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common name: Mediterranean fruit fly

scientific name: Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann) (Insecta: Diptera: Tephritidae)






Life history and habits



The Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, is one of the world's most destructive fruit pests. The species originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe and North Africa and is not known to be established in the United States

Because of its wide distribution over the world, its ability to tolerate colder climates better than most other species of fruit flies, and its wide range of hosts, it is ranked first among economically important fruit fly species. Its larvae (photo 54,7 Kb) develop and feed on most deciduous, subtropical, and tropical fruits and some vegetables. Although it may be a major pest of citrus, often it is a more serious pest of some deciduous fruits, such as peach, pear, and apple. The larvae (photo 54,7 Kb) feed upon the pulp of host fruits, sometimes tunnelling through it and eventually reducing the whole to a juicy inedible mass. In some of the Mediterranean countries, only the earlier varieties of citrus are grown, because the flies develop so rapidly that late season fruits are too heavily infested to be marketable. Some areas have had almost 100% infestation in stone fruits. Harvesting before complete maturity also is practiced in Mediterranean areas generally infested with this fruit fly. In this age of jet transportation, the medfly can be transported from one part of the world to some distant place in a matter of hours, which greatly complicates efforts to contain it within its present distribution.

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Ceratitis citriperda

Ceratitis hispanica

Paradalaspis asparagi

Tephritis capitata

Ceratitis capitata

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Infested countries are (* = countries with occasional infestations): Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria*, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium*, Bermuda, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Crete, Cyprus, Dahomey, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany*, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary*, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Madeira Islands, Malagasy Republic, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius*, Mexico* (near Guatemalan border), Morocco, Mozambique, Netherlands*, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Reunion, Rhodesia, Rwanda, Saint Helena, San Miguel (Azores), Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sicily, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland*, Syria, Tanzania, Tasmania, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United States, Upper Volta, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zaire, and Zambia.

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The medfly has no near relatives in the Western Hemisphere. The adults (photo 52,1 Kb) are slightly smaller than a housefly and have picture wings typical of fruit flies. They can be distinguished fairly readily from any of the native fruit flies of the New World.

Egg: very slender, curved, 1 millimetres long, smooth and shiny white. Micropylar region distinctly tubercular.

Larva (photo 54,7 Kb): Larva are white with a typical fruit fly larval shape (cylindrical maggot-shape, elongate, anterior end narrowed and somewhat recurved ventrally, with anterior mouth hooks, and flattened caudal end); last instar usually 7 to 9 millimetres in length, with 8 ventral fusiform areas; anterior buccal carinae usually 9 to 10 in number; anterior spiracles usually nearly straight on dorsal edge of tubule row (often more straight than illustrated); usually with 9 to 10 tubules (may be 7 to 11).

Cephalo-pharyngeal skeleton with large convex mouth hook each side, approximately 2X hypostome length; hypostomium with prominent, rounded subhyposotomium; post-hypostomial plates curved dorsally to dorsal bridge, fused with sclerotized rays of central area of dorsal wing plate; parastomium prominent; anterior of dorsal bridge with a prominent sclerotized point; dorsal wing plate nearly as long as pharyngeal plate; median area relatively unsclerotized; pharyngeal plate elongate, with prominent median hood and anterior sclerotized area.

Pupa (photo 60,1 Kb): cylindrical, 4 to 4.3 millimetres long, dark reddish brown, resembling swollen grain of wheat.

Adult (photo 52,1 Kb): length 3.5 to 5 millimetres. Yellowish with brown tinge, especially on abdomen, legs, and some markings on wings. Lower corners of face with white setae. Eyes reddish purple (fluoresce green, turning blackish within 24 hours after death). Ocellar bristles present. Male has pair of bristles with enlarged spatulate tips next to inner margins of eyes. Thorax creamy white to yellow with characteristic pattern of black blotches. Light areas with very fine white bristles. Humeral bristles present. Dorsocentral bristles anterior of halfway point between supraalar and acrostichal bristles. Scutellum inflated and shiny black. Abdomen oval with fine black bristles scattered on dorsal surface and 2 narrow transverse light bands on basal half. Extended ovipositor 1.2 millemetres long. Wings, usually held in a drooping position on live flies, are broad and hyaline with black, brown, and brownish yellow markings. Wide brownish yellow band across middle of wing. Apex of anal cell elongate. Dark streaks and spots in middle of cells in and anterior to anal cell.

The males are easily separated from all other members of this family by the black pointed expansion at the apex of the anterior pair of orbital setae. The females can be separated from most other species by the characteristic yellow wing pattern and the apical half of the scutellum being entirely black.

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The length of time required for the medfly to complete its life cycle under typical summer weather conditions, is 21 to 30 days. A female medfly will lay one to 10 eggs in an egg cavity 1 millimetre deep, may lay as many as 22 eggs per day, and may lay as many as 800 eggs during her lifetime (usually about 300). The number of eggs found at any time in the reproductive organs is no indication of the total number of eggs an individual female is capable of depositing, as new eggs are being formed continually throughout her adult life. Females usually die soon after they cease to oviposit.

Eggs are deposited under the skin of fruit that is just beginning to ripen, often in an area where some break in the skin already has occurred. Several females may use the same deposition hole with 75 or more eggs clustered in one spot. When the eggs hatch, the larvae promptly begin eating, and at first tunnels are formed, but may keep close together in feeding until nearly full grown. Fruit in a hard or semiripe condition is better for oviposition than fully ripened fruit. Ripe fruit is likely to be juicier, and such fruits often are associated with a high mortality of eggs and young larvae.

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The Mediterranean fruit fly attacks more than 260 different fruits, flowers, vegetables, and nuts. Thin - skinned, ripe succulent fruits are preferred. Host preferences vary in different regions. Although several species of cucurbits have been recorded as hosts of the medfly, they are considered to be very poor hosts. Some hosts have been recorded as medfly hosts only under laboratory conditions and may not be attacked in the field. Knowledge of the hosts in one country often aids in correctly predicting those which are most likely to be infested in a newly infested country, but what may be a preferred host in one part of the world may be a poor host in another.

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