others.

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#42986179)

This is ludicrous. If the mailbox is that bad, the mailman can choose to deliver your mail via other means, or even refuse to drop off your mail, and leave a notice for you that you must pick of your mail at the Post Office from that point forward.

This is a call for the mailman to make and not some ridiculous power-hungry HOA. The HOAs have no business regulating the health of the mailman. Stupid stupid stupid.

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986547)

Now I understand where the letters are coming from. The long grass and mildewed mailbox are signs of lack of maintenance which causes a rundown appearance which reduces property values in the neighborhood which cost property owners money. AKA, buy you being a lazy ass you are costing me money.

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986633)

How is a mildewed mailbox going to reduce property values? What bank will value a home less because of a mailbox with mildew? In what plausable scenaario will a person attempting to purchase a house say, "I would like to buy your house for 1,500,000$, but because your mailbox is mildewed, it is only worth 1,490,000? Seriously, in what world does this occur?

None. It's a HOA pulling stuff out of their bottom to justify an autocratic rule. That's why they get sued for stuff like this:
http://www.nationalledger.com/politics-crime/obama-lawn-sign-battle-photo-203122.shtml [nationalledger.com]

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986741)

Alone no but combined with long grass, peeling paint, living room furniture on the lawn, etc it can.

Sorry but the lawn sign thing is a freedom of speech issue. It is very different from a property value issue.

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42986419)

> The mailman himself may inhale those spores, become infected,
> become ill and, depending on the fungus, possibly die.

Fuck. Me.
I think a part of me just died,
How did we ever live?

BTW
This morning, I licked my partners cunt.
You know, the bit where she pisses from.....
I'm gonna die.

How did we ever live?
The germs...... the germs......

BTW
Are you Howard Hughes?

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986511)

Have you ever seen the process in removing mold from a building? They wear hazmat suits. By the way, the choice to lick a pussy is yours. Interacting with an mailbox is part of the mailman's job.

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42989089)

When I was at college, there was one corridor in the whole building where I feel as if my face had just been stung by nettles every time I went along there. Months later, that corner of the building has been sealed off with transparent plastic, the walls stripped down to the joists and a hazmat team is walking around removing chunks of wood contaminated with a fur of black mold. Either the waterproofing in the ground or the roof had been breached and water was migrating through the wood.

Re:WTF, dude ? (2)

narcc (412956) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986851)

You live in a neighbourhood where you get mails about the fucking grass being too long, or the ( can't believe this ) "mailbox is mildewed" ?? What police state are you living in ?

Google "home owners association". Imagine that you think you're buying a great home in Japan, only to find out later that it's really North Korea and you've peronally insulted Kim Jong Un.

That's what an HOA is like -- living under the thumb of a tyrannical tin-pot dictator who doesn't like you or the specific shade of your roofing shingles.

Re:WTF, dude ? (1)

cffrost (885375) | about a year and a half ago | (#42992769)

You live in a neighbourhood where you get mails about the fucking grass being too long, or the ( can't believe this ) "mailbox is mildewed" ?? What police state are you living in ?

Google "home owners association". Imagine that you think you're buying a great home in Japan, only to find out later that it's really North Korea and you've peronally insulted Kim Jong Un.

That's what an HOA is like -- living under the thumb of a tyrannical tin-pot dictator who doesn't like you or the specific shade of your roofing shingles.

They who can give up essential liberty to join an authoritarian commune, deserve home owners associations. [I'm sorry, Benjamin Franklin].

To their credit, HOAs at least serve the function of sequestering whiney bitches into avoidable, contiguous blocks. Although, I am concerned how these conformist quasi-governments may affect the minds of people forced to spend their formative years there... I wouldn't be surprised to learn they turn out DHS/TSA-material like gangbusters.

Animals seek alcohol for different reasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42984657)

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=6E838937-DC3D-D8B6-174A7C59D492E2EA

wow (2)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year ago | (#42984699)

"alcohol can be toxic" I'd better reduce my intake to 50 beers a day.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42984839)

Air can be toxic, better keep it to under 50 breathes a day also.

