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Tephritidae is one of two fly families referred to as "fruit flies", the other family being Drosophilidae. Tephritidae does not include the biological model organisms of the genus Drosophila (in the family Drosophilidae), which is often called the "common fruit fly". There are nearly 5,000 described species of tephritid fruit fly, categorized in almost 500 genera Tephritidae. Description, recategorization, and genetic analysis are constantly changing the taxonomy of this family. To distinguish them from the Drosophilidae, the Tephritidae are sometimes called peacock flies, in reference to their elaborate and colorful markings. The name comes from the Greek τεφρος, "tephros", meaning 'ash grey'. They are found in all the Ecozones.

Tephritidae morphology


For terms see Morphology of Diptera and Tephritidae glossary

Tephritids are small to medium-sized (2.5–10 mm) flies that are often colourful, and usually with pictured wings, the subcostal vein curving forward at a right angle.The head is hemispherical and usually short.The face is vertical or retreating and the frons is broad, Ocelli and cellar bristles are present. The postvertical bristles are parallel to divergent. There are two to eight pairs of frontal bristles (at least one but usually several lower pairs curving inwards and at least one of the upper pairs curving backwards). In some species the frontal bristles are inserted on a raised tubercle. Interfrontal setulae are usually absent or represented by one or two tiny setulae near the lunula. True vibrissae are absent but several genera have strong bristles near the vibrissal angle.The wings usually have yellow, brown or black markings or are dark coloured with lighter markings. In a few species the wings are clear. The costa has both a humeral and a subcostal break. The apical part of the subcostal is usually indistinct or even transparent and at about a right angle with respect to the basal part.crossvein BM-Cu is present the cell cup (posterior cubital cell or anal cell) is closed and nearly always narrowing to an acute angle. It is closed by a geniculate vein (CuA2). The CuA2 vein is rarely straight or convex. The tibiae lack a dorsal preapical bristle. The female has an oviscape.

The larva is amphipneustic (having only the anterior and posterior pairs of spiracle). The body varies from white, to yellowish, or brown. The posterior end of pale coloured species is sometimes black.The body tapers at the anterior. There are two mandibles sometimes with teeth along the ventral margin.The antennomaxillary lobes at each side of the mandibles have several transverse oral ridges or short laminae directed posteriorly. The anterior spiracles (prothoracic spiracles) end bluntly and are not elongated. Each has at least three openings or up to more than 50 arranged transversely in one to three groups or irregularly. Each posterior spiracle (anal spiracle) lacks a clearly defined peritreme and each has three spiracular openings (in mature larvae). These are usually more or less horizontal, parallel and usually bear branched spiracular hairs in four tufts.[1][2]


Ovipositing Urophora quadrifasciata on Centaurea jacea
Chaetostomella cylindrica mating (notice the parting kiss)

The larvae of almost all Tephritidae are phytophagous. Females deposit eggs in living, healthy plant tissue using their telescopic ovipositors.Here the larvae find their food upon emerging. The larvae develop in leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, fruits and roots of the host plant, depending on the species. Some species are gall-forming. One exception to the phytophagous lifestyle is Euphranta toxoneura (Loew) whose larvae develop in galls formed by sawflies.The adults sometimes have a very short lifespan. Some live for less than a week. Some species are monophagous (feeding on only one plant species) others are polyphagous (feeding on several, usually related plant species).

The behavioral ecology of tephritid fruit flies is of great interest to biologists. Some fruit flies have extensive mating rituals or territorial displays. Many are brightly colored and visually showy. Some fruit flies show Batesian mimicry, bearing the colors and markings of dangerous arthropods such as wasps or jumping spiders because it helps the fruit flies avoid predation, even though the flies lack stingers.

Adult Tephritidae are often found on the host plant and feeding on pollen, nectar, rotting plant debris or honeydew.

Natural enemies include Diapriidae and Braconidae.

Economic importance[edit]

Tephritid fruit flies are of major economic importance in agriculture. Some have negative effects, some positive. Various species of fruit fly cause damage to fruit and other plant crops. The genus Bactrocera is of worldwide notoriety for its destructive impact on agriculture. The olive fruit fly (B. oleae), for example, feeds on only one plant: the wild or commercially cultivated olive, Olea europaea. It has the capacity to ruin 100% of an olive crop by damaging the fruit. Euleia heraclei is a pest of celery and parsnip. The genus Anastrepha includes several important pests notably A. grandis, A.ludens, A. obliqua and A. suspensa. Other pests are Strauzia longipennis a pest of sunflowers and Rhagoletis mendax a pest of blueberries.

