Fruit flies can quickly become an infestation problem in your home as they can lay up to 500 microscopic eggs in their eight-day life cycle. Their favorite place to leave the eggs is in the rotting portions of fresh fruit or vegetable matter so that the larvae, once hatched, will have something to eat.
Also known as vinegar flies, grape flies or pomace flies, they are about three millimeters long with tan and black bodies and red eyes. They are not a vector of any specific diseases but because of their attraction to drains, garbage and other waste, they can relocate the germs found there and transmit them to humans via food, drink and dishes.
Unfortunately, getting rid of them, while not expensive, is going to be somewhat time-consuming and tedious. All potential breeding grounds must be located and cleaned up.
Here is what to check for:
- Check window screens, doors and walls, looking for and repairing any cracks, tears, holes or other routes of entry for the insects. It won’t take a very large hole to let a few in so you’ll have to look closely.
- Check for areas of stagnation such as damp mops, drain pans under refrigerators or de-humidifiers, sump pump holes in the basement and wet areas in the garage or laundry room.
- Check drains by taping a plastic bag over the drain at night and looking for insects in the morning. You can also skip the checking, if you’d rather, and just put a cleaning gel in all your drains as a precaution. Fruit flies breed in the scum along the sides of the drain, so pouring bleach down the drain won’t fix the problem as it doesn’t stick long enough to remove the scum.
- Look for rotting food, even little bits or smears. Check in cabinets for rotting potatoes or onions and keep recycling bins and garbage cans and lids clean. Look for spills under appliances, vacuum under the furniture (even under the furniture feet), keep produce in the refrigerator and rinse and air-dry any empty food containers before you put them into the recycling bin or trash.
- Inspect indoor potted plants for rotting soil or organic matter. Spray with insecticide or remove the plant, depending on the level of the infestation.
This list is probably not complete as all homes have different potential breeding grounds for fruit flies, however, it should help you to think about your own home and what other areas you may need to check.
Once you have found the breeding grounds, be sure you have fixed the source of the problem, such as a water leak, then spray the area with pyrethrum-based insecticide. Once the insecticide has dried, clean and dry the area thoroughly. If it is somewhere that is difficult to reach, for example, under your washing machine, you may want to re-spray after cleaning to leave a bit behind to take care of any stragglers. Be sure that any rags, mops or paper towels that you use to clean the breeding grounds are not disposed of in your indoor trash. Put them in a plastic trash bag, tie it off and get it out of your house!
Once you’ve dealt with the big issues, you can catch the remaining fruit flies with a simple, home-made trap. Place a splash of cider vinegar inside any jar or bottle then tape a paper funnel into place on top. The point of the paper funnel should be about one-fourth of an inch in diameter and should be placed well inside the jar, but not touching the vinegar. You can make your funnel with scrap paper, scissors and tape. Seal it around the mouth of the jar to ensure a tight fit. Attracted to the scent of the vinegar, fruit flies will flock to the trap, but once inside, they do not seem to be able to figure out how to escape.
If you know someone who has a reptilian pet (or maybe you have one), they’d love to have your collected fruit flies. Otherwise, when you are ready to dispose of your trap, quickly but carefully put the whole thing into a plastic garbage bag (be certain that it has no holes) and tie off the bag. To collect multiple traps, put one in the bag and make a low knot so you still have room to put in the next trap and tie it again. Keep making a chain of tied-off traps until you have either collected all your traps or have run out of bag space. Again, the bag goes outside as soon as possible.
While fruit flies in your home may seem like a hopeless problem, they really are not so hard to get rid of if you know what steps to take. Since they have such a short life span, addressing the issues outlined above should take care of the situation very quickly. Within a week or so, your home will be back to normal and you can enjoy your nectarines in peace.