Bye Bye Flies: How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

by Michael Franco
Using stick tape to catch fungus gnats infesting a plant.

Super-sweet bananas. Juicy, ripe oranges. Crisp sweet-tart apples. All are delicious treats for humans, but unfortunately, we're not the only ones who like a good piece of fruit. Fruit flies like to get in on the action, too — as any homeowner who leaves overripe fruit lying around on the counter will quickly find out.

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Luckily, getting rid of these tiny, annoying pests is a pretty simple process. But first …

Where Do Fruit Flies Come From?

If you've ever had to deal with a fruit fly problem in your kitchen, it may seem like the little pests simply emerge from thin air. In fact, fruit flies enter your home either from the outdoors or from infested fruit (and other foods) you bring home from the grocery store. They can also breed in sink drains that are not kept clean.

The adult flies tend to become most active in early spring, a time during which they lay their eggs in overripe fruit. These eggs, in turn, hatch larvae, which feed on the fruit, and they undergo metamorphosis and become the buzzing annoyances that many homeowners are familiar with in about a week's time. While it can be possible to see the larvae in infected fruit, sometimes the wormlike creatures take on the color of the fruit they are feeding on, so they are effectively camouflaged.

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How Can I Get Rid of Fruit Flies?

If you should find yourself unwittingly playing host to a family of fruit flies, the best first step is to get rid of the food on which they are feeding. This will generally be the most overripe fruit in the kitchen (bananas tend to be a particular favorite), but fruit flies will also feel at home taking over old bread, rotting potatoes, onions and other vegetables. A juice spill or glass with a bit of wine left behind can also draw the insects. Basically, once any organic material has begun to ferment, the odor will attract fruit flies, who find the lactic acid produced to be a real treat.

Remember that the source of food for the flies might be some trapped gunk in your drain or garbage disposal, so if there are no obviously fermenting foods or spills around that might be attracting them, you'll want to pay attention to your drain. To see if it's the source of the flies, you can cover it with a clear plastic bag overnight. If the bag has flies in it the next morning, you've found the source and should do a thorough drain cleanout.

This can be easily accomplished by pouring a mix of boiling water down the drain. For a bit more gunk-busting power, add some baking soda and vinegar using a 1-1 mix. If you have a garbage disposal, throwing in some chopped citrus peels and ice cubes can help the cleaning process along.

Once the source of the fruit flies has been eliminated, you might still find that you have flies

around for several more days. To get rid of them for good, you can make a homemade trap.

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How to Make Fruit Fly Traps

Basically, what you want to do is create an inviting source of food that draws the insects into an environment from which they can't escape.

One way to do this is simply to cover a beer or wine bottle with some leftover alcohol inside using cling film with holes poked through. You can also make a bigger trap by using a mason jar covered with perforated cling film. Inside the jar, you can use apple cider vinegar to attract the bugs. You can also use balsamic or red wine vinegar, but avoid white vinegar because it's not high on the fruit flies' list of dietary preferences. If you don't have any cling film, simply roll up a sheet of paper (wax paper works best) into a funnel shape and put it on top of the container.

If you don't want to make an enclosed trap, you might find it even easier to put a dish or shallow bowl on the counter filled with water, apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. The vinegar will attract the flies and, because the soap breaks the surface tension of the water, when the flies land, they drown.

If you prefer a store-bought solution, there are a range of sticky traps and pesticides that will get the job done, but considering how easy it is to trap the flies on your own, you might choose to save money by going with the homemade option.

How Do I Prevent Fruit Flies From Returning?

If you've won your battle with the fruit flies, you certainly want to make sure they don't return. The best way to do this, of course, is to keep your drains and garbage disposal clean, wipe up spills quickly and refrain from leaving perishable foods out in the open to the point that they begin to ferment. In fact, it's a good idea to store as much of your fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator as possible. You'll also want to wash fruits when you get them home and remove any bruised sections to be sure that there are no fruit fly larvae hitching a ride. Finally, be sure to keep any composting containers and trash cans closed with tight-fitting lids.

While they can sometimes transmit disease, a fruit fly infestation is actually not a major threat to your health. Plus, it's one of the easier pest problems to deal with — or prevent — on your own with some commonsense hygiene. Now go enjoy those bananas before it's too late!

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