How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
Do the fruit flies always beat you to the fruit bowl? Once they settle in, these uninvited guests know how to overstay their welcome. Here are a few quick, easy and environmentally friendly ways to rid your home of those pesky fruit flies.
Remove food sources attracting the flies
If you have a constant fruit fly problem, a little bit of effort will go a long way to getting rid of the fruit flies. By removing any trace of detectable food sources from the fruit flies, they’ll be compelled to visit somewhere else.
- Clean your vegetables at a makeshift cleaning station outside of your home. Leave the old bags outdoors and place vegetables in a new container or bag before bringing them into your home. It’s also best to place the vegetables in the refrigerator after cleaning them again in the house sink.
- Do not toss food garbage into wastepaper baskets.
- Cover your fruit bowl or store fruit in the refrigerator. Raisins, dates and prunes are favorite attractants.
- Use or discard all overripe fruit. Rotting fruit left out in bowls and containers is an invitation to breed fruit flies.
- Clean opened containers of fruit juice, fermented or vinegar products. This includes ketchup, saccharin sauce or cooking wine. Seal well and keep them in the refrigerator if possible. Flies love such items.
- Put new soft fruit in a brown bag. This helps it ripen, but also keeps the fruit flies away from the easiest targets. They will have more difficulty with harder skinned fruit that you can leave out.
- Don’t keep any vegetable or meat scraps in the garbage can inside your home. Place your vegetable scraps in a bag or freezer bag and put them in the freezer right away. You should either make soup out of them, put them in a compost pile away from your home and cover with leaves or dirt, or you can keep them sealed frozen and throw them away in an outside garbage can on the day of removal.
- You can also do the same with meat scraps, but you should bury them very deep in the compost pile because of varmints such as racoons or even bears. You can also spray over your compost pile with lemon scented ammonia, which will cover up the smell and help break down the compost. Mix one cup of lemon scented ammonia with 2 gallons of water, then place in sprinkling can and sprinkle over leaves or dirt after burying them.
Properly clean areas that attract flies
Cleaning up all remnants of meals, squashed food, dripped fruit juices, etc. will help to ensure that fruit flies cease to bother you.
- Wash all dishes after use. Avoid leaving dishes just sitting around dirty (if you have a dishwasher, pop them in there and shut the door to await a wash). Clear the drains in your sink. You can also pour household bleach down your drains to kill any fruit flies that may be breeding there. The accumulated scum inside the sink drain is a breeding ground for fruit flies. Use a cheap bottle brush and a hot water rinse to clean out the drain every week or so. The bottle brush must be small enough to fit past the strainer grid. Obviously, never stick your hand into a garbage disposal.
- After cleaning a drain or getting rid of old fruit, peppermint extract will drive the fruit flies away. If you take part of a paper towel and twist it into a wick, place one end into the peppermint extract, leaving part of it on the outside. Tip the bottle to wet the wick. Set the bottle of peppermint extract on the counter or by the area that was infested. The flies will be gone. This works great at home, but also works in bars near the drains.
- Launder your dishrags regularly. If nothing else, wash them thoroughly with soap, rinse well and wring dry before hanging them up. Don’t leave dish cloths in the sink as they’ll provide a warm, dark and food-harboring attractant. Fruit flies breed and live in warm moist places such as a garbage disposal and/or drains in the sink. Cleaning and hot water on a regular basis will combat these possibilities. You can also pour ice down the drain overnight.
- Wipe up crumbs and spills from your cabinets, counter and floor straight after use. Leaving crumbs around encourages all sorts of vermin, not just fruit flies.
- Take out all trash daily. Do not re-use the plastic liner garbage bags.
- Clean the seals of your refrigerator door, the top and under the fridge weekly. You should especially clean the evaporation pan if it has one.
- Clean under and around your dishwasher and stove every few days.
- Dump out mop water and clean the pail and mop rag. Never leave a mop uncleaned or the washing water sitting around after use.
- Remove damp lint from your laundry room. It can go straight into the garbage.
