Who doesn’t love a basket of fresh fruit on the counter? The reds, golds and greens liven up the kitchen with a splash of color, and the delicate scents are an olfactory pleasure.
No one decorates like Mother Nature. But as appealing as her bounty is to you, it’s even more attractive to drosophila melanogaster — the common fruit fly.
Once entrenched, these perennial pests are a constant nuisance. And what they do to your fruit is the stuff of nightmares.
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Thankfully, there are ways to get rid of fruit flies fast without having to flypaper the kitchen walls or resort to chemical pesticides. But first, you need to know more about the enemy.
Identifying Fruit Flies
Not every winged insect in the kitchen is a fruit fly. Proper identification is a must.
Fruit flies are tiny. They’re only an eighth of an inch long — about a third the size of a housefly — and they vary in color from translucent yellow to deep brown.
But what sets them apart from other species is a pair of flaming red eyes and a disorganized flight pattern that frustrates even the fastest fly swatter. They flit around, seemingly without purpose, but don’t let them fool you.
What attracts fruit flies?
Fruit flies are attracted to soft, ripe fruit. The fermenting organic material is perfect for eating, and it also provides a nutrient base for their many eggs.
Drosophila melanogaster can smell a meal from almost a mile away. A basket of fruit on the counter is an obvious target, but fruit flies are also drawn to the vinegar-like smell of rotting fruit in your sink disposal and garbage can.
How long do fruit flies live?
Fruit flies only live 10–12 days. The problem is the 50 – 100 eggs each female lays per day in the flesh of soft fruit.
Eggs hatch into larvae in about a week, and four days later, new adult flies emerge. Forty-eight hours after, they’re ready to mate.
Are fruit flies harmful?
Fruit flies don’t bite, but they can carry disease-causing bacteria on their legs. The risk is low, but because eggs embedded in the fruit are rarely visible, it’s easy to eat them.
Always wash fruit first.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
It takes a well-planned attack to remove fruit flies once and for all. Anything less isn’t enough to stem the tide.
Using pyrethrin insecticide spray is one option, or you can make a natural spritz from rubbing alcohol or ammonia. But beware — sprays are messy, and relief is temporary because they kill only adult flies, not their eggs.
The simplest and cleanest way to remove fruit flies is to set traps. With the right bait, they’re irresistible.
Setting the Stage
Traps are most successful when there is no other food available for fruit flies to eat. So put the apples in the refrigerator and bag the bananas.
Wipe down the counters to remove any fruit odors, but don’t use vinegar to clean. It smells too much like fermenting fruit.
Take the trash out and commit to double-bagging fruit and vegetable peels before throwing them away until the flies are gone. Run some baking soda and ice through your disposal to reduce sweet odors.
Making a Homemade Fruit Fly Trap
Fruit fly traps can be purchased, but DIY versions are cheaper and just as effective. One of these three options should do the trick.
The Wine Bottle Fruit Fly Trap
A little red wine in the bottom of a long neck bottle attracts fruit flies. Once they’re in, they’re as prone to the effects of alcohol as humans, and they have a tough time getting out.
If it seems like a poor use of good wine, console yourself with a glass first. Refresh the trap every few days.
The Apple Cider Vinegar Fruit Fly Trap
Put a half cup of warm apple cider vinegar in a glass jar and top it with a few drops of dishwashing detergent.
Roll a piece of paper into a tight cone and use it to form a funnel down to the liquid. The narrow end gives flies little room for escape while the soap breaks the surface tension of the vinegar, so they drown easily.
The Fruit Trap
Nothing speaks to fruit flies like fruit, so why not use it to your advantage? As bait, it’s almost impossible to resist.
Start with a Mason jar and a standard metal lid with small holes punched in it — holes that are too large allow flies to escape. If you don’t want to waste a cap, you can use a disposable piece of plastic wrap held in place with a rubber band.
Load the jar with a quarter cup of something sweet and sticky like honey or maple syrup, and then add overripe fruit of your choice. Bananas are a favorite.
Traps made with fruit don’t require reloading. The more fermented the fruit gets, the more the flies like it. Set two or three of these traps around the kitchen and watch your fly problem disappear.
Fruit flies are as normal a part of summer as sunshine and beach sand, but you don’t want to put out a welcome mat for them. Keeping your summer produce refrigerated and kitchen odors under control is usually all it takes to prevent an infestation.
But if they do come knocking again, relax. You’re prepared.