Fruit flies are some of the most common insects that invade our homes. As the name implies, these flies are attracted to overripe fruit or any sugary organic material. They also feed on decaying vegetables, as well as fermented beverages like soft drinks and beer. Populations tend to increase during summer, with fruit flies becoming very abundant at harvest time.
Signs of Fruit Fly Infestation
Fruit flies are easy to mistake for other insects. When not properly identified, you might apply ineffective methods to get rid of these pesky flies. Hence, it’s important that you know how to identify them when dealing with an infestation.
Adult fruit flies are about 3 to 4mm in size, including the wings. This is about 1/8th of an inch or at least 1/3rd the size of the housefly. In terms of appearance:
- These flying insects may have brick red eyes, albeit some are dark-eyed.
- The thorax takes on a yellow-brown color.
- There is a distinct black patch at the abdomen.
- Males tend to be shorter and have darker backs than their female counterparts.
- Furthermore, males also have claspers (spiky hairs) around reproductive parts, which are used to attach to females during mating.
The easiest way to identify fruit flies is by observing their behavior. Newly emerged adult males are attracted to light sources. On the other hand, egg-laying females will be seen hovering over overripe fruit, decaying vegetation, and unsanitary breeding sites like trashcans and damp mops.
Mature fruit fly larvae eventually emerge from breeding material to pupate, preferably on a dry spot that is close to the food source. The pupae are sometimes mistaken for cockroach droppings, but they can be identified easily by a pair or horns on the head.
Fruit Fly Facts
The fruit fly is not one specific insect but rather an entire group of different spices belonging to the Drosophila genus. Drosophilidae Melanogaster is the most dominant species of all fruit flies. It is also known as the Pomace or Vinegar fly.
- Melanogaster can live to about 30 days and usually goes through metamorphosis just like all insects. Females can produce up to 400 eggs throughout their life, laying about 5 at a time into empty liquor bottles, rotting vegetable matter, overripe fruit, or drains.
Once the eggs hatch, larvae emerge and start to feed on the surface of decaying or fermenting material. The resulting larvae can molt twice 48 hours after hatching and it takes about 4 to 5 days to pupate. Finally, the pupae undergo a 4 to 5 day metamorphosis, after which adult fruit flies emerge. From egg to adult, the entire lifecycle can take approximately 10 days. The development time can be even shorter under ideal conditions.
Fruit flies are ectothermic species, meaning that their development period generally varies with temperature. For instance, when there is an abundance of food and temperatures reach highs of 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees F), the average development time is about 8.5 days. After 8-12 hours of emerging, females become receptive to courting males. As a result, fruit flies tend to re-produce very rapidly.
Since fruit flies visit unsanitary areas like drains and garbage disposal sites quite frequently, they pose a serious health threat. They could potentially transfer disease-causing bacteria onto food. And once these unwelcome pests invade your home, restaurant, or food processing plant, they can be extremely difficult to get rid of. Fortunately, this goal can be achieved by using a multifaceted extermination approach.
With that in mind, this guide will share the various methods of controlling fruit fly populations, how to get rid of these buggers plus helpful tips to prevent them from coming back.
Ways to Control or Get Rid of Fruit Flies
Other than good weather, the arrival of summer brings with it delectable seasonal produce to delight your palate: sun-ripped strawberries, pineapples, mangoes, blueberries, peaches, and fresh, homegrown greens. However, pesky fruit flies always seem to find their way onto your farmer’s market stockpile even before you have had a chance to fully enjoy it. If you’re tired of these flies taking over your much-awaited seasonal produce, here are some of the tried and tested methods to eradicate them for good.
The cheapest and easiest way to reduce fruit fly populations is by using homemade traps. Traps are just a temporary solution because they won’t exterminate fruit fly eggs. When used properly; however, they will significantly reduce the adult population.
There are different types of fruit fly traps but they all share one basic premise. The goal is to lure as many fruit flies as possible using bait, trap them and kill the captured swam.
Here are two flytraps you can easily make with supplies found in your home:
- The Paper Funnel and Bait Trap
The only supplies you need to make this trap are a piece of paper that can be rolled into a funnel, tall jar or plastic bottle and some bait. To make the paper funnel and bait trap, proceed as follows:
Step 1: Find a tall plastic bottle and cut the narrow section at the top to turn it into a tall jar that has a wide opening. This will serve as the base for the trap.
Step 2: Add some bait to the jar. Now that we know fruit flies are drawn to anything sugary, you can concoct a plethora of baits. For instance, you can fill the jar halfway with overripe rotting fruit, red wine, soda, apple cider vinegar, honey, maple syrup, or even soy sauce.
Step 3: Roll a piece of paper to create a funnel, leaving a small hole that is large enough for the flies to squeeze into the jar. Ensure to leave one inch of clearance between the bait and funnel tip. Lastly, tape the funnel onto the jar’s mouth to ensure that there are no escape routes. Once fruit flies find their way into the jar, they won’t be smart enough to fly back out.
