Daryl Ilbury

Why flies love your beer

In Eish!, Science on November 18, 2011 at 9:02 am

Honey for flies

Whenever flies start buzzing around me as I settle down on a sunny day with a glass of ice cold beer, I generally take it personally and sniff my armpits.

Thank heavens for a team of entomologists from the University of California, Riverside. They have made a discovery that promises to change the face of science as we know it; and the best way to pay homage to their industriousness is to explain this discovery in their own words: “flies sense glycerol, a sweet-tasting compound that yeasts make during fermentation”.

Because the distilling process in the manufacture of beer employs yeast to promote fermentation, flies are attracted to the traces of glycerol. For the bio-chemistry nuts: the flies can sense the glycerol because they have a receptor known as Gr64e. According to the study, “once a fly has settled on beer, Gr64e detects glycerol and transmits this information to the fly’s neurons, which then influences the fly’s behavioral response”.

It’s a little beyond me, but I’m sure it’ll impress people at a cocktail party, so I’m going to bank it in my brain.

Of course, because my mind works in rather worrying ways sometimes, I am interested not so much in the science of the study as in the story behind it: why and where was this specific area of study first entertained?

I guess it goes to prove something else I’ve always suspected: some of the best ideas are created over an ice cold beer.

For more on this research, go here: http://genomics.ucr.edu/news/2011-11-17_dahanukar.html

(Sorry, WordPress seems reluctant to allow me to embed hyperlinks for some reason)

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