Often no larger than the size of a pin, fruit flies can be one great big nuisance! While there are few sights more appealing than that of a bowl of home-grown organic produce on a kitchen counter or dining table, to see that same picture interrupted with a halo of buzzing insects feeding on your hard work will ruin anyone’s appetite. Yuck!
Thankfully, these pests are typically brought on by a few bad habits of our own doing. Most common in the summer and fall months, we usually find fruit flies anywhere we have left out produce. Indoors or outside in the garden, be they scraps we intend to compost or whole fruits and vegetables we have put out to ripen, the scent will attract fruit flies and they will begin making a meal.
However, with a bit of research and trial and error, we have discovered a few tricks for reducing our fruit fly population on the farm. We hope our experiences are useful for you as well! By breaking just a handful of poor habits and taking a few precautionary measures, you should be able to begin ridding your home and garden of fruit flies.
Dealing with a Fruit Fly Problem
One incredibly common way that fruit flies are introduced into the home or garden is through contamination via grocery store or similar produce. It is very common when you purchase produce at most grocery stores for it to contain an extra free gift of a fruit fly or ten. If you happen to plant this produce (like regrowing a green onion, for example) you will inevitably have a crop with fruit flies from the start.
Even if you do not plant the store-bought fruit or vegetable, bringing a contaminated food item home means that the bug(s) are now in your home as well. Therefore, when receiving produce, be sure to inspect it.
Identifying Fruit Flies
Fruit flies range from one- to three-sixteenths of an inch in length. They have tan or yellow heads and dark to black bodies. Fruit flies also have very short natural life spans. They breed in moist, dark places in damp, decaying matter. They have been known to breed in a wide variety of places. Due to this, total removal can be very difficult if they are allowed to become established. On the other hand, if you deny fruit flies a place to breed, they will quickly die out.
Preventing & Getting Rid of Fruit Fruit Flies
Refrigerate Produce and Compost Scraps
To begin, you will want to refrigerate all produce. This will effectively deny the flies access to the foods they love. Additionally, the flies are likely living in or under your sink, on your mop, and in other similarly damp places. But moving all produce inside your refrigerator will save it from becoming a feast for the flies, at least for the time being. If you have noticed that the flies have already begun attacking any produce, throw it away.
Seal Your Kitchen Compost (Really Well!)
If you are composting (as you should be), consider using a composting crock, which is a container with a sealed lid that that stands next to where you prepare your food in the kitchen. Whenever you’re cooking, you can put your scraps for compost in the crock, and they’ll be protected from any contamination. This is one excellent way to continue composting while fighting the fruit flies.
Watch What You Put in the Trash
If you are not currently composting (and why not?), and your garbage scraps contain banana peels or citrus rinds – both of which are especially tasty to fruit flies – consider placing just these items in a sandwich bag or reusable container and freezing them until it is garbage day. This will reduce the ap-peel of your trash immensely! And speaking of trash cans, upgrading to ones with tightly-fitting lids, along with keeping all trash cans and surrounding areas clean of debris, is an additional step that will help cut down on all kind of bugs, including fruit flies.
Keep Your Kitchen Clean
This tip may be a bit obvious, but thoroughly cleaning and drying all kitchen food preparation and work surfaces after cooking is an often overlooked step in the fight against fruit flies. Since flies require moisture for breeding, we need to remember to reduce the number of damp areas we provide.
In addition, it may surprise you how far crumbs can travel! It is always a good idea to clean more thoroughly than you think you need to if you are trying to get rid of any type of insect. More than likely, there could be food somewhere you may have missed.
If you recycle, be sure to wash out all containers before placing in their respective recycling bins. Residual yogurt, soda, fruit juice, applesauce, pudding, and similar sticky, sweet treats are exactly what attracts fruit flies.
One of the ways fruit flies could be entering your home is via the sink’s drain. To check this, place a piece of plastic wrap over the drain overnight. In the morning check for flies. If you have found flies in your drain, you can clear the drain of organic matter by using an organic drain cleaner such as this enzymatic cleaner. Also, maintain garbage disposal health by running the disposal frequently with a combination of baking soda and salt. Then, pour in an equal portion of white vinegar.
Using Scents to Repel Fruit Flies
Various scents attract or conversely repel fruit flies, including mint (attract), lavender (repel), basil (attract) and thyme (attract). The flies, of course, are also attracted to apple cider vinegar, beer and wine, and the reflection of plastic wrap. You can utilize this knowledge to set traps for the fruit flies.
Making a Vinegar Trap
A vinegar trap is made by pouring a small amount, about a half-inch, of apple cider vinegar (or beer or wine) into a small round jar. Once that’s ready, roll a half of a sheet of regular paper into a cone with a small opening at one end. Then, simply place the cone halfway down into the jar. The flies should be attracted by the fermentation smell of the liquid, fly down the cone into the jar, and then they cannot figure out how to fly back up the cone. A human can carry the jar outdoors to remove the cone and let the surviving flies free. The trick to this trap is that the cone must seal at the jar’s inner edge. By using a small amount of oil, it can help the seal.
We all know flies are disgusting, but the fact is, they are a part of every gardener’s – and chefs! – life. We practice all of the above advice. We keep as clean of a kitchen and food preparation areas as possible, we do not store produce outside of the refrigerator for lengths of time, we cover our (minimal) garbage, wash out our recycling, and seal our food scraps. But still, whenever the season is right and we have the most abundant produce and are working hardest in the kitchen, the fruit flies will come. The trick is to make sure they don’t linger. If you can manage that much and keep your sanity, you are doing ok by us. Sometimes, growing your own delicious food just means sharing it with a few darn flies.