Monday, August 18, 2008

Phal bellina and dealing with bothersome fruit flies!

Phalaenopsis bellina. I just love this species. The plants are almost always constantly in bloom, one flower after another. Sometimes, they put on a really beautiful display with several flowers opened at a time:

The fragrance attracts a lot of fruit flies:

Sometimes they knock off the pollen cap without pollinating the flower, causing the flower to wither and drop off in a few days. I would also have no way of being 100% sure if the pollen was from the same flower, plant or a different phal species altogether when the pod starts to develop after insect pollination. The biggest problem I have with these fruit flies is that I always find pock marks and sting marks on the flowers and leaves if they are not dealt with quickly. I am certain other insects such as grasshoppers and beetles are just as guilty for damaging the orchids but these fruit flies are a real nuisance! They also pollinate my bulbo macranthum flowers before I even have a chance to enjoy them. They also sting our guavas and gourds, passion fruit and tomatoes.

So to deal with these buggers, here's what I do:

1. Try and catch them by hand. Usually they are so engrossed with the flowers they do not see my finger and thumb approaching before it's too late. Having caught a few, I'd feed them to my CPs (carnivorous plants) such as my Venus fly traps and Sarracenias.

My S. flava. A tasty fruit fly every now and then does them good.

Now you see it...

Now you don't!

2. The most effective way of controlling fruit flies is by setting up a fruit fly trap utilizing methyl eugenol as an attractant. First, find a mineral water bottle and make small holes big enough for the flies to crawl through on the top half. Then, fill it with water and place a small piece of sponge dabbed with methyl eugenol in it. Hang this trap among your plants.

Within moments, the flies move in!

They crawl through the holes at the top...

And subsequently drown in the water as they fly around trying to find a way out and knock into the slippery wall inside the bottle.

I took these pictures this morning. I walked away for about ten minutes and came back to find more flies than I could count drowning in the water! Very effective huh? I read somewhere that methyl eugenol attracts the male flies, and when the male flies are destroyed, the population quickly drops as the females are no longer able to breed. In my experience, the sponge needs to be re-dabbed with methy eugenol every few months.

I also made a short video (mp4) that shows the flies and the trap. If you are unable to view mp4 files, a low quality vid is available on my Flickr page here.


Alvin Hee said...

Congratulations for the nice high quality photos you took of the orchids and those fruit flies found around the plants.
I am very interested in your work and can I contact you perhaps by phone or email? I am presently an entomologist in UPM, Serdang. My contact details are as follows:
Dr. Alvin Hee
Department of Biology
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang

Tel: +6 012 435 1585

Thanks and hope to hear from you as soon as possible.


Keith said...

Thanks for pictures of the fly trap

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