A study was conducted to determine the abundance of potential foods and the feeding substrates and behaviors of the western cherry fruit fly, Rhagoletis indifferens Curran (Diptera: Tephritidae), in 2005, 2006, and 2007 in central Washington state. Aphid colonies with honeydew, a presumed food source for flies, were not seen on randomly selected branches of sweet cherry trees, Prunus avium L., but leaves with cherry juice, fruit that were damaged, and leaves with bird feces were commonly seen, especially later in the season. Grazing, a behavior in which the mouthparts rapidly move up and down and touch plant surfaces without discrete substances visible to the human eye, was seen more frequently in flies on leaves than on fruit. Grazing occurred more frequently than feeding on extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) on leaf petioles, cherry juice on leaves, and bird feces on leaves. The percentages of females and males that grazed on leaves were not different in 2 of 3 yr, but the percentage of females that grazed was higher in a third year. Percentages of female and male flies that fed on EFNs, cherry juice, and bird feces did not differ. More flies grazed the tops than bottoms of leaves. Flies also grazed on leaves of apple, pear, and grape. The results support the hypotheses that R. indifferens feeds mostly on leaves rather than fruit and that leaf surfaces may be the main feeding substrates for R. indifferens throughout the season.
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