Semi-Automated Insect Culturing Device

Tech ID: 33509 / UC Case 2023-940-0


Drosophila spp., also known as fruit flies, are widely used in genetic research. Drosophila lines (e.g. flies with a particular mutation) can only be stored as live animals – they cannot be frozen and still remain viable. So to maintain the stocks, the live flies are manually transferred from an old vial to a new vial on a regular basis (every 1-2 weeks). Some Drosophila labs maintain hundreds or even thousands of individual lines and so maintenance of these lines can be very time consuming. A UC Santa Cruz Drosophila researcher has developed a simpler and more efficient method of transferring the flies that requires significantly less hands-on work.

An earlier version of this invention has been patented and patent prosecution continues. However, additional improvements to hands-free Drosophila maintenance systems were still necessary. In particular, a device that could be fabricated by injection molding would be advantageous as would a device that could better facilitating labels of stocks and that can be more readily separated into individual components for shipping and study. 

Technology Description

The updated technology features individual caps that can be fitted to the open end of a tube used to house Drosophila and other insect samples. The cap includes a hole that allows passage of adult insects through the hole. When the cap is fitted on top of the vial, the cap can be positioned such that the hole allows free passage to a subsequent vial. Alternatively, the cap can be positioned on top of the vial such that the hole is blocked by the cap wall such that adult insects cannot pass to the subsequent vial. The cap features a mechanism that allows it to lock with the same mechanism on the subsequent vial such that adult insects can pass from the first vial to the second vial without escaping.