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Aug 6, 2008 07:52 PM

Can anybody else "smell" fruit flies?

So I've done some fairly extensive web research (read: about 5 minutes with Google) that has brought up nothing on this topic, and maybe (my completely forgotten) high school biology would explain this for me, but can anyone else smell a fruit fly when it lands in a glass of wine?

I've been testing myself for a while now, ever since I noticed it: smell wine in kitchen utterly run amuck with fruit flies (it is summer, after all, and all those tomatoes must smell divine to a fruit fly), wait until a fly lands in glass, smell again. A definite, more "fermented-y" smell. Then, pick fly out, wait 5 minutes, smell again.The smell has dissipated and gone back just about to normal. I've smelled this same fruit fly "scent" in my composter; other people in my family have told me I'm crazy and a fruit fly in and of itself has no discernible "smell".

So.... am I crazy? Has anyone smelled the difference in their wine pre-fly and post-fly? Or is this something everyone encounters and the non-believers in my family really are people without good senses of smell (which could actually, possibly be the case.... hmmmm)? I need help.

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  1. You're not crazy. At least not about this.

    Several winemakers have commented on the fruit fly smell. There's an "enzyme," for lack of a better word (actually it may be an enzyme) that fruit flies emit when they're scared or frightened, and that's what you're smelling. Flies and mosquitos are very good at reading carbon dioxide, and even though they're attracted to it, when they smell too much of it, they fly away. The enzyme is dSO, short for drosophila stress odorant, and it's a quick burst of CO2 (among other things) to tell other fruit flies to stay away. Once the fly is out of the glass, the odor is gone too.

    You must have a pretty good sniffer.

    2 Replies
    1. re: maria lorraine

      so, basically, it's fruit fly "sweat".


      thanks for your very informative answer!! i knew somebody here would have a good explanation!

    2. Absolutely - and just one fruit fly can ruin a glass of wine

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam B

        Obviously you were never judging fruit wines at the LA Co Fair back in the '60s . . .

        1. At work, we describe it as a faintly iodine-like smell. I find that if the fly lands on the glass or on the rim of an opened bottle (even when the cork has been stuck back in the bottle) it noticably mutes the aromas and flavors.

          1. Yes I can most definately smell them as well, I work at a winery and I can smell them flying around an open tank from at least 5 feet away and sometimes up to 10.