- Take out your compost daily. Keep your collection bin covered at all times apart from when using it. Keep food additions to your pile buried beneath yard waste.
Removing fruit flies already in the room or building
Once the fruit flies are hovering about, you’ll need some methods for removing them fast. Here are some tried and tested methods that really work.
- Try the catch and release method. This easy-to-make method takes advantage of the fruit flies’ inability to get back up the funnel once they’ve gone into the jar.
- Drop a piece of rotten fruit into a large, clean jar.
- Place the jar near the greatest concentration of flies. For example, if the flies are hanging around the fruit bowl, put the jar in the middle of the fruit bowl.
- Put a paper cone with a small hole in the bottom in the mouth of the jar. It should have the pointy end pointed downward. The fruit flies will enter the cone through the large end by the mouth of the bottle and find their way through the hole into the bottle. They will not be able to get out.
- Release them outside when you have several, if you like.
- Make a bowl trap. Another very simple trap that just requires a little care in piercing the holes.
- Put a piece of old, skinless fruit and some wine, or some balsamic vinegar in a bowl. A mix of white wine and coriander seeds works very well. Wine vinegar works great!
- Cover the bowl tightly (no wrinkles) with plastic wrap.
- Poke many small holes in the plastic with a fork. Be careful to keep the holes tiny though––large holes can allow for the flies to escape again. Ideally, the fruit flies will go in and can’t get back out.
- Try a combination method. This method is a little of each of the above two methods combined.
- Create a mixture. In a jar, put in thick sugar, honey syrup, and a bit of rotting fruit cut open. Heat up about two thirds of the total amount of liquid you desire. Put in some honey and a large amount of sugar so it becomes a syrup.
- Pour some apple cider vinegar into the jar. Do this until you reach the desired amount of liquid. You can also use red wine or one of the other ingredients listed.
- Put the cone on. Make sure that it is sealed to the jar and watch the fruit flies enter. The strength of the bait grows over time as it ferments. Also, the liquid has the double purpose of drowning and attacking.
- Let the flies sit in a bowl on the counter, with the surface tension broken. You can forgo using a funnel if you put a small bit of dish washing detergent in the cup with the vinegar and stir. The fruit flies are still attracted to the vinegar smell and the detergent traps them. The detergent actually reduces the surface tension of the liquid, allowing the flies to more readily sink and drown; if the fruit flies fall in, it sticks to wings so they cannot fly. Use a little fruit or juice to help attract the fruit flies.
- Any small container with a teaspoon of cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, and a drop of two of dish soap will attract and drown fruit flies. To kill off the rest of the population, try pouring a cup or two of warm/hot vinegar (can be diluted with half water) down your kitchen and bathroom drains.
- Fruity smelling dish washing liquids (lemon, etc.) will attract fruit flies.
Other methods for getting rid of fruit flies
There are even more ways to get rid of fruit flies, as explained in this section.
- Use screens to cover all of your doors and windows. This will prevent access from outdoors.
- Put a household fan near the most vulnerable areas (such as the fruit bowl). Keep it blowing across the fruit. The flies cannot land in a cross wind. If you’re doing this, put any bottle trap away from the fruit.
- Make a plastic Ziploc bag trap. Place a few slices of an apple inside a Ziploc bag. Leave an inch (2.5cm) open to allow pests to enter and surround the apple. Zip the bag closed and release them outside.
- Use the vacuum cleaner method. Remove the floor cleaning attachment and suck the flies into the shaft. Jazz the vacuum cleaner hose method using a tapped-on clear soda bottle, or try a piece of clear plastic, taped in a cylinder or funnel-shape, attached to your vacuum hose. Dispose of the dust outside or get rid of the inner bag.
- You may also dip a couple pieces of paper towel or cotton swab in jelly or cider vinegar, and then securely tape them inside the tube and attract flies. When you see some in the tube, turn on the vacuum.
- Use soap. Whip up some soap suds with dish soap.
- Fill a fine misting spray bottle with rubbing alcohol. Spray on the hovering fruit flies. They’ll fall to the floor and you can sweep them up and dispose of them. This isn’t an effective insecticide––you’ll need to actively remove the flies by hand but it beats toxic sprays!
