How to get rid of fruit flies
Getting rid of the affected fruit will often make the problem go away. If not, here are some other things you can try.
Fri, Feb 24 2012 at 12:28 PM
FRUIT PEST: A fruit fly alights on a ripe blackberry in a thicket on a farm near Roseburg, Oregon. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Prime fruit fly season is usually ends in early fall, with the hard, cold weather disrupting their cycles. But with the mild winter, the disruption hasn’t come this year, leaving many with fruit fly problems inside their home.
These pesky little pests can be hard to remove and in order to get rid of them you must find out where they are living.
Identify the bugs
Ron Harrison, Orkin Pest Control’s technical director, says it’s important to correctly identify the right pest. “Fruit flies have black or red eyes, stay put when they land and are attracted to fermenting items in your kitchen including fruits, vegetables, alcohol or vinegar,” he says.
Next, find the source. In addition to fruit, you may find them on vegetables, in compost keepers, or any place at all that has sticky food residue at room temperature like cabinets or garbage bins.
Food combinations attractive
Even food stored properly can attract the pests, especially in combinations. “Potatoes and onions are more attractive to the black-eyed fruit fly when they are stored next to one another,” says Harrison, who earned his Ph.D in entomology.
Getting rid of the affected fruit immediately will often make the problem go away. “There is no need to waste the food. Fruit flies are harmless, little bits of protein,” says Harrison who recommends lightly scrubbing the surface of the food with a clean sponge and some water or removing the skin.
Freezing affected food items also kills the flies and allows you to keep the food. Eggs will not develop in a deep freeze so use this for kitchen compost as well. Churn compost often, putting soil on the top and remove it daily. Freeze it before you take it outside, especially during the in-between months where the contents don’t freeze or decompose quickly outside.
If simply removing the problem food or adjusting composting habits does not eliminate all the pests, leave a bowl with apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dishwashing soap on the counter. This will lure the fruit flies in and they will drown.
More humane options
For a more humane option, make a paper cone with a tiny opening, and put it pointy-side down into a jar with an overly ripe piece of fruit or peel at the bottom and leave it out overnight.
When the flies have been caught, you can take them outside, remove the paper and let them all go.
These traps may require a few days before catching all of them, but if the fruit flies are still there, consider getting a carnivorous Sun Dew plant. Popular with gardeners, these plants trap fruit flies on their sticky leaves and then eat them. In this way, the plants provide an ongoing solution for your fruit fly dilemma.
In addition to trapping the flies, you make your home an unwelcoming place for them in other ways.
Keep it in the fridge
The cold of the refrigerator is the best protection for new fruit and vegetables because it slows down the ripening of the fruit and the development of the flies. “As fruit ripens, it degrades, releasing ethanol which hatches or attracts the flies,” says Harrison. “Washing facilitates degradation, as does a warm room.”
If you still want to have fruit available on the counter, wash it well, keep it covered and eat it within a day.
In addition, you should get rid of all food items in trash cans and toss dishtowels in the wash immediately after use. Clear the garbage disposal with ice, run apple cider vinegar through the sink and invest in a kitchen fan to keep the flies away.
If after trying all these solutions the problem still persists, call in a professional. But beware of someone who comes in and starts spraying without a proper investigation of your home.
“If this is a reoccurring issue, then it may be the symptom of a bigger problem,” says Harrison. “Or, you may have a different kind of pest and not fruit flies at all.”
Have other thoughts on how to get rid of fruit flies? Leave us a note in the comments below.
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