10 Insects We Love to Study


Fruit Fly

You could say that science owes a great debt to these tiny flies ubiquitous in science labs the world over. The pair pictured show off different phenotypes for eye color.  © Carolina Biological/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis
You could say that science owes a great debt to these tiny flies ubiquitous in science labs the world over. The pair pictured show off different phenotypes for eye color. © Carolina Biological/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Perhaps no bug, not even the mosquito, is as widely studied as the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). Scientists have poked at the fruit fly for more than 100 years. They've been able to learn about genetics and how to treat certain diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease.

Fruit flies are well understood and used as a stand-in for humans. That's because we share 75 percent of our genes with the flies. Hundreds of labs in the United States are devoted to fruit fly research. Scientists are not only interested in the bug's genetic makeup, but also in its biology. Plus, they're easy to work with, and scientists can keep millions of them without taking up much space. They can't do that with a rat or a mouse [sources: Jolly, University of North Carolina].

Author's Note: 10 Insects We Love to Study

As I write this, the corpses of Asian ladybugs litter my office carpet. They have little to eat here and die within a few days. Why the infestation? Science has provided an answer. My house is yellow, and as such, it serves as a beacon for the bugs. Studies show Asian ladybugs like bright surfaces and the sunny part of a building, which is why every spring I have to vacuum them up when they come knocking. I'm glad they're not cockroaches.

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