Poisoned protein baits comprise a recognized method for controlling tephritid fruit flies in the form of a ‘lure-and-kill’ technique. However, little is known about how a fly's internal protein and carbohydrate levels (i.e. nutritional status) might influence the efficacy of this control. In the present study, the relationships between the internal levels of protein (as measured by total body nitrogen) and carbohydrate (as measured by total body carbon) of the fruit fly Bactrocera tryoni (Froggatt) (Diptera: Tephritidae) are investigated, as well as its foraging behaviours in response to protein, fruit and cue-lure (a male-specific attractant) baits. Small cage behavioural experiments are conducted using flies from cultures of different nutritional status and wild flies sampled from the field during the fruiting cycle of a guava crop. For female flies, increasing total body nitrogen is correlated with decreased protein foraging and increased oviposition activity; increasing total body carbon levels generate the same behavioural changes except that the oviposition response is not significant. For males, there are no significant correlations between changes in total body nitrogen and total body carbon and protein or cue-lure foraging. For wild flies from the guava orchard, almost all of them are sexually mature when entering the crop and, over the entire season, total body nitrogen and total body carbon levels are such that protein hunger is unlikely for most flies. The results infer strongly that the requirements of wild, sexually mature flies for protein are minimal and that flies can readily gain sufficient nutrients from wild sources for their physiological needs. The results offer a mechanistic explanation for the poor response of male and mature female fruit flies to protein bait spray.