On the other hand, some fruit flies are used as agents of biological control, thereby reducing the populations of pest species. Several species of the fruit fly genus Urophora are used as control agents against rangeland-destroying noxious weeds such as starthistles and knapweeds, but their effectiveness is questionable.[3] Urophora sirunaseva produces larvae that pupate within a woody gall within the flower and disrupt seed production.[4] Chaetorellia acrolophi is an effective biocontrol agent against knapweeds Chaetorellia australis and Chaetorellia succinea, deposit eggs into the starthistle seedheads, where their larvae consume the seeds and flower ovaries.[5]

Since economically important tephritid fruit flies exist worldwide, there are vast networks of researchers, several international symposia, and intensive activities on various subjects extending from ecology to molecular biology (Tephritid Workers Database).

Pest management techniques applied to tephritids include the sterile insect technique as a part of integrated pest management.


The Tephritidae are grouped into several subfamilies:[6]

The genera Oxyphora, Pseudorellia and Stylia, comprise 32 species, and are not included in any subfamily (incertae sedis).


  • Richard H. Foote, P. L. Blanc, Allen L. Norrbom, 1993 Handbook of the Fruit Flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) of America North of Mexico Cornell University Press (Comstock Publishing).
  • Merz, B. 1994. Diptera Tephritidae. Insecta Helvetica Fauna 10: 1-198.
  • White, I.M. 1988. Tephritid flies. Diptera: Tephritidae. Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects 10(5a): 1-134.
  • White I.M. & Elson-Harris M.M. 1994 Fruit Flies of Economic Significance: their Identification and Bionomics. 2nd ed. International Institute of Entomology, London.
  • R.A.I. Drew and Meredith C Romig Tropical Fruit Flies of South-East Asia (Tephritidae: Dacinae) CABI ISBN 9781780640358

See External links for a detailed guide.

Older but still useful works.

  • Hendel1914. Die Gattungen der Bohrfliegen. Wein. Entomol. Ztg. 33: 73–98. Keys to World genera Out of date but still the only world monograph.
  • Hendel, F., 1927. Trypetidae.In: Lindner, E. (Ed.). Die Fliegen der palaearktischen Region 5, 49, 1-221. Keys to Palaearctic species but now needs revision (in German).
  • Séguy, E. (1934) Diptères: Brachycères. II. Muscidae acalypterae, Scatophagidae. Paris: Éditions Faune de France 28. virtuelle numérique
  • Rikhter, V.A. Family Conopidae in Bei-Bienko, G. Ya, 1988 Keys to the insects of the European Part of the USSR Volume 5 (Diptera) Part 2 English edition. Keys to Palaearctic species but now needs revision.

Species Lists[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Christenson, L. D. and Foote, R.H. 1960. Biology of fruit flies, Ann. Rev. Entom., vol. 5, pp. 171–192.
  • Bruce A. McPheron, Gary J. Steck (Editors), 1996 Fruit fly pests : a world assessment of their biology and management International Symposium on Fruit Flies of Economic Importance (4th : 1994 : Sand Key, Florida, USA) Delray Beach, Fla. : St Lucie Press
  • Foote R.H., Steyskal G.C. 1981 Tephritidae. in: McAlpine J.F. (Ed.), Manual of Nearctic Diptera. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, pp. 817–831.ISBN 0660107317 pdf download manual
  • Pest Information Wiki


  1. ^ K. G. V. Smith, 1989 An introduction to the immature stages of British Flies. Diptera Larvae, with notes on eggs, puparia and pupae.Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects Vol 10 Part 14. pdf download manual (two parts Main text and figures index)
  2. ^ Phillips, V.T., 1946. The biology and identification of trypetid larvae (Diptera: Trypetidae). Memoirs of the American Entomological Society 12: 1-161.
  3. ^ Dean E. Pearson & Ragan M. Callaway (2008). "Weed-biocontrol insects reduce native-plant recruitment through second-order apparent competition" (PDF). Ecological Applications 18 (6): 1489–1500. doi:10.1890/07-1789.1. PMID 18767624. 
  4. ^ Sobhian, R. 1993. Life history and host specificity of Urophora sirunaseva (Herng)(Dipt., Tephritidae), an agent for biological control of yellow starthistle, with remarks on the host plant. J. Appl. Entomol. 116: 381-390.
  5. ^ Turner, C.E., G.L. Piper and E.M. Coombs. 1996. Chaetorellia australis (Diptera: Tephritidae) for biological control of yellow starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis (Compositae), in the western USA: establishment and seed destruction. Bull. Entomol. Res. 86: 1 77-182.
  6. ^ Allen L. Norrbom (April 30, 2004). "Fruit Fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) Phylogeny". The Diptera Site. Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 


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