As more late-summer and fall fruit becomes available, we thought we’d repost this short article on three easy ways to get rid of fruit flies before they become an infestation.
What are fruit flies?
You know what we’re talking about. Your garden’s bounty left you with an abundance of fruits and vegetables that you can barely keep up with. Suddenly, you notice small clouds of flies haunting your produce. Gross!
Fruit flies are the tiny little bugs that land on fruit and are nearly impossible to catch or kill once airborne. Some people call them gnats; others call them drain flies. No matter what you call them they are annoying and can be embarrassing once they take hold in your kitchen and start multiplying.
Why are they so hard to swat and kill?
Know your enemy! I have a new respect for these pests after looking into why they are so difficult to kill on a surface or while airborne. Michael Dickinson, the Esther M. and Abe M. Zarem Professor of Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), states that:
“… long before the fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat, comes up with an escape plan, and places its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way in the opposite direction. All of this action takes place within about 100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the swatter.”
More science behind the enemy can be found in this fascinating article here: http://phys.org/news139142949.html#jCp
There are three easy ways to get rid of fruit flies:
#1 Get rid of the source of food
So fruit flies, despite their name, do not eat fruit. What they are going after is the yeast that grows on rotting fruit; the same yeast that produces alcohol. So if you remove this feast from your kitchen (the tomatoes you were going to get around to eating; the peaches and apricots that ripened faster than you imagined) you’ll eventually get rid of the flies as they die out or go look for food elsewhere.
Again, the flies are attracted to yeast, so you’ll need to keep a pretty clean kitchen, including removing food waste in your sink’s drain trap, cleaning surfaces with a disinfectant, and making sure any indoor composter or trash can is kept empty and free of temptations.
#2 Cover up!
Mid-summer. Warm weather. A lazy afternoon. It’s only natural to open all the windows and doors to let breeze come through the house. Or maybe you have kids or animals that are constantly going in and out and leaving doors open.
As you do, you are leaving a path for the pesty flies to enter the house. These flies are only a couple to a few millimeters in size so you won’t see them coming. Making sure all windows and doors have screens is a great way to reduce the number of bugs coming into your house. It won’t keep them all out since some (including fruit flies) can crawl through the screen but it will slow them down. It also works well for regular sized flies, too.
The best way to keep fruit away from fruit flies is to put it in a sealed container or in the fridge. Refrigerators work well for already-ripened fruit as the cooler temperatures slows down senescence (the ripening of the fruit).
#3 Make a fruit fly trap (DIY)
You don’t need toxic chemicals around the house to get rid of fruit flies. Surprisingly, these little guys that are so difficult to swat on a counter or hit in mid-air are so driven by their appetite for yeast that they are relatively easy to capture. Over the course of a couple of days I managed to capture all of the offending flies in a jar. The process is relatively easy and completely DIY. You’ll need:
- A jar
- A sheet of binder paper
- A piece of tape
- A couple of ounces of apple vinegar and/or really ripe fruit
Once you have your materials, simply:
- Make a cone out of the paper and tape it so that it stays in shape.
- Put your bait (the vinegar or fruit) into the jar.
- Put the cone into the jar a few inches above the bait.
The flies will enter the cone, go through the hole at the bottom but will be unable to find their way back out. If problems are really bad, make a few of these and position them around the house where the highest concentration of fruit flies exist. One benefit is that if you are so inclined, you can take your prisoners outside and release them instead of killing them. If this is your plan, use fruit and leave the vinegar out.
You can find more great tips here: http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Fruit-Flies
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