Step 4: Place the trap in a strategic location such as next to the trashcan or fruit bowl. Leave it overnight and check the trap after 24-hours for any captured flies. If your efforts did not yield any results even after placing the trap in a fly infested area, make sure that the funnel hole is big enough for the pesky buggers to fly in and repeat the process all over again.
Step 5: After trapping some fruit flies, take the trap outside to kill the pests. Remove the funnel and pour a mixture of warm water and soap into the bait. This will either kill any flies that are still buzzing or break the surface tension of water and cause them to drown.
Step 6: When done, dispose the killed flies and wash the jar with hot water. Refill the jar again with fresh bait and set up the trap to capture more fruit flies.
- The Fruit Bowl Trap
The fruit bowl trap is very similar to the previous method. The only difference is that you will use a bowl of bait covered with perforated plastic wrap to capture the flies.
Step 1: Start by filling a large to medium bowl with some sweet smelling concoction that fruit flies can’t resist. One good bait concoction that works is old, skinless fruit dipped in a mix of honey, sugar and balsamic vinegar.
Step 2: Cover the bowl with plastic food wrap. Use a large sized sheet to completely cover the bowl tightly around the edges.
Step 3: Poke the plastic wrap with a fork or toothpick to make small holes that allow fruit flies to enter the trap.
Step 4: Set the fruit bowl trap in an infested area and give it time to capture as many flies as possible. Finally, dispose any captured flies as described in the previous method and repeat.
Since fruit flies breed rather quickly, you might find yourself reusing the bait and trap methods several times. Homemade flytraps might also prove ineffective if you don’t create them well, and not to mention that they take time to work. If you want faster results, then try using methods that kill fruit flies instantly.
Ways to Kill Fruit Flies Instantly
When swarms of fruit flies make your home’s trashcan their hangout joint, you probably won’t have the patience of using a trap. And what better way to get instant results than using an effective insecticide that will drop those nasty flies dead in an instant?
When it comes to using fruity fly sprays, you can either make your own safer insecticide or buy a commercial product. Here are a few suggestions you might want to explore:
- Use a Commercial Bug Spray
There are different types of bug sprays you can use to rid your home of fruit flies. Pyrethrin is a common insecticide that comes in an aerosol can, which can be used as a bug spray. It kills fruit flies on contact but it won’t have any effect on the eggs. For high use consumers such as food processing plants, there are Pyrethrin dispensers that come with several aerosols.
As an alternative, consider using an insect grow regulator (IGR) spray. Such insecticides are known to prevent the complete development of flies. You can spray them on drains, trashcans and other areas where fruit flies are likely to lay eggs. This will prevent the larvae from developing into adult fruit flies.
Whatever bug spray you choose to use, make sure to follow the instructions on the label. Most of these insecticides contain toxic chemicals, so avoid spraying them directly over vegetables or other food preparations that may attract fruit flies.
- Create Your Own Homemade Fruit Fly Spray
Using a spray bottle, you can easily make your own fruit fly spray. Below are a couple of ingredients that can be used to make your homemade fruit fly spray.
- Concentrated Rubbing Alcohol
Compared to commercial pesticides, rubbing alcohol is far less poisonous. In fact, it serves as a good disinfectant. Simply fill a mist bottle with the alcohol and spray it directly on hovering fruit flies. They will drop dead almost instantly. For the best results, make sure to use 91% rubbing alcohol. This concentration may be slightly more expensive than the traditional 70% rubbing alcohol, but it is much more strong and effective.
- Plain Water
You don’t necessarily have to spray fruit flies with a lethal chemical to kill them. Instead, you can spray a swarm of flies with plain water from a squirt bottle. Plain water will not kill fruit flies, but it will dampen their wings so that they are unable to fly momentarily, allowing you to easily squash them without missing.
If you are dealing with a large fruit fly infestation that’s difficult to get under control, call a professional pest control company for assistance. Professional exterminators might employ industrial-grade pesticides or a stronger insecticide that will be more effective at eradicating the fruit flies.
Natural Fruit Fly Repellents
One way to keep fruit flies at bay is by making your home less appealing to the insects. This can be achieved by using natural repellents, which are much safer than chemical sprays.
Basil leaves are perhaps best known for their wide culinary uses, but they are also excellent at repelling fruit flies. Simply sprinkle a few leaves on fresh produce to keep fruit flies away. Rubbing on the leaves will release more scent. You can also place the basil leaves on windows, doors and other entry points that insects may use to invade your home.
Alternatively, try placing a sprig of rue adjacent to your fruit bowl. This herb gives off a strong aroma that is pleasant to humans but unbearable to fruit flies. Therefore, it will cause the insects to lose interest in your lovely fruit basket. As a word of caution, though, expectant mothers or women trying to conceive should stay away from rue since it contains aborfacient effects, meaning it may lead to miscarriages.