Re:wow (0)

KublaCant (2847303) | about a year ago | (#42984943)

Fuck. I drink 1 to 2 bottles of wine per day. Am I a fokking fruit fly now ?

Re:wow (4, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#42985575)

Fuck. I drink 1 to 2 bottles of wine per day. Am I a fokking fruit fly now ?

No. RTFA. You're a maggot.

Re:wow (1)

Copper Nikus (1615089) | about a year ago | (#42985181)

"alcohol can be toxic" I'd better reduce my intake to 50 beers a day.

I'ts worse than that. Alcohol is a level 1 carcinogen, so it's in the same list as asbestos, plutonium and gamma rays.

Re:wow (2)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#42985863)

Yes, but if he cuts back on the alcohol he could be suspectible to wasp larvae! Consider the risks carefully before you make your decision.

As for all those carcinogens, they are only dangerous when you consume them in California. Much safer to consume them here in Texas. And nothing keeps the bugs away better than asbestos, plutonium and gamma rays.

Re:wow (1)

sydneyfong (410107) | about a year ago | (#42985557)

I'm concerned about your high Di-hydrogen Monoxide intake.

Time flies like an arrow (3, Funny)

cognoscentus (1628459) | about a year ago | (#42984899)

Fruit flies like a Bacardi.

Re:Time flies like an arrow (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#42984951)

That was pretty good, cogno. Nicely played.

Re:Time flies like an arrow (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42985149)

Fruit flies like a Bacardi.

Especially fermented fruit. Just don't drop it on someone's head, Galileo.

'Smarter'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42984917)

How is this them being 'smarter'?

Re:'Smarter'? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#42985013)

They're drunk AND parasite free?

And apparently, smarter than you.

Re:'Smarter'? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year and a half ago | (#42987939)

Not just that - the one leads to the other

Re:'Smarter'? (5, Informative)

Copper Nikus (1615089) | about a year ago | (#42985077)

Per TFA, the female fruit flies prefer laying their eggs on alcohol containing food when the killer female wasps are around, but prefer non-alcoholic food when there are no wasps or when only male wasps are around. They can even tell the difference between different species of wasp. That is smarter than some people I know, let me tell you.

Re:'Smarter'? (1)

narcc (412956) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986961)

The parent's point still stands.

Re:'Smarter'? (1)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42989103)

"Make mine an apple cider, I'm the designated pilot"

Babylon 5 (2)

at10u8 (179705) | about a year ago | (#42984945)

JMS had this figured out years ago with his keeper [wikia.com] .

Hangover (2)

DoubleParadoxx (928992) | about a year ago | (#42984965)

The article doesn't say anything about the hangover this causes the next day.

So do I! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42984983)

I medicate offspring with alcohol as well. So far no wasps have laid eggs or whatever in the little buggers.

Re: Fruit Flies Medicate Offspring With Alcohol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42984987)

Pfft. So does my grandmother. Who needs teething gel, anyway? Just use scotch/whiskey.

Re: Fruit Flies Medicate Offspring With Alcohol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42985207)

I fucked your grandmother. Good times. Of course, that was when she was young and pretty. Now-a-days I prefer to fuck younger things. Pity most of them don't appreciate experience...

Also, get off my lawn, damn kids.

Pretty impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42985009)

By the time the fruit fly progeny pass through the larval stage, they've gained the equivalent of a college education.

Alcohol (1)

Beorytis (1014777) | about a year ago | (#42985049)

Isn't the alcohol generated by yeast to keep bacteria at bay to begin with?

Re:Alcohol (1)

LiENUS (207736) | about a year and a half ago | (#42987949)

I thought alcohol was generated by yeast as a method of anaerobic respiration?

I'll use that as an excuse (1)

Frontier Owner (2616587) | about a year ago | (#42985065)

Insects can't stand alcohol, I'll drink more when I'm out... just keeping up my insect defenses..