- You can even use just a fine mist bottle to spray mobs of flies with water and they will drop to the surface below. Because their wings are damp, they can not fly so you can easily squash them without them getting away.
- Other alcohol works too. For example, leave an empty bottle of beer open and unattended. The fruit flies will fly in. Recap the bottle and throw away.
- Windex is an instant killer of most small bugs. If you find a patch of fruit flies in an area you are willing to get wet, give them a few quick sprays of Windex and watch them suffer.
- Another spray method is to use Clorox cleaning spray. Wipe down surfaces and dead flies afterwards. However, you’ll need to ventilate the room you’re spraying because the smell can be somewhat overwhelming; not recommended if you’re worried about toxic indoor air.
Fruit flies in the garden ==
Naturally, fruit flies like to eat fruit or sweet rotting crops off the tree, bush or vine. If you’re growing fruit, this can be a real bother as the fruit flies may decimate your hard won crop. There are organic ways to deal with them outdoors too.
- Slip an exclusion bag over the branches of the tree that are fruiting. The bag should allow light to continue to reach the fruit and air to circulate without allowing the fruit flies access to the fruit. Such bags can usually be obtained from places that supply organic growers.
- Purchase organic fruit fly sprays from a garden center or organic growing supplier. Such sprays will need to be reapplied regularly, due to their organic nature but this is the best non-toxic approach to growing healthy fruit.
- Pick fruit when it’s ready rather than leaving it to rot on the branch or beneath the tree. Pick up or rake away a glut of fruit that has fallen to the ground beneath the tree, to discourage fruit fly infestation.
- Do not use manure or lake water for fertilizer near the house. This is the equivalent of providing a home for fruit fly breeding!
- When using vinegar, make sure you choose the right type of vinegar. White vinegar does not work. Malt vinegar and red wine work, just not as well as cider. Beer sometimes works too, as does balsamic vinegar. Wine works extremely well, and a wine bottle with an inch or so left can be used without an additional funnel.
- If vinegar does not work, try soy sauce. Bourbon also works––leaving the top off of a mostly empty bottle will act as a funnel trap.
- If you have a gas stove with a constant pilot light, place the trap on the warm part of the stove top. This will help spread the smell of the vinegar.
- Hang a few old flypaper rolls over the area of infestation. It’s ugly, but effective. These are extremely poisonous though. Use with caution and keep out of reach of children.
- Cover liquor bottles that have a pour spout on them with a small sheet of cellophane. Clean bottles below the spout with an ammonia based cleaner, every other day.
- Fruit flies sense quick movement. Approach them very slowly with a moist paper towel on bathroom mirrors and cabinets, and you’ll get them every time.
- If you use the freezer method, be aware that some flies may survive the process for up to a day.
- Some may think air freshener will chase fruit flies away, but it can actually attract them even more. Anything which has a sweet smell, such as lemon or orange scented air freshener, will attract fruit flies.
- A potted plant can be free of fruit flies by allowing the dirt to dry completely between waterings. This kills most of the larvae; the adults don’t live long and will soon be gone. Take extra care to check soil for dryness and promptly re-water plants with stiff leaves because they will often become dry and die.
- Never place your hands in a garbage disposal unit––push anything down with a wooden spoon or similar implement only. Follow the instructions of the manufacturer before all else.
- If spraying something toxic, such as Clorox, only do so when the room is well ventilated. Consider wearing a mask too. This method is not recommended if you wish to keep indoor air safe to breathe.
- Keep traps away from pets and children, especially those containing potentially harmful products.
Edit Things You’ll Need
- One sheet of paper
- One glass or clear plastic cup
- Scotch tape/adhesive tape
- Cider vinegar, or other liquid bait
- Rotten fruit bait
- Apple cider, malt and red wine (for the plastic two-liter soda bottle method)
- Spray bottle
- Bottle of peppermint extract
- Paper towels
- Other items as mentioned in text
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