Menacing Fruit Flies Can Offer Wisdom

Those tiny flying insects are a real pain.

Especially when they hover over our supper or even swoop right in front of our computer screen as we’re concentrating on the exact word we want to write next. As small as they are, fruit flies sure can agitate us, and even generate words of displeasure when they buzz quietly but offensively into our life.

In our family grocery story, there was no daytime refrigeration for the fresh fruit we sold. It was kept in a large walk-in cooler at night and then displayed on wooden shelves during the 10-plus hours the store was open daily. Shelf life of fresh produce is limited, and some products generally become unmarketable before they can be sold.

There were always grapes, peaches, bananas and other fruits that were maturing and becoming spoiled. Fruit flies knew that, and it was common to have them present in limited or even large number around the fruit stand. They were annoying and embarrassing for us when they’d buzz around customers selecting purchases.

Over-ripened fruit was taken to our grandma’s apartment above the store, and she’d prepare it as dessert for our dinner which was always eaten at her kitchen table. The fruit flies tagged along in abundance and seemed to enjoy our dessert before we could get to it. Fortunately, they weren’t big enough to get much, but continued to aggravate us.

Fruit flies have often been referred to as gnats and vice versa, and the Bible generally lumps them together. But there is a difference, according to sources in the know.

Gnat is a general name for various small, blood-sucking flies related to mosquitoes and houseflies. They often assemble in large mating swarms, particularly at dusk, and are common pests for roots of potted plants in homes. Ahhh, those little boogers around that potted grapefruit tree are gnats, not fruit flies, as we’d decided.

The common fruit fly, also called vinegar fly and pomace fly, is a tiny, red-eyed fly with a yellowish body marked with black. It is used extensively in the study of genetics because it is easy to breed, matures rapidly and has chromosomes seen under a microscope. We did projects on them in both high school biology and college zoology.

Power from fruit flies was revealed in Exodus 8:16: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Strike the dust, that it may become flies and gnats through all the land.'” Again, they were used as a means of controlling evil in Psalm 105:31: “He gave the word, and flies swarmed, gnats filled the air.”

Yet, advice from the aggravations derives in Ecclesiastes 10:1: “Dead flies in perfume make it stink, and a little foolishness decomposes much wisdom.”