You can also use cedar balls or a sponge soaked in lavender oil to ward off fruit flies. Whatever natural repellant you decide to use, make sure that no one in the household is allergic to it.
Getting Rid of Fruit Fly Eggs
Traps, repellents and insecticides are all great ways to control a fruit fly infestation, but none of these methods will address the root cause of the problem. If you want to eradicate fruit flies from your home, then it is imperative to destroy their eggs.
As mentioned earlier, female fruit flies lay about 400 eggs or more. In optimal temperature conditions, laid eggs hatch into larvae within 30 hours. These larvae mature into adults in just over a week, with female fruit flies beginning to breed within hours of emerging. When fruit fly eggs go unnoticed, they will continue the cycle, giving rise to the next generation of flies. Consequently, getting rid of the eggs is critical or otherwise, you will have a recurring fly infestation problem on your hands.
- Step 1: Identify Breeding Grounds
The first step of getting rid of fruit fly eggs is knowing where the insects breed. This can be anywhere from a forgotten mop pail to dank sinks or poorly maintained trashcans. Ideally, fruit flies look for moist places with an abundance of food to lay their eggs. A few favorable spots include bowls of forgotten aging fruit, bits of rotten food trapped inside kitchen drains, or cans of soda and liquor in the garbage bin. Compost can also be a food source and favorable breeding ground for fruit flies.
Measuring about half a millimeter, fruit fly eggs can be hard to see with the naked eye. Simply check all of the previously mentioned spots for hovering insects. Once you have identified a breeding ground, it becomes easier to select the appropriate eradication method.
- Step 2: Discard any Potential Food/Breeding Sources
Some breeding sources can be discarded to deter fruit flies from laying eggs. For example, you might want to throw away old rags, mop heads, and sponges as these items provide favorable damp breeding spots for the flies. In addition, get rid of any forgotten overripe fruit before fruit flies get a chance to breed and perpetuate the infestation.
- Step 3: Wash the Garbage Bin Regularly
If you have discovered a lot of fruit fly activity around the trashcan area, there are a number of ways to discourage these pesky insects from laying additional eggs. To begin with, always rinse soda cans, beer bottles and other liquor containers with hot water before throwing them away in the bin. Residue spills from these items will only encourage fruit flies to make your trashcan their home. It also helps to disinfect the trashcan on a regular basis. Ensure that the receptacles have tightly shut lids as well to stop fruit flies from reaching potential food sources in discarded organic waste.
- Step 4: Clean the Kitchen Drain
Kitchen drains harbor lots of fruit fly eggs for a couple of reasons. The moist environment provides a perfect breeding ground and bits of food are easily trapped inside the drain. It is therefore vital to make sure that your kitchen drain is not behind the fruit fly problem. You can kill any eggs or larvae by pouring soapy boiling water down there. If that does not get the job done, consider using drain gel that is formulated to kill fruit fly eggs. You can buy one of these gels at your local pest control drug store or search online for a reputable brand. Bits of food tend to cling onto the drain hole, so remember to thoroughly scrub it with a brush.
Tips to Prevent Fruit Flies from Invading Your Home/Business Premises
After spending days or even weeks of trying all kinds of methods to get rid of fruit flies, it can be a relief when you finally don’t see the pesky insects hovering over produce in your home. But do not get too comfortable because you are not out of the woods. Even after ridding your home of fruit flies, an infestation could easily reoccur. To ensure that this does not happen, here are a few handy tips that will help you to prevent fruit flies from re-invading your home, restaurant or food processing business premises.
- Wipe down all spills, especially sugary beverages like fruit juice, soda and wine. Never overlook spills behind the refrigerator, oven or any other stationary kitchen appliances because they provide the perfect hidden breeding ground for fruit flies.
- When buying fruits, don’t be afraid to be very picky. One bad fruit can spoil the entire bunch quite quickly and not to mention the fact that it can bring in fruit fly eggs from the farmer’s market. In addition, make a habit of storing fresh produce in the refrigerator instead of open spaces at room temperature. This will ensure that there are no food sources to attract fruit flies. There won’t be any breeding activity either because fresh produce last longer when refrigerated and fruit flies can’t thrive at such low temperatures.
- Don’t leave fruits to rot on trees in your yard or close by to your home. Instead, pick the fruit as soon as it ripens. If there is any glut that falls off the branches, rake it away as soon as possible to discourage fruit flies from breeding just outside your house.
- Keep using natural repellents to deter fruit flies from entering your home. Essential oils from eucalyptus, lemongrass, and even peppermint are all good replants that will keep fruit flies away. Simply apply these replants to high-prone infestation areas or entry points such as trashcans, windows, and door screens.
It is important to point out that fruit flies can invade even the cleanest of homes. The reason for this is that many outdoor attractants exist, which can draw these insects closer to and eventually inside your home. Therefore, the prevention methods shared above are not just for those who have dealt with an infestation before, but also for anyone who wants to keep fruit flies at bay.