If you’ve ever kept ripe fruits on your counter or left dirty dishes in the sink for too long, there is a high chance that you’ve noticed the rising amount of tiny flies hovering about. These are usually known as fruit flies, or drosophila flies to geneticists. Although extremely useful in studying human genetics, fruit flies can prove to be a nuisance in the kitchen. If you’re tired of dealing with them or you’ve run out of options, continue reading to learn how you can get rid of fruit flies fast.
What Are Fruit Flies and Are They Dangerous?
The fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is a common sight in the spring or summer, when fruits and fresh produce are abundant.1 In the laboratory, drosophila flies are used to study the genetic model and have been part of numerous advances in human biology and evolutionary genetics.
But even though they’re extremely useful in scientific studies, fruit flies can still be extremely bothersome for homeowners. It’s important that you know the fruit fly’s life cycle to prevent accidentally bringing them into your home or even unknowingly providing them with an optimal environment to thrive in.
Fruit fly eggs are typically laid on the surface of fermenting or ripening fruits or vegetables. They can be found in drains, mops and other moist materials as well. After two to four days, these eggs hatch into larvae and proceed to eat the fruit from the surface to the core, leading to overripe portions.
These fruit fly larvae grow into adult flies in as little as seven days. A fruit fly’s lifespan lasts between 50 to 60 days, depending on the availability of food and other environmental factors.
Although fruit flies are pretty easy to differentiate from other insects, they can also be easily mistaken for gnats. To successfully identify whether you have a gnat or a fruit fly infestation, note that fruit flies have bright red eyes and a brown head, while gnats are purely black and have long legs.
While there is a misconception that fruit flies bite, these flies actually don’t have teeth or biting mouthparts. However, like other types of flies, fruit flies can carry a variety of bacteria, which can cause an allergic reaction when you come into contact with them.2
Where Do Fruit Flies Come From?
The sudden appearance of fruit flies in kitchens or pantries confuses a lot of homeowners, with some even believing that fruit flies just appear out of thin air. Fruit flies usually come from the outside, through inadequately screened doors or open windows. They can also be brought in by unsuspecting homeowners when they don’t see fruit fly eggs on the surface of their fresh produce.3
Fruit flies can also come from drains, garbage disposals and cleaning rags. As long as you have exposed surfaces with organic matter, fruit flies can proliferate at an alarming pace.
What Causes Fruit Flies to Invade Your Home?
The abundance of fruit flies in your home may be influenced by numerous factors that include hygiene and improper food storage. Some of the most common reasons why you’re getting invaded by fruit flies are leaving fresh produce or empty beer bottles exposed or just having moist surfaces where fruit flies can lay their eggs in.4 Other things that can attract fruit flies into your home include:5
• Uncovered garbage bins
• Dirty dishes
• Discarded soda cans or wine bottles
However, the fruit fly’s reliance on their olfactory senses can help you deter future infestations in your home by using scents that fruit flies hate. Some of these scents include eucalyptus, basil and camphor.6
How to Kill Fruit Flies
The first time you get fruit flies in your home, know that the risk of getting a fruit fly infestation increases ten-fold. Their breeding speed is extremely fast, with females being able to lay eggs after only 60 hours of life. But the good news is that there are numerous ways on how to get rid of fruit flies. Some of these include:
• Use an old-fashioned fly swatter. The most basic way to kill fruit flies is by swatting them with an old-fashioned fly swatter. Just make sure that you use a fly swatter that has smaller holes to keep them from escaping.7
• Make fruit fly traps using apple cider vinegar as bait. Making your own homemade fruit fly trap is the best way to get rid of an infestation. These traps work by attracting the flies into a container and eventually trapping them inside.
