Abstract Adult diet is an important determinant of sexual activity in many tephritid fruit flies. Whether availability of protein (hydrolysed yeast) in addition to sucrose influences sexual activity or longevity of male and female Queensland fruit flies (Bactrocera tryoni Froggatt, ‘Q-flies’), and whether irradiation of flies as pupae modifies their dietary needs, is investigated. Previous studies on groups of flies suggest that protein is required for sexual maturation of females but not males. By contrast, this study of individual flies demonstrates that protein in the adult diet provides a massive boost to sexual activity of both males and females. Mating probability increases with age from 4-14 days as the flies began to mature. However, mating probability reaches much higher levels when the flies are provided with protein. Although males and females mate at similar rates when provided with protein, females suffer a greater reduction in mating probability than males when deprived of protein. In addition to increased mating probability, access to dietary protein is also associated with reduced latency from onset of dusk until copulation. Furthermore, young male flies with access to dietary protein have longer copula duration than males fed only sucrose. Irradiation of flies as pupae has no apparent effect on mating probability, the latency to copulate or copula duration. However, when deprived of protein, sterile flies (especially males) suffer a greater reduction in longevity compared with fertile flies. Overall, access to dietary protein increases longevity for both males and females, although females live longer than males on both diets. These findings suggest that prerelease provision of dietary protein has the potential to greatly enhance the efficacy of Q-flies used in the sterile insect technique.