How Does Human Birth Control Effect My Flies’ Fertility?

Genetics and Biotechnology

Our group was super curious if human birth control, taken by millions of women every day, would have the same effect on fruit flies. Were we surprised? No! Fascinated? Absolutely!

By: Jackie Faulk, Emma Chobert, Lea Preysman, and Tyler Nguyen

Mr. Beal handed us a vial of about 40 living, breathing fruit flies in January. Every day household bugs became a fundamental part of our lives for three months. It took a little bit to learn how to maintain them, breed them, and keep them alive. Although we didn’t have to deal with baby bottles, sleeping, or crying (unless it was us), we knew that maintaining happy; healthy flies would take consistent work. Whether it was finding the right food to water ratio, how many flies to distribute to each vial, or keeping them organized, we rolled with the punches to amass about 40 vials of fruit flies. While nurturing our stock flies- the flies that we delegate into experiments- we brainstormed what we would want our control variables to be. We wanted something accessible, something unique, and needed something legal, so our sights were fixed on birth control. “About 65% of women aged 15-49 (as 17-year-olds, we are in this range) will take birth control at some point in their life,” according to Planned Parenthood.


Hi, I’m Jackie!

I had quite some experience with fruit flies through the Trip Initiative, which gave me a bit of a head start when sorting flies and planning the experiment. However, I had never done an assay on female fertility before. I enjoyed challenging myself with a new assay and a new way of analysis, counting fly eggs through a microscope. I would recommend this Genetics class to students interested in working in a lab in the future and to those who are just generally interested in Genetics and why things work the way they do in terms of biology. If I were to do this class over again, I would take more notes and make observations! Quantitative analysis is not the only type of analysis for a reason.

Hey, my name’s Emma!

Before taking this class, I have never had any experience dealing with flies, let alone flies on birth control. At first, I’m not going to lie; I felt a little intimidated because I didn’t know what to do or do things. After a week or so of testing birth control on our flies, we all started to get the hang of it. Everything we did, such as sorting the flies by gender, making food, putting them on grape plates, and seeing them and the pupae under the microscope, was well worth it because it was so interesting to see our experiment had worked. It was an incredible learning experience, but it was also so much fun. I would highly recommend it to anyone uncertain about whether or not they want to take a genetics course.

Hi, my name is Tyler!

I have never worked with fruit flies, nor have I done experiments with them in a group before I took genetics. Overall, I had an enjoyable time experimenting with the fruit flies and learning a lot about them, like how to identify the flies between males and females. There were a few challenges while conducting the experiments. One of the challenges was sorting the flies into vile tubes. Sometimes the flies would look so similar that it was hard to tell which was male or female. Another challenge was keeping the flies alive and ensuring that we had enough flies to experiment on. Doing the experiments and observing the fruit flies has made me more interested in studying and researching flies.

Hi, my name is Lea!

Before this class, I have never done anything with fruit flies, but I have enjoyed this experience. It was great learning about the flies and working on them in person. It has made me more interested in conducting and doing research and experiments. Working with the fruit flies was a memorable experience, especially with birth control. It was difficult at first, but we all eventually got used to it. It was tough to keep them alive and make the food perfect and not dry. I learned how to separate the flies by gender, put flies in grape plates, count how many pupae and eggs there were, etc. I enjoyed this experiment, and I would recommend this class and this experiment to others.

In conclusion, this experiment has taught us skills in science, laboratory work, and life skills.