Melon fly

Melon fly
Melon fly
Adult melon fly
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Section: Schizophora
Family: Tephritidae
Genus: Bactrocera
Species: B. curcurbitae
Binomial name
Bactrocera cucurbitae
(Coquillett, 1849)

Chaetodacus cucurbitae
Dacus cucurbitae
Strumeta cucurbitae
Zeugodacus cucurbitae

The melon fly (Bactrocera cucurbitae), is a fruit fly of the family Tephritidae. It is a serious agricultural pest, particularly in Hawaii.



Adult fly

The adult melon fly is 6 to 8 mm in length. Distinctive characteristics include its wing pattern, its long third antennal segment, the reddish yellow dorsum of the thorax with light yellow markings, and the yellowish head with black spots.


The egg is elliptical, about 2 mm long, and pure white. It is almost flat on the ventral surface, and more convex on the dorsal. Eggs are often somewhat longitudinally curved.


The larva is a cylindrical-maggot shape, elongated, with the anterior end narrowed a somewhat curved ventrally. It has anterior mouth hooks, ventral fusiform areas and a flattened caudal end. Last instar larvae range from 7.5 to 11.8 mm in length. The venter has fusiform areas on segments 2 through 11. The anterior buccal carinae are usually 18 to 20 in number. The anterior spiracles are slightly convex in lateral view, with relatively small tubules averaging 18 to 20 in number.


The puparium ranges in color from dull red or brownish yellow to dull white, and is about 5 to 6 mm in length.

Life history

Development period from egg to adult ranges from 12 to 28 days. The female may lay as many as 1,000 eggs. Eggs are generally laid in young fruit, but are also laid in the succulent stems of host plants. The eggs are deposited in cavities created by the female using its sharp ovipositor.

Pupation usually occurs in the soil. There may be as many as 8 to 10 generations a year.


Melon flies are most often found on low, leafy, succulent vegetation near cultivated areas. In hot weather they rest on the undersides of leaves and in shady areas. They are strong fliers and usually fly in the mornings and afternoons. They feed on the juices of decaying fruit, nectar, bird feces, and plant sap.[1]


The melon fly is native to India, and is distributed throughout most parts of the country. It can be found throughout most of southern Asia, several countries in Africa, some island groups in the Pacific.[1]

In the United States, it was the first tephritid fruit fly species established in Hawaii. It was introduced there from Japan around 1895, and by 1897, when it was first observed, it had already become a serious pest.[2]

Not yet established in the continental United States, it is often intercepted at ports. Occasionally, an infestation is established, but is then eradicated. The latest such incident was several flies discovered in August 2010, in Kern County, California. The area is now under quarantine and an eradication program is underway.[1]

Host plants

Adult melon fly on a leaf

Melon flies use at least 125 host plants. They are major pests of beans, bittermelon, winter melon, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, hyotan, luffa, melons, peppers, pumpkins, squashes, togan, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini.[3][4]


In the Indo-Malayan region, the melon fly is considered the most destructive pest of melons and other related crops. In Hawaii, it has caused serious damaged to melon, cucumber and tomato crops.

The melon fly can attack both flowers, stem and root tissue, and fruit.


Non-chemical control


The two most common mechanical methods of control are wrapping developing fruit with a protective covering and the use of baited traps.[citation needed]


The most effective cultural management technique is the destruction of all infested and unmarketable fruit, and the disposal of crop residues immediately after harvest.[citation needed]

Biological control

A technician prepares to irradiate male melon fly pupae to sterilize them

Between 1947 and 1952, thirty-two species and varieties of natural enemies to fruit flies were introduced in Hawaii. These parasites lay their eggs in the eggs or maggots and emerge in the pupal stage.

When the parasitoids F. arisanus or P. fletcheri were used, and attacked both melon fly eggs and larvae at the same time, suppression of development was as much as 56%.[5]


Sterilization of male melon flies through irradiation has proven effective in significantly reducing the number of eggs hatching.[6]

Chemical control

Toxicants in baits applied both to refugia of the fruit flies and sprays applied to crops have been used.

Proteinaceous liquid attractants in insecticide sprays is an effective method of controlling melon fly populations. This bait insecticide is sprayed on broad leaf plants that serve as refugia for melon flies. These baits encourage the adults to feed on the spray residue.


