Learn how to combat fruit flies and keep them out of your kitchen
Fruit flies are among the most familiar types of pests that homeowners see. Just one or two making themselves at home among browning bananas on the counter can quickly give rise to an entire fruit fly civilization that will infest every corner of the kitchen.
This guide will teach you the best ways to combat fruit flies and keep your kitchen pest free.
What Attracts Fruit Flies
Fruit flies have a powerful sense of smell. They can follow the scent of ripening and decaying fruit over long distances and creep into your home through window screens and small crevices around windows. They can also hitch a ride in the form of eggs that mature flies have already laid on the outer skins of fresh fruits and vegetables purchased in stores and farmers markets.
These pests feed on overripe and rotting fruit and the fermenting sugars in leftover alcoholic or sugary beverages. While fruit flies don't bite, they can contribute to the spread of disease as they frequent trash bins, pet areas and drains in addition to food prep areas.
You can be plagued with swarms of fruit flies almost any time of year, but their most prolific time of year is late summer to early fall.
Distinctive bright red eyes and a light yellow to tan body are hallmarks of the fruit fly, though at only 1/3 the size of a common house fly, its tiny form makes it unlikely you'll get close enough to get a good look. They have an 8- to 10-day maturity cycle, from egg to adult; without intervention, each fly lives for about a month. Mature female fruit flies can lay up to 500 eggs, which will hatch within 24 to 48 hours.
Tip: Do not consume sodas, fruit juices or alcoholic beverages that have been left out in open containers overnight or more than a few hours in warm weather. Dispose of the container contents by placing it in sealed bags and placing in an outside trash receptacle.
Because fruit fly infestations are generally located in and around food prep areas, many people prefer not to use sprays and aerosols to treat the areas due to concerns about food contamination. Attractant baits and fruit fly traps offer an easy and non-toxic way to get rid of fruit flies.
Bug zappers are another alternative. There are also a range of natural bug sprays that can quickly end a fruit fly infestation without putting kids, pets or the fruit bowl in harm's way.
Fruit fly infestations can be tenacious. Since they breed so prolifically, it make take several weeks to completely eliminate all signs of the insects.
You should take a number of preventative steps to help support the effectiveness of your selected treatment methods.
Check and repair screens and seal around windows. Fruit flies will find even the smallest entrance into your home in pursuit of food.
Rethink food storage. Though there are many fruits and veggies that are thought to be at their best at room temperature, storing produce in the refrigerator helps fend off fruit flies by depriving them of scent trails to follow. Wash and thoroughly dry any fruit to be stored outside the fridge, especially bananas. Do not keep longer than a day or two, if possible. Cover open fruit bowls with a clear lid to deter pests. Do not leave open drink containers or wine glasses out; empty and at least rinse them with warm water to remove any sweet residue that might attract fruit flies.
Clean vigilantly. Empty and scrub trash cans inside and out to remove any old food particles. Locate potential fruit fly breeding areas - drains, underneath appliances, inside the dishwasher or any spot where there is moisture and food debris - and clean them thoroughly. If you are collecting compost material in your kitchen, be sure the receptacle has a tight-fitting lid and is emptied regularly. You may also want to use compostable bin liners to make this easier.