If only saying, “Shoo, fly, shoo!” was enough to banish these annoying little pests, things would be a lot simpler. But how do you really get rid of fruit flies? It takes a mix of old-fashioned cleaning, things found in your kitchen, flytraps, and sprays.
Before you start eliminating these tiny, flying insects from your home, though, make sure what you’re seeing is truly a fruit fly. These pests are often confused with gnats and drain flies, and fending off an infestation targeting the wrong bug won’t do you as much good.
Tan-colored with red eyes, fruit flies only reach 3 to 4 millimeters in length and tend to congregate around ripe and rotting fruit, as their name suggests. So, if you see a crowd of minuscule, winged critters flitting about your kitchen, it’s probably safe to say you have fruit flies on your hands.
How Fruit Flies Get in the House
Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, fruit flies are not easily hindered from entering your home — even many screens can’t keep them out. And the only invitation they need? A whiff of ripening fruit or veggies, or open containers of juice, wine, or beer.
There are two main families of fruit flies — tephrititdae (large fruit flies) and drosophilidae (common fruit flies). In all, these two families have about 9,000 different species, some feasting on many fruits, but most specializing on just one. They thrive on six of the seven continents (count your blessings, Antarctica). They show up in hordes in summer and early fall, when seasonal produce begins to rot.
They inhabit homes and grocery stores, vineyards, and gardens. In homes, the kitchen draws the most fruit flies, but these tiny pests also go wherever they sense fermenting grub. Bring a glass of wine to your bedroom? There’s a chance a fruit fly will follow. Display a bowl of apples in your living room? Flies will find those, too.
More than simple nuisances, fruit flies can potentially spread bacteria and diseases through contaminated foods.
Fermenting fruit — in a fruit bowl on your island or in a can awaiting recycling — provides the perfect breeding grounds for these pests. According to Oklahoma State University’s department of entomology and plant pathology, each female fruit flies can lay 500 eggs on these surfaces. So left undeterred, fruit flies can multiply into a huge problem.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
To thwart an impending infestation and get current invaders to skedaddle, you can implement various methods of pest control. Let’s take a look at some natural solutions, such as house cleaning, as well as chemical options.
Natural solutions for getting rid of fruit flies
Besides sanitizing kitchen surfaces and floors, it’s also important to remove all unrefrigerated produce. You should also empty garbage cans daily, disinfect drains, rinse recyclables thoroughly, and wring out mops and washcloths, so they dry completely. Doing so eliminates breeding sites, so fruit flies can’t reproduce. Other methods include:
1. Fruit fly traps. You can purchase pesticide-free, ready-made versions from retailers or concoct your own. The Michigan State University Extension recommends the following DIY trap: Pour apple cider vinegar into several small glasses or jars — about two-thirds full. Add a drop or two of dishwashing soap to the vinegar and mix around. Tightly place plastic wrap atop the glasses, and using a toothpick, punch about a dozen holes into the plastic. Then, put the glasses where you’ve seen fruit flies gather. The vinegar smell will draw them in, and they’ll get stuck inside by the soap and drown. Empty and repeat, as necessary.
2. Essential oils. To deter fruit flies from swarming, certain essential oils act as a natural repellent. Of 12 oils tested, peppermint oil was the most effective, repelling 95 percent of fruit flies for up to six days after the initial application. Other oils that either successfully repelled — or killed — fruit flies include geranium, thyme, lavender, ginger, and eucalyptus oils.
Chemical solutions for getting rid of fruit flies
Pesticides should always be a last resort, as they contain toxins that may also be harmful to people and pets. That being said, bug spray can kill adult fruit flies that missed the apple cider vinegar traps or are in the 5% of flies not fazed by the oils.
If you spray an aerosol pesticide indoors, make certain it’s intended for indoor use. These are typically made with pyrethrin, a component of the chrysanthemum flower. In conjunction with eliminating breeding sources, the insecticide can kill off the remaining adult pests.
Do Fruit Flies Bite?
People often wonder whether fruit flies bite. They don’t. Fruit flies are toothless. They cannot bite humans, nor anything else for that matter. So, instead of chewing their meals — fermenting foods and drinks — they suck them up through their mouth hooks.
Fruit Fly Life Cycle
As students who participated in biology lab can tell you, the life cycle of a fruit fly is superfast:
- Eggs hatch in about a day and become adults in eight to 10 days.
- Birth to adulthood takes about a week.
- Upon reaching adulthood, they reproduce within 24 to 48 hours.
- Fully grown fruit flies can live 25 to 30 days, as long as conditions are right.
- In the winter, freezing temperatures will kill adult flies and eggs.
- Some adults avoid this fate by hibernating in unharvested fruit, emerging when spring returns, beginning the cycle anew. In your kitchen.
When to Call in the Pros
If the DIY remedies aren’t doing the trick, that probably means you haven’t been able to locate and destroy the fruit flies’ breeding sites. And unless you get rid of those, you’ll always see new flies popping up in your home, no matter how much you clean, trap, and spray.
Enter the pest control professionals. They’ll inspect your home, locate fruit fly breeding grounds, and create a plan to eliminate them.
All that will be left for you to do is focus on prevention. Thoroughly and consistently clean surfaces (especially in the kitchen), buy fruits and vegetables in smaller quantities, and refrigerate all produce. Stick with these methods, and keeping your home fruit fly-free will be a cinch.
Main Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public domain