Late summer into fall brings an explosion of fruit flies in our house. This has been a rather consistent phenomenon for the past few years, and this year I decided to challenge myself with the task of photographing the tiny creatures. Specifically, I wanted to photograph them in flight with a high-speed camera. Working at such a small scale brings a whole slew of problems. To begin with it is hard to find a lens that actually performs well with ultra close-ups as they tend to lose definition through chromatic aberration. The smaller the scale, the narrower the depth of field becomes as well – so with most ultra close up lenses it is only possible to focus on part of a fruit fly. Add in the component of motion (and fruit flies are pretty fast fliers) and the equation for success becomes much more difficult.
Luckily, there was one ingredient that helped with the odds of success: sheer numbers. I had a lot of fruit flies, and more seemed to arrive every day. This meant I had an opportunity to take hundreds, if not thousands of photographs, and hope that I would capture a few that were actually sharp and interesting.
This worked better than I imagined.
The fruit at the bottom of this image is a blueberry and a rather small one at that. I’m pretty sure the fruit fly is a common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster).
I was particularly surprised by the above image. Three fruit flies, all squarely in the field of focus, all exhibiting different behavior, and all fairly well placed in the composition – what are the odds?
Another surprise was to see the cobalt blue abdomen of the insect on the right above. I discovered later that abdomen color in fruit flies is indicative of what they are eating – and that scientists use this trait in genetic research that fruit flies have been instrumental in advancing.
This project was interesting and fun, but it left me with a problem. Too many fruit flies. To help control population I eventually built a fruit fly trap, which worked pretty well. After a few days there were hundreds of fruit flies in the trap and I left it up for several weeks. But it was never enough. It’s been weeks since I completed the project. The fruit fly trap is gone. I have no fruit in my office/studio. I still have fruit flies.