The family Tephritidea (fruit flies) includes over 4000 species. C. capitata, commonly called Medfly, is one of the more widely spread species. Originally from Africa, it has spread today to all parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, South America, and Central America.
It can cause significant damage to over 300 species of fruits and vegetables, and is considered to be one of the key agricultural pests in citrus (oranges, clementine, grapefruits, and cumquats), subtropical fruits (mangos, guavas, loquats, and figs), deciduous fruits (peaches, apricots, pears, apples, and plums), grapes and pomegranates.
Medflies undergo a complete metamorphosis. Females lay their eggs approximately 1 mm beneath the skin of host fruit. After 2 to 3 days (longer if the temperature is lower) the eggs hatch. The larvae carve tunnels, eating their way through the fruit. Larval life may last 6 to 10 days (at 25ºC), and there are three larval stages, or instars.
The larvae pupate in the soil, beneath the surface. The pupal stage lasts from 6 to 15 days at 25ºC.
Adult Medflies reach sexual maturity approximately five days after emerging from the pupal stage. Copulation occurs at any time of the day. A female may lay up to 20 eggs per day, and 800 eggs during her lifetime, though 300 is more typical. The number of eggs laid is largely a function of the female’s lifespan.
Males seek multiple mates (polygyny), whereas females tend to re-mate only if the initial mating was not sufficient.
The maximum lifespan of adult medflies may be six months or even longer, although cool conditions with abundant food and water are necessary for the flies to survive this long. Most live much shorter time, and in most populations at least half are dead in less than 60 days.
These flies are usually sedentary, staying in the same area as long as there is fruit present to serve as food and egg-laying sites. Passively they can be dispersed by the wind for distances of few Km.
Medflies are attacked by many parasitoid wasps. Many generalist predators of insects, such as ants, spiders, mantis, and assassin bugs will attack fruit flies. Birds will attack the larvae as they emerge from fruit, and some soil nematodes attack the pupea.