Fruit flies require protein for reproductive development and actively feed upon protein sources in the field. Liquid protein baits mixed with insecticide are used routinely to manage pest fruit flies, such as Bactrocera tryoni (Froggatt). However, there are still some gaps in the underpinning science required to improve the efficacy of bait spray technology. The spatial and temporal foraging behaviour of B. tryoni in response to protein was investigated in the field. A series of linked trials using either wild flies in the open field or laboratory-reared flies in field cages and a netted orchard were undertaken using nectarines and guavas. Key questions investigated were the fly's response to protein relative to: height of protein within the canopy, fruiting status of the tree, time of day, season and size of the experimental arena. Canopy height had a significant response on B. tryoni foraging, with more flies foraging on protein in the mid to upper canopy. Fruiting status also had a significant effect on foraging, with most flies responding to protein when applied to fruiting hosts. B. tryoni demonstrated a repeatable diurnal response pattern to protein, with the peak response being between 12:00–16:00 h. Season showed significant but unpredictable effects on fruit fly response to protein in the subtropical environment where the work was undertaken. Relative humidity, but not temperature or rainfall, was positively correlated with protein response. The number of B. tryoni responding to protein decreased dramatically as the spatial scale increased from field cage through to the open field. Based on these results, it is recommend that, to be most effective, protein bait sprays should be applied to the mid to upper canopies of fruiting hosts. Overall, the results show that the protein used, an industry standard, has very low attractancy to B. tryoni and that further work is urgently needed to develop more volatile protein baits.