Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Caper flies

Caper fly Capparimyia savastani
The caper fly is one of several species of insects that lives on the caper plant. It is a small fly that lives exclusively on caper plants and if you want to see one you need to look for it only on this host species.

This fly species is found in some Mediterranean countries and in parts of Asia. It has been recorded in Italy, France, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Oman and Pakistan. In 2008 it was found in large numbers on wild and cultivated caper plants on the Greek island of Milos and was immediately considered as a pest because of the potential damage it could cause to the caper production industry.

It is very similar to fruit flies such as the Mediterranean fruit fly (dubbiena tal-frott) which causes damage to fruit particularly oranges. It can be distinguished from the fruit flies by its yellow abdomen but the most important feature that would help you identify it from other flies is the fact that you will always find it resting on the leaves and flowers of the caper plant.

I have not found a Maltese name for the caper fly but dubbiena tal-kappar sounds like a good name for this species.

Female caper flies lay three to five eggs inside the buds and fruits of the caper plant. Once a fly has laid its eggs there is nothing to stop another fly from laying its eggs in the same bud or fruit and sometimes up to seven eggs can be found together in one bud or fruit.

The eggs hatch in two to ten days. The larva looks like a typical fruit-fly larva. The larva remains in the fruit or bud throughout its development which lasts from ten to eighteen days. When it is ready to pupate it emerges and falls onto the soil and digs itself in. The species probably has several broods per year. The adults can be seen only during the warmest months. It survives the winter as a pupa buried in the soil. 

This article was published in the Times of Malta on 14 August 2013.

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