The Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center is the only institution of its kind in the United States, and the largest in the world. It currently houses over 77,000 different fruit fly strains, most of which are in high demand. In 2019, the center shipped 204,672 vials of flies to labs in 49 states and 54 countries, said Annette Parks, one of the center’s five principal investigators.It is “one of the jewels we have in the community,” said Pamela Geyer, a stem cell biologist at the University of Iowa who has been ordering flies from the stock center for 30 years.Other model organisms can be frozen at particular life stages for long-term storage; lab freezers the world over hold mouse embryos and E. coli cultures. But fruit flies can’t go on ice. Caring for the creatures means regularly “flipping” them: transferring them from an old vial to a clean one that has been provisioned with a dollop of food. Quarantined with other members of their strain, the flies mate and lay eggs, which hatch, pupate and reproduce, continuing the cycle.
Of course, these folks have been working hard through the pandemic. Best wishes to them, and all of us.