Halloween, Mutant-Fly-Style

by Lorien E. Menhennett

My mutant fly costume – a dark-bodied,
curly-winged, wild-type-eyed fruit fly.

I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in years. Just haven’t felt like it, or had any reason to. But this year, I was invited to two costume parties. I decided I better come up with something. Mind you, I’ve never been one to buy a costume. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always created a costume from bits and pieces of what I already owned, perhaps supplemented by a new prop or two. So while my friends were out buying their get-ups, I racked my brain for something I could piece together.

The answer came during a completely unrelated conversation with my mom. We were talking about my genetics class, specifically what I had been doing in lab lately (fly crosses), and my mom blurted out: “You should be a fruit fly for Halloween!”

At first, I discounted the idea as ridiculous. After all, who’s ever heard of anyone being a fruit fly for Halloween? But I gradually realized it was perfect – it encapsulates what I am doing right now, what I love, and it’s definitely off beat. Which is exactly what I wanted. Drosophila melanogaster it was.

Fruit flies with the curly wing mutation.

Next it was time to figure out how to put together this costume. My mom lent me a pair of silvery, sparkly antennae, which aren’t very fly-like, but are fun. Wild-type (normal) fruit flies have cream-colored bodies, reddish eyes, and near-transparent, oval-shaped wings. I do have red eye shadow, so I was set there. But I don’t have a cream dress, and I couldn’t find any plain fly-looking wings. So I decided to be a mutant fly. I did base my costume (slightly) on reality. I chose a black dress, to represent dark-bodied fruit flies (which we have indeed studied in our genetics class). The best wings I could find were curvy fairy wings, which corresponds to the curly-winged phenotype of fruit flies (again, we have studied these in class, and they really DO have curly wings). So I was to be a wild-type-eyed, dark-bodied, curly-winged fruit fly. To complete my costume, I wrote out the gene symbols for my genotype on a slip of paper and pinned it to my dress.

A fruit fly with the black body mutation.

I knew most (if not all) of the people I encountered would have no idea what I was, but I was OK with that. I’m quite confident in my nerdiness, and I would have fun just being a fruit fly. My friends, who know how enamored I am with genetics, loved the idea. So it would be a joke between all of us.

Yesterday, I had my night out on the town with my girlfriends. As I expected, no one “got” my costume. That was fine by me. I had found something creative, fun, weird, and scientific to be, and that was all that mattered.

Viva Drosophila!