Re:I'll use that as an excuse (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986771)

I don't know if these wasps can infect humans, but let's better not take any chances.

Re:I'll use that as an excuse (1)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42989107)

Human Botflys - you couldn't make that one up.

Re:I'll use that as an excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42988323)

Works a treat against mosquitos. I'll choose a hangover in the morning over itchy bites that last for days.

Urp (1)

Schrockwell (867776) | about a year ago | (#42985085)

This is what I get for reading Slashdot during lunch. *looks down at couscous and pushes it away*

I don't normally kill wasps w/ alcohol (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#42985357)

But, when I do I choose Dos Equis.

Re:I don't normally kill wasps w/ alcohol (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#42985825)

So that's why mosquitos don't bite you. I thought it was out of respect.

Choice or herding. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#42985637)

The crux of the hypothesis is that when there are no wasps around the fruit flies disperse evenly between fresh and fermented fruit but when wasps are around they congregate around the fermented fruit. The article hypothesizes that the reason is that the flies choose the fruit is that they know that wasps do not like alcohol. There is another possibility. That the flies do not like being around the wasps and the wasps do not like being around the alcohol. When a wasp approaches a fly it moves away. Since the wasps will not approach the fermented fruit there is no reason for the flies to move away therefore they congregate around the fermented fruit.

The main thing against choice is that the fly should make the choice whether or not the wasp was present at that moment. If it is a choice the fly should know wasps are around even if not visible at any specific moment and choose the fermented fruit.

Re:Choice or herding. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42988199)

According to the article the flies can distinguish between male and female wasps. And they prefer to lay on the nonalcoholic stuff if just male ones are around and not female ones.

If that's true, I'm more inclined to believe their theory than yours.

animals getting drunk for fun. (1)

guantamanera (751262) | about a year ago | (#42985723)

I have about 20 apple trees in my property, and I have seen deer and squirrels in purpose eating the fermenting fruit just to get drunk. They put a very good show once they're drunk. Specially the squirrels, I can swear squirrels have a sense of humour.

Re:animals getting drunk for fun. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42985875)

This immediately suggests an improved scheme for catching house mice...

Re:animals getting drunk for fun. (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42987113)

This immediately suggests an improved scheme for catching house mice...

Then the cat gets drunk.

Re:animals getting drunk for fun. (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001523)

Then the cat gets drunk.

Than I get entertainment.

Re:animals getting drunk for fun. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42986135)

Now you told us all this, and we can't see it.. :/

Please make some videos, OK? I wanna see that. :)

Re:animals getting drunk for fun. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42986231)

I agree with the sibling post. Vids or it didn't happen.

Medicate? Insects smarter than given credit for? (3, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year ago | (#42986101)

The larvae's parents have nothing to do with the larval use of alcohol. And the larval use of alcohol is accidental. The fruit fly larvae happen to have a tolerance for the alcohol and the wasp larva don't. They weren't seeking out alcohol. Summary is drivel, and if the quote came from TFA, it's drivel too.

Re:Medicate? Insects smarter than given credit for (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42986967)

The larvae's parents have nothing to do with the larval use of alcohol.

Not true. It's the larvae don't have the choice here. They eat what's in front of them. The parent is the one that decides where to lay the eggs. If the parent detects wasps, she lays her eggs on the alcohol-laden fruit. If not, she doesn't.

Re:Medicate? Insects smarter than given credit for (1)

Dahan (130247) | about a year and a half ago | (#42987273)

and if the quote came from TFA, it's drivel too.

-1, Wrong because he didn't RTFA

Re:Medicate? Insects smarter than given credit for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42988507)

You're full of drivel,

as someone else mentioned:


Per TFA, the female fruit flies prefer laying their eggs on alcohol containing food when the killer female wasps are around, but prefer non-alcoholic food when there are no wasps or when only male wasps are around. They can even tell the difference between different species of wasp. That is smarter than some people I know, let me tell you.

Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43001743)

This is old news, it appeared several months ago...

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