Monday, July 16, 2007

Apple #254: Fruit Flies

A friend of mine asked me a long time ago to do an Apple about fruit flies. I hesitated, thinking the subject might be too disturbing and icky. But, he said, maybe there's some way you can get them out of your kitchen that would be good to know about.

So finally I looked into it. And he was right. There is a little trick to get rid of them that seems pretty simple. I haven't tried it myself so I can't say whether it works. Maybe I'll give it a shot and report on my findings later.

In the meantime, here are a few details about the pesky things and some suggested remedies:

I know you've seen fruit flies hovering over fruit before. But come to think of it, I can't think of any still life paintings of fruit that include the fruit flies . . .
(Image from the Discovery channel's The Skinny On...)

  • You've probably seen fruit flies in the produce section of the grocery store, hovering over the apricots, and they've probably come home with you and taken up residence in your kitchen.
  • Fruit flies like over-ripe fruits and vegetables. That includes things like bananas, apricots, melons, grapes, squash, even produce that you would think might be too tough for the little buggers, including potatoes and onions.
  • They also like yeasty and alcoholic things like beer, wine, vinegar, cider, and even soft drinks.
  • The fruit fly likes vinegar so much, they're even sometimes called vinegar flies.
  • They like to eat produce, but they also like to lay their eggs in it. I know, this is the gross part.
  • Fortunately, they lay their eggs at the surface of the food. When the eggs hatch, the young eat the fruit nearby, but again, only at the surface. This means you can cut away the over-ripe portions of food and the remainder will have been untouched by the fruit flies.
  • Once you've thrown away the bad part of the produce, the fruit flies will continue to survive in your trash can. They can reproduce like mad -- they have to, since they only live for about a week -- so the potential for your trash can to become a fruit fly haven is quite real.

However, getting rid of the fruit flies can also be fairly easy. In this case, their short life span works to your advantage.
  • Throw out over-ripe or rotting produce.
  • Clean out your trash can or in-sink disposal or other drains as best you can.

Wouldn't it be nice if your kitchen sink ever looked this clean?
(Photo from Nosumo's blog entry about remodeling her kitchen)

  • If you still can't get the bugs out of your drain, there's a product called Drain Gel that destroys the film of organic material at the bottom of your drains where the fruit flies are reproducing. Since it costs $19.95 per quart, this is probably suitable for restaurants and larger places of business.
  • You can use a variety of pesticides, but this is not my favorite method because I don't like the idea of using pesticides in the kitchen.
  • You can also use bug zappers or those sticky flypaper strips.
However, my favorite method for catching fruit flies is the home-made trap:

(Drawing from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture)

    • Pour a little cider vinegar or diluted honey or into the bottom of a jar.
    • Roll up a sheet of notebook paper into a cone and place in the mouth of the jar.
    • That's it. The fruit flies will find the cider vinegar and fly into the jar, but they won't be smart enough to be able to figure out how to get out again.
    • You can either kill them once they're in the jar or release them outside.

Another trap is just as simple and may work even better:
    • Coat the inside of a jar with diluted honey or corn syrup or some other sticky liquid.
    • Invert the jar and place it on top of two pieces of wood or something to keep some space between the jar and the surface of your counter or table.
    • Place a banana or some other sweet & fruity goody at the base of the open jar.
    • Fruit flies will find the bait, fly into the jar, and then get stuck on the gooey sides of the jar.
    • Wait about a week to ten days and they'll all be stuck dead. Discard the jar.


Michael F. Potter, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Entomology, Fruit Flies, January 1994
Professional Pest Control Products, Fruit Flies
Metro, Fact Sheet, Fruit (Vinegar) Fly
Hannah Holmes, The Skinny On . . . Where Fruit Flies Come From
Wendy Boswell, Lifehacker, Get rid of fruit flies with a soda bottle trap, July 8, 2007


  1. Hi Apple Lady,

    I'm glad you did this blog about those pesky fruit flies. About cleaning the garbage's a good product that Mark & I use.

    It's called Plink, and it comes in a little case that sort of looks like birth control.


  2. Thanks for the extra tip, Jarred!


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