It’s a Jungle in Here

My wonderful indoor Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm/composter (totally odorless)

has little, millimeter size, “springers” in the basement swimming pool of “worm tea”

but they seem to be totally harmless; meanwhile the red wiggler worms toothlessly digest our fruit and vegetable peelings (see image below of the underneath of the top tray lifted up for the photo).

Each tray rests on the contents of the one below so the worms can travel easily up an down. After about 3 months they produce the most wonderfully beneficial vermi-castings for my indoor plants. Fresh food is in the top tray (left) – fresh worm castings are in the bottom one (right). 








But if I don’t put enough shredded newspaper on top of the peelings, especially bananas, it can grow fruit flies.  The best trap for fruit flies is a wine bottle with its “lees” (a good crossword puzzle word) plus a little water and a drop of liquid detergent so they sink instead of dancing on the surface of the wine.

But they are useful as totally independent and unbiased wine tasters: after one week they conclusively preferred (by a count of the happy drowned carcasses, and after adjusting for time exposed) a medium body Argentinian Malbec to a variety of California and New York Finger lake red and white wines, and even a Mexican Corona beer.  Francis Ford Coppola’s designer label Rosso fared very badly!

Meanwhile out in the conservatory my poisonous Oleander insists on producing tropical aphids despite occasional application of so-called ‘insecticidal soap’. Why anyone would ever label product that lists 1% “Active ingredient” and 99% “Other” is beyond me. (or why would I ever buy it?)








They have the strangest 3 tails, plus a big proboscis to suck the flower buds dry (photo below shows one on its back with the damaging nose visible).

Outside on the balcony the ants take care of them and the flowers are great in summer. Next winter I might have to invite the ants in too.

Now, to make matters worse, I’ve just discovered a similar 3 tailed form, but black color, aphid on an orchid from Ikea which has been nicely flowering for the last month (see the black dots on the top flower stems).








FYI, all the bug photos were simply taken by holding my cell phone lens to this simple 50 x magnifier.

5 thoughts on “It’s a Jungle in Here

  1. I’m with the flies. I find Malbec a more pleasant wine to drink as it doesn’t make the tip of my nose itch. I think I inherited this from you Dad, or maybe the flies..?

  2. Interesting tests and commentary! Perhaps the experts will be interested in the following:

    “When visiting a winery during harvest, there a couple of things to watch for—a complete lack of fruit flies in a tasting room that is near the cellar or crushpad probably means the winery is employing chemical bombs at night.”

  3. Hi Chris – I’m glad you put in a picture of the 50x magnifier as I was getting ready to ask how you got the reticle in the picture.
    I do wonder if you had a time-invariant supply of test subjects in your drosophila study… I’m sure that more experiments will follow (and I laughed out loud when I saw your impromptu mortuary) . With only slightly more-rigorous techniques I think you
    could publish in the Journal of Irreproducible Results.
    I’m still holding some hope that I’ll be able to join you for a ski along the river this winter, but it don’t look so good at the moment.

  4. Great to see the worm house in action, and we love the set-up for the macro photos. They are just too good!

    We are missing the exact number of flies in each sample but will make a guess about their preferences based on the photo and what I can find out about these wines.

    In keeping with their love of fermenting fruit, the drosophila melanogaster seem to express preference for wines made in a more fruit-forward style with some acids. Perhaps the combination of fermenting fruit and acids tells them that there is both abundant ready-to-eat fruit and as yet un-ripe fruit that will ferment soon? Certainly the missing elements, high tannins and strong oak characteristics, might compete with or mask the fruit and put them off. Also, tannins are one of the vine’s ways of combating pests.

    Argentine Malbec is famous for big aromas and flavours of black fruit (blackberries, plums). Higher-elevation vineyards can produce well-balance wine, and this La Linda is grown at almost a kilometer above sea level, where the cool nights slow ripening, resulting in balanced fruit and acids in the final wine. There isn’t much info on the tannin levels, but we can infer that they play a background role to the fruit since Malbecs are not known for high tannins.

    The Menage A Trois is from warm California, made of mostly Zinfandel which is known for fruity, grape-jelly characteristics with low acids and tannins. Reviews on this page indicate heavy fruit, low tannin and even some residual sugar. Sounds perfect for the flies.

    The Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir are both from New York, which has a cooler climate and typically produces wines with higher acid to balance the fruit. White wines contain no tannins, and cooler-climate wines usually have little oak influence, so there is not much to interfere with the fruit/acid combination that the flies seem to enjoy.

    That they didn’t like the Coppola Rosso is a bit of a surprise since it is also a California blend of equal parts Zinfandel, Syrah, Petit Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. You might expect as many bugs as in the Menage a Trois, but I suspect this wine has more tannin (from the CS) and oak influence (common to big California table-reds) which flies might find unappetizing.

    Conclusion: the bugs seem to have preferred the wines that smell more like fruit and have less tannin and oak.

    Suggestion: don’t just follow the bugs! The easy-drinking, fruit-forward wines they prefer are pleasing but uninteresting. Wines with better structure will develop complex secondary flavour characteristics, will age better and will give you a fascinating taste of the specific location the grapes were grown.

    • Those bugs have no class but do honestly follow their preferences. I might repeat the test to see where their price limits lie.
      Many thanks for a great analysis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five − = 1