Drosophila suzukii is a global and economically significant pest of berries and other soft fruits. This insect can survive and reproduce under a wide variety of environmental conditions and with a substantial number of cultivated and wild hosts. Management of D. suzukii is commonly done with chemical control strategies. However, ecological and environmental costs associated with overreliance on insecticides are driving the research and adoption of integrated pest management practices. Integrated pest management incorporates multiple management tactics, including the use of natural enemies and mass trapping. Integrated pest management is improved with further research on pest biology and dispersal behavior. The research presented in this thesis examined the flight performance and nutrient utilization of D. suzukii subjected to various dietary treatments and relative humidity conditions.
Our study used flight mills to measure the distance, duration, and velocity that female D. suzukii fly between resources. Overall, the flight distances ranged from 1 m to 1.75 km, the median was 27 m, and the mean was 87 m. The flight distance of fed flies was two to four times greater than that of starved flies. Flight parameters of D. suzukii were not significantly influenced by humidity. Lifetime flight performance could not be measured on the flight mill, but we hypothesize that, given the availability of food and water, at least a portion of D. suzukii within a large population could disperse much farther than 1.75 km over their lifespan. The estimated flight parameters measured in our study are representative of laboratory-reared D. suzukii subjected to the various treatments in each experiment, and the scope of inference is limited to the comparisons in flight parameters between experimental groups because of unknown behavioral effects of tethering the insects. The levels of lipid, sugar, and glycogen reserves were measured in D. suzukii flown and not flown on the flight mill. The nutrient levels are reported, but it is still unclear what energy substrate, and how much of it, is utilized during flight. Drosophila suzukii flight performance and flight energy utilization will be better understood with additional research that builds on the results presented in this thesis.