What Does a Fruit Fly Look Like?

An infestation of fruit flies can prove a disaster for gardeners who are growing their own fruits.

Fruit flies are more commonly found in the northern parts of the country and are very prevalent in Queensland. That was one of the reasons why I gave up growing tomatoes when I lived up there.

The adult insects lay their eggs in the fruit and the larvae hatch and feast on the delectable fruits that you’ve been lovingly tending.

Of the 4,000 species of fruit flies found worldwide, there are primarily two major species that are a problem in Australia. These are the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) and the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata).

Bactrocera tryoni Fruit Fly | Pest control
Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) / Photo by James Niland / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

How to identify an adult fruit fly

An adult fruit fly looks similar to a small wasp. It has three distinct segments being the head, the body, and the abdomen. It has six legs and a pair of mostly translucent wings.

These pests are usually around 7 millimetres in length and reddish-brown in colour. They also have distinctive yellow markings or bands on their abdomen.

They can be varied in appearance as they can change their markings or colour to adapt to their environment. However, they are generally relatively easy to identify.

Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata | Pest control
Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata)

The four lifecycles of a fruit fly

Adult fruit flies will land on ripening fruit and lay their eggs by piercing small holes in the skin or outer membrane of the fruit. These tiny holes are actually quite visible if you look closely enough.

Queensland fruit fly | Pest control
Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) / Photo by Polychronis Rempoulakis / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Each adult fruit fly can lay up to 100 eggs a day.

If you see a ripening fruit with evidence of these tiny holes and cut it open, you might see either the eggs or the larvae if the eggs have already hatched.

The eggs are around 1mm long, banana-shaped and white in colour.

The fruit fly larvae or maggots are creamy-white in colour and around 5 to 10 mm long. These larvae will feed on the flesh at the centre of the fruit and cause the fruit to rot from the inside out.

The final stage of the fruit fly is the pupa. Once the larvae have completed their growth cycle, they’ll drop to the ground and burrow into the soil. In the soil, they’ll transform into the pupae. 

These are hard, oval in shape and brown in colour. After the pupa gestation period has been completed, the adult fruit flies will emerge and start the cycle all over again.

How to protect your garden produce from fruit fly

Fruit fly trap | Pest control

There are various things that you can do to protect your produce from fruit fly.

  • Hang traps to catch adult fruit flies
  • Pick up and dispose of any fallen fruit 
  • Remove unwanted fruit trees or crops from your garden
  • Cover your cropping fruit trees and vegetables with insect netting

When disposing of affected fruit, make sure to put this into a plastic bag and place it in the sun for a few hours before putting it into the rubbish bin. Never put infected fruit in your compost.


What causes fruit flies?

Fruit flies are attracted by ripening fruit as this is their primary food source. Some species, like the Queensland fruit fly are native to Australia. These pests are mostly active during the warmer months but can even be a problem in winter in the warmer regions of the country.

How do I get rid of fruit flies?

The best way to rid your garden of fruit flies is to use special fruit fly traps that are available from most garden centres or nurseries. These traps contain a protein that is attractive to the adult flies and once inside the trap, the pests are killed with the added insecticide.

Will fruit flies go away on their own?

Unfortunately, fruit flies will not go away on their own once they’ve found their way into your garden. You have to be vigilant with traps and bag and dump any fruit that has been infected to try and limit the numbers.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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