• Use a mixture of milk, sugar and pepper. Place this mixture in an area frequented by fruit flies to attract them, causing them to land in the liquid and drown.8
Eliminate Fruit Flies With a Homemade Trap
One of the easiest ways that you can get rid of fruit flies is by making a homemade trap. While there are traps available online or in stores, you can produce your own from common household materials. To help you with your fruit fly infestation, Natural Living Ideas has provided an easy-to-follow guide on how to trap fruit flies.9
Homemade Fruit Fly Trap
• 1 mason jar
• 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
• 1 piece of an overripe fruit
• 1 drop of dish soap
• Parchment paper or any paper
1. Heat the apple cider vinegar over medium heat and pour into a mason jar.
2. Drop the fruit piece and the dish soap into the mason jar.
3. Roll up the parchment paper into a funnel.
4. Put the funnel in the opening of the mason jar.
5. Wait for the fruit flies to swarm and get trapped in the liquid.
Tips on How to Prevent Fruit Flies From Raiding Your Home
A fruit fly infestation can be stopped even before it starts through proper hygiene and storage practices. There are also certain scents and materials that repel fruit flies and stop them from making your kitchen their home. Here are some tips to keep your kitchen free from these pests:10
• Eat, refrigerate or discard ripe fruits. Fruit flies are attracted to ripe or fermenting fruits, which can lead them to your kitchen. Make sure that when your fresh produce starts to ripen, you either eat them as soon as possible or discard them before fruit flies catch their scent.
• Keep your counters free of discarded fruits or other organic materials. Any discarded fruit peels or pieces of food should go straight to the garbage bin. Make sure that you keep your counters clean and your dishes are washed.11
• Dispose of your garbage regularly. Make sure that you regularly clean out your garbage cans to limit the amount of rotting food.
• Clean your drains well. Fruit flies only need a small amount of moist organic matter to lay eggs. Accidentally leaving a small amount of rotting food in the drain will attract fruit flies and can act as a breeding ground for them.12
• Sprinkle a bit of basil on your fruit basket. Fruit flies absolutely despise the smell of basil. By sprinkling a bit of dried basil on your fruit basket or on areas that are prone to fruit flies, you can lower the risk for fruit fly infestations.13
Living with fruit flies may be one of the most common woes of homeowners, especially if you’re a fan of fresh produce or if you cook your food at home. While fruit fly infestations may seem daunting, the key is to keep your kitchen clean and store your fruits and vegetables properly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Fruit Flies
Q: Do fruit flies bite?
A: No. Fruit flies lack teeth or biting mouthparts. However, the bacteria they carry with them can cause red spots on the skin due to an allergic reaction. These spots usually resemble bites, causing the common misconception that fruit flies bite.14
Q: How long do fruit flies live?
A: Fruit flies can live up to two months (60 days), depending on different environmental factors such as food supply and temperature.15
Q: Are fruit flies harmful?
A: Yes. While they don't bite, fruit flies can still carry a handful of harmful bacteria. These bacteria can then contaminate utensils or other materials that you use in the kitchen.16 There has also been an instance where fruit fly larvae have caused nasal myiasis, which is caused by flies directly laying eggs inside the nasal cavity.17
Q: What do fruit fly eggs look like?
A: Fruit fly eggs appear yellow under the microscope and look like small grains of rice. They are 1/2 millimeter in length and are usually found on the surface of fruits or any decaying organic material.18
Q: How do fruit flies get in your house?
A: Fruit flies could get inside your house through open windows or doors, especially when they smell exposed overripe fruits. There is also the possibility that you unknowingly brought in fresh produce where a fruit fly laid eggs on.
Q: What can repel fruit flies?
A: Fruit flies are repulsed by essential oils or strong smells. Sprinkling a bit of basil leaves in fruit baskets can repel fruit flies, and so do lavender oil and cedar balls. Fruit flies also hate the smell of incense and lemongrass.19
Q: How do you keep fruit flies away from bananas?
A: To keep fruit flies away from bananas (and other fruits), wash them thoroughly to get rid of any sticky substances from other rotting produce. This will also get rid of fruit fly eggs that may have snuck through the frontline of your grocery store.20