What You Must Know About Fruit Flies
How to Keep Fruit Flies out of Your House
Fruit flies are those tiny insects that travel in swarms and hover around fruit. You may have seen them in grocery stores, and I have certainly seen them in Whole Foods and some of the other high-end markets. Merriam-Webster defines fruit flies as:
". . . any of various small dipteran flies (as a drosophila) whose larvae feed on fruit or decaying vegetable matter."
That pretty much says it. Fruit flies feed on and lay their eggs in fruit. They are sometimes called gnats, but they are only cousins to gnats (who are equally annoying). Both species are dipteran flies, both are tiny and annoying, but it is the fruit fly that you will find in your kitchen. If it can happen to Whole Foods, it can happen to you. This article will educate you as to what fruit flies are and most importantly, how you can get rid of them in a way that won't poison your family.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
- Take everything apart and clean every surface with soap and water.
- Remove everything from your countertops (my fruit flies were breeding under my fruit display). Don't bother doing anything else until you have done this step.
- Put every dishcloth and towel in the washer. Never leave a wet dishcloth laying around.
- Wipe the moisture from your sink, at least until the infestation is gone.
- Remember: As tiny as fruit flies are, the eggs are even tinier! Get rid of them!
I Had Fruit Flies in My Kitchen
Many years ago, I lived in a tenement apartment in northern New Jersey. My refrigerator broke, and the landlord bought a new one, but I didn't remove the old one. I cleaned out the old one, shut the door, and tried to ignore it until the day it would disappear.
A couple of weeks later (I had a really bad landlord), I noticed little black things flying around the living room. I swatted at them and forgot about them, until there were more. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out where they were coming from. Then one day, I noticed that there were a few around the old fridge, so I opened the door. I am not going to horrify you with what I found in there, but the mystery was solved. Hint:
- You cannot ever, no matter what you do or use, truly clean everything out of an old refrigerator.
- Closing the door of an abandoned refrigerator will create an atmosphere that is even more conducive to fruit fly breeding. It's better to leave the door open.
I use vinegar in my carpet shampoo so that our elderly dogs can't smell themselves and think the carpet is the place to go potty. So naturally, when I went to ruthlessly clean every spot on the counter, I was going to use vinegar to make it extra clean. I didn't, thank goodness. I later learned that vinegar is often used in fruit fly traps to attract them! I would have actually increased the population! After I cleaned, the fruit flies were gone—for a day. Looks like I had more to learn.
Tips for Displaying Fruit
Clean fruit with soap and water. Do not leave it out more than a day or two tops. Fruit fly eggs can come home with you from the store (even the best stores can have fruit fly eggs on their fruit).
How to Build Fruit Fly Traps
You can buy traps, but frankly, they are easy to make. Here's how:
Method #1: Fruit Fly Trap Using Jar and Funnel
- Get a jar and a funnel (metal or make one from paper).
- Put your bait on the bottom.
- Put the funnel on top and watch the flies gather for their last party.
Method #2: Fruit Fly Trap Using Plastic Soda Bottle
- Get a 2-liter plastic soda bottle.
- Cut the top off about 2/3rds of the way up.
- Put the bait in.
- Take the top of the bottle sans bottle cap, and put it upside down in the bottom of the bottle to create a funnel.
How to Make Fruit Fly Bait
This recipe is genius because it has the attraction factor and a poison so you don't have to wait for the flies to die or decide what to do with them after they are trapped. Here's how to make fruit fly bait:
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and 1/2 of a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid.
- Mix gently to avoid creating lots of bubbles.
- Set the bowl in a fly-prone area, and watch them die!
The Pros and Cons of Fruit Fly Traps
My research has found both pros and cons to fruit fly traps. The biggest pro is that the traps work. The biggest con is that fruit fly traps can also become a breeding ground. While removing the feeding source will have the adults dropping like flies, the eggs are tougher. They will last long enough to hatch and fly the next day.
To make traps more effective, remove the bait each day. Put it in the garbage disposal, and if it's liquid, pour it down the sink (with some bleach). Just don't think that you can use the same bait for the whole duration of the project. Fruit flies have a lifespan of 10 days—that is a long time.
Fruit Fly Trap Assembly
Do Fruit Flies Carry Diseases or Bite?
My research says, "no." You may feel like fruit flies bite, but that is probably a psychological reaction that is common when one is in contact with or even thinks about swarms of insects.
As for diseases, fruit flies have actually been called the foe of disease, and many are used in emerging medical research. According to Alexander Maye from the University of Hamburg, fruit flies exhibit spontaneity. These insects, although annoying, maybe less pesty than we think. No, the ones you trap will not be used for science, but the species is human-friendly!
What Do You Do With Trapped Fruit Flies?
What do you do with fruit flies after you get rid of their breeding ground and trap them? Some people actually advocate for taking them outdoors and letting them go! I thought that was nuts, even when I knew that the flies were basically harmless. So, should you let your captives go? Share your opinion.