Have you ever reached for a perfectly-ripe banana or orange sitting on your kitchen counter, only to realize a fruit fly or two (or more) has beaten you to it? Fruit flies are common household pests that enjoy the same living conditions and many of the same foods that people do — which may not be all that surprising when you consider that fruit flies share 60% of the same DNA as humans. That’s part of what makes them such a popular subject for use in scientific research studies. In fact, just last month the most recent Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to a group of scientists studying circadian rhythm using fruit flies as subjects.
Despite sharing so many genetic similarities and participation in groundbreaking research, a family of fruit flies probably isn’t welcome in your home. With a little work and know-how, you can send these unwanted house guests looking for refuge elsewhere.
How Do Fruit Flies Get Into Your Home?
Most fruit flies come into homes as eggs, larvae, or pupae on fruits or vegetables brought in from the grocery store. Supermarkets do their best to control these pests, but with such a large volume of produce passing through, it’s inevitable that some of these hitchhikers will make it into your home. Some fruit flies live outside, however, so even if your grocer is doing an excellent job keeping them to a minimum, you may still encounter a problem.
What Keeps Fruit Flies Going?
Fruit flies, as their name implies, enjoy eating ripe or overripe fruits and vegetables. But they don’t limit their tastes to just those five-a-day foods. They’re partial to anything that’s organic or sugary. Think discarded soda or alcohol bottles sitting in the trash can, a kitchen compost container, or your recycling bin or kitchen trash can. Fruit flies are a resourceful bunch, and they’re quite willing to ditch their preferred source of nourishment for something a little less savory.
How Long Do You Have To Deal With Them?
Adult fruit flies can live for a month or more, all the while helping to sire future generations. Fruit flies have four distinct life stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. In ideal temperature conditions (i.e. your home), they can rocket from egg to adult in about a week.
Three Easy Steps To Fruit Fly Freedom
With the odds stacked against you like this, taking definitive action against these pests is important if you’re hoping to gain the upper hand. Take action with the three steps below to send these guys packing their bags.
Eliminate Their Food Source
Fruit flies are adaptable. They’re more than willing to eat what you leave behind. Getting rid of what appeals to them is the first step in giving them the message that they can’t stick around.
- Clear the countertops. Remove all of the fruits and vegetables from your countertops until the infestation ends. Eliminating this 24-hour buffet can help you break the fruit fly life cycle. But be warned, this step may be the hardest to do, especially if you love fruits and vegetables that don’t refrigerate well.
- Scope out the pantry. Don’t forget those potatoes and onions sitting in a bin in your pantry. Fruit flies love root vegetables that have passed their prime. A forgotten, slightly squishy potato at the bottom of the bin is a siren song to a fruit fly.
- Store compost containers outdoors. If you keep a compost container on the countertop for storing kitchen scraps, store it outside instead. These little scraps make an ample meal for fruit flies.
- Rinse off your dishes and discarded bottles. Right after a meal, thoroughly rinse off your dishes and silverware before loading them into the dishwasher. If you’re not planning to take the trash out right away, rinse out empty bottles.
- Keep your trash emptied regularly. If you’re doing all of that work to keep your kitchen countertops free from the fruits and veggies, you don’t want to offer fruit flies a quick takeout meal from food scraps in your garbage can.
Clean Up Your Act
Fruit flies don’t thrive in dry, clean conditions. Giving your kitchen a thorough cleaning can go a long way in eliminating the places where fruit flies enjoy grabbing a quick bite.
- Scrub out trash and recycling containers. Fruit flies like overripe food best. The trash can and recycling bins often store this cherished foodstuff in uncleaned nooks and crannies. Take these containers outdoors and wash them thoroughly.
- Replace your sponges and mops. Fruit flies like damp, dark spots for hanging out and breeding. Sponges and mops in most households fit the bill. Swap out your old mop heads, dishrags, and sponges for new ones.
- Mind your sinks and drains. Give your kitchen sink and drains a good cleaning. You may consider using a bacterial digester to clean out sections of your drains that you can’t reach.
- Nooks and crannies matter. If you have moist areas in your kitchen or cracks in countertops with crumbs nestled in, fruit flies will feel welcome. Scrub and thoroughly dry trouble spots like behind the sink and the in corners of the countertops.
Snare The Adults
If you’re experiencing an infestation, you’ll need to trap and eliminate the fruit flies that have made your home their own. Fruit fly traps are easy to make from ingredients you probably already have in the pantry.
To make a fruit fly trap:
- Pour about an inch of apple cider vinegar into the bottom of a small container. A drinking glass or mason jar works well.
- Add a drop or two of dish soap.
- Place it in an area where the fruit flies are most prevalent.
The apple cider vinegar smells like the overripe fruit they crave, while the dish liquid breaks the surface tension of the liquid. When the fruit flies come flying in for a drink, they’ll be headed to a watery grave.
Fruit flies are an annoying infestation to deal with. No matter how closely related to you they may be, sharing your favorite fruits and veggies with unwanted guests can be downright maddening. But the good news is that with these tips, you can eliminate these unwanted houseguests.
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