Further reading

  • Agarwal, M. L., D. D. Sharma and O. Rahman. 1987. Melon Fruit-Fly and Its Control. Indian Horticulture. 32(3): 10-11.
  • Bess, H. A., R. van den Bosch and F. H. Haramoto. 1961. Fruit Fly Parasites and Their Activities in Hawaii. Proc. Hawaiian Entomol. Soc. 27(3): 367-378.
  • Heppner, J. B. 1989. Larvae of Fruit Flies. V. Dacus cucurbitae (Melon Fly) (Diptera: Tephritidae). Fla. Dept. Agric. & Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry. Entomology Circular No. 315. 2 pages.
  • Hill, D. S. 1983. Dacus cucurbitae Coq. pp. 391. In Agricultural Insect Pests of the Tropics and Their Control, 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press. 746 pages.
  • Lall, B. S. 1975. Studies on the Biology and Control of Fruit Fly, Dacus cucurbitae COQ. Pesticides. 9(10): 31-36.
  • Liquido, N. J., R. T. Cunningham, and H. M. Couey. 1989. Infestation Rate of Papaya by Fruit Flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) in Relation to the Degree of Fruit Ripeness. J. Econ. Ent. 82(10): 213-219.
  • Lockwood, S. 1957. Melon Fly, Dacus cucurbitae. Loose-Leaf Manual of Insect Control. California Department of Agriculture.
  • Marsden, D. A. 1979. Insect Pest Series, No. 9. Melon Fly, Oriental Fruit Fly, Mediterranean Fruit Fly. University of Hawaii, Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources.
  • Nishida, T and H. A. Bess. 1957. Studies on the Ecology and Control of the Melon Fly Dacus (Strumeta) cucurbitae Coquillett (Diptera: Tephritidae). Hawaii Agric. Exp. Station Tech. Bull. No. 34. pages 2–44.
  • Nishida, T. and F. Haramoto. 1953. Immunity of Dacus cucurbitae to Attack by Certain Parasites of Dacus dorsalis. J. Econ. Ent. 46(1): 61-64.
  • Vargas, R. I. and J. R. Carey. 1990. Comparative Survival and Demographic Statistics for Wild Oriental fruit Fly, Mediterranean Fruit Fly, and Melon Fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) on Papaya. J. Econ. Ent. 83(4): 1344-1349.
  • Anonymous. 1959. Insects not known to occur in the United States. Cooperative Economic Insect Report 9 (19): 343-368. Melon fly (Dacus cucurbitae (Coq.)),: 367-368.
  • Back EA, Pemberton CE. 1917. The melon fly in Hawaii. U.S. Department of Agriculture Bulletin 491: 1-64.
  • Berg GH. 1979. Pictorial key to fruit fly larvae of the family Tephritidae. San Salvador: Organ. Internac. Reg. Sanidad. Agropec. 36 p.
  • Chu HF. 1949. A classification of some larvae and puparia of the Tephritidae (Diptera). Cont. Inst. Zool., Natl. Acad. Peiping (Beijing) 5: 93-138
  • Green CT. 1929. Characters of the larvae and pupae of certain fruit flies. Journal of Agricultural Research (Washington) 38: 489-504.
  • Hardy DE. 1949. Studies in Hawaiian fruit flies (Diptera, Tephritidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 51: 181-205.
  • Heppner JB. 1988. Larvae of fruit flies IV. Dacus dorsalis (Oriental fruit fly) (Diptera: Tephritidae). Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry Entomology Circular 303: 1-2.
  • Foote RK, Blanc FL. 1963. The fruit flies or Tephritidae of California. Bulletin of the California Insect Survey 7: 1-117.
  • Phillips VT. 1946. The biology and identification of trypetid larvae (Diptera: Trypetidae). Memoirs of the American Entomological Society 12: 1-161.
  • Pruitt JH. 1953. Identification of fruit fly larvae frequently intercepted at ports of entry of the United States. University of Florida (Gainesville), MS thesis. 69 p.
  • USDA, Survey and Detection Operations, Plant Pest Control Division, Agriculture Research Service. Anonymous. 1963. The melon fly. Pamphlet 581. 4 p.
  • White IM, Elson-Harris MM. 1994. Fruit Flies of Economic Significance: Their Identification and Bionomics. CAB International. Oxon, UK. 601 p.

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