How to Catch and Trap Fruit Flies

  • Written By Dan Edwards on February 2, 2021
    Last Updated: February 2, 2021

Whether in the garden or inside your house, fruit flies will be drawn to overripe fruits and rotten foods. Once they appear, they’re not so easy to get rid of.

There are several ways to catch and trap fruit flies:

  • Make a simple DIY fruit fly trap
  • Use natural fruit fly repellents
  • Put fruit fly traps in your garden
  • Carnivorous plant

Fruit Fly Prevention Inside the House

Learn how to minimize the possibility of fruit fly nesting in your home with these tips:

  • Wash freshly bought fruit and refrigerate it — at least the overripe ones
  • Discard your organic waste regularly
  • Wash your dishes after every meal
  • Clean your sink drain regularly — even if just with boiling water

Preventive measures are essential, but may not keep your house completely fruit fly free. Simple DIY traps can come in handy and can be made of basic household supplies.

DIY Fruit Fly Traps

In the most popular DIY fruit fly traps, vinegar is used as a bait. Flies are attracted to it due to acetoin — a fermentation compound found in vinegar as well as in dairy foods.

What You Need

  • White or apple cider vinegar
  • Empty jar
  • Paper cone
  • Dish soap

Vinegar-Based DIY Fruit Fly Trap

There are a few versions of the vinegar fruit fly trap. The simplest way to make one is to:

  1. Pour some vinegar into a clean jar
  2. Close it and poke some small holes in its cover
  3. Fruit flies will be able to enter, but once inside the jar it’s not likely they’ll manage to get out

Another option is to use a paper cone instead of the original jar cover:

  1. Pour some vinegar in the jar
  2. Roll a piece of paper into a cone and put it into the jar. The narrow part of the cone should be facing downward

The cone makes it difficult for the flies to get out but may be less effective than a jar cover with holes.

To improve it, you can add two more things to the bait:

  • Two or three pieces of ripe fruit to make the bait more attractive for flies
  • A few drops of liquid dish soap to make a thick layer on the surface of the mixture

The soap gets the flies stuck in the liquid and unable to get out of the trap. You can even place a few open jars or small cups of vinegar and dish soap mixture around your kitchen. Doing so will keep the area as fruit fly free as possible.

Other Types of DIY Fruit Fly Traps

If you aren’t a fan of using vinegar, you can always experiment with a wine bottle or the old-school dairy trap.

Wine Bottle Trap

Fruit flies are as attracted to wine as they are to vinegar. All you need to do to make this trap is:

  1. Sacrifice the last zip of wine
  2. Add a few drops of dish soap in the bottle
  3. Make sure you place it in a safe corner

Dairy Trap

A mix of milk and sugar will attract the flies after it ferments. The thick pepper granules will get stuck in the spiracles, which is what the flies use to breathe in oxygen.

  1. Warm a glass of milk
  2. Add a cup of sugar to it
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of pepper
  4. Let the mixture cool
  5. Pour the bait into one or a few smaller bowls and place them around the kitchen

Alternative Ways to Get Rid of Fruit Flies at Home

If you don’t want to deal with trapping the flies, you can make a simple natural repellent for your kitchen using essential oils or by using a carnivorous plant.

Basil Oil as a Natural Fruit Fly Repellent

Basil oil has been proven to be an effective natural repellent when dealing with fruit flies. Lavender, peppermint or lemongrass oil may be a good alternative. 

How to use essential oils:

  • With paper: pour a few drops of oil on pieces of paper and tape them on your kitchen walls or counter
  • With wooden balls: gather the balls in a bowl, pour some oil onto them and place the bowl near the fruit

Getting a Carnivorous Plant

A carnivorous plant catches not only fruit flies but also other insects. There are a few types of carnivorous plants available on the market:

  • Nepenthes or pitcher plant
  • Sundew plant
  • Venus flytrap.

Nepenthes or Pitcher Plant

The so-called pitcher trap of this plant attracts fruit flies as well as some bigger insects.

The pitcher trap is divided into three zones:

  • The peristome, which attracts flies and other prey
  • A waxy part inside the pitcher, where the flies get trapped
  • The digestive part at the bottom

Sundew Plant

Its tentacle head produces sweet, sticky mucilage. That’s where the flies get trapped and digested. Sundew plants aren’t only effective when it comes to fly elimination, but also as an extravagant part of home decor. 

Venus Flytrap

This plant traps flies with its special capture organs. As soon as the prey touches the mechanosensory part of these organs, the plant snaps and closes its traps.

Using Insecticides

If your home is overwhelmed with fruit flies, natural ways to eliminate them may be insufficient. To resolve this, visit the nearest garden center and consult an expert.

In addition, there are different fruit fly insecticides available on the market. Make sure you follow the labeled instructions and use these products correctly and safely.

How to Get the Fruit Flies out of the Drain

Even if your kitchen is clean and free from flies, sink drains can be a breeding ground, too.

You can simply pour boiling water in it or trap the flies. Trapping them is best done overnight when nobody is using the kitchen.

All you need is a plastic bag and a few pieces of tape:

  1. Tape a clean plastic bag over the drain opening and let the flies gather there overnight
  2. In the morning, squeeze the bag at the drain opening to keep the flies inside
  3. Remove the tape, keep the bag top squeezed and take the bag outside
  4. Tie it and put it into a waste container

Fruit Fly Prevention in the Garden

If you grow fruit in your garden and compost your organic waste, you’ll find fruit flies outside your house as well.

Follow these guidelines to control fruit fly infestation:

  • Pick up the fruit before they’re overripe
  • Remove all the fallen fruit off the ground regularly
  • Freeze your organic waste before composting it. Freezing will kill the flies and their eggs
  • Cover spraying is a measure mostly commercial orchards use

It’s likely a certain amount of fruit flies will stay in your garden if fruit or compost is present. Depending on your needs, you can use a commercial fruit fly trap or make it yourself to get rid of them.

Commercial Fruit Fly Traps

Most of the commercial fruit traps are designed for either male or female flies. 

Female flies are attracted to protein baits. Enough protein-based food is essential for them when they’re laying eggs and for the larvae as well. 

Male fruit flies need to consume enough protein-rich food when maturing as well. Later on, they’re more drawn to pheromone baits or so-called sex attractants, though.

Most of the traps are plastic. They have a yellow base and a transparent lid. They’re available in different shapes, but research has shown that spherical shapes are the most attractive for fruit flies.

The flies enter the trap through small holes in the lid and get drowned in the liquid bait inside. 

A DIY Fruit Fly Trap for Your Garden

It’s been proven that a DIY fruit fly garden trap may be as efficient as the commercial one. All you need to make a simple trap to hang in your garden are:

  • Empty water bottle
  • Bit of wire
  • Bait — see below on the bait to use

Make the trap by following these steps:

  1. Remove the label from the bottle, so it doesn’t distract the flies
  2. Paint the bottom of the bottle yellow
  3. Punch, drill or burn a few holes on the upper part of the bottle. The holes should be opposite each other and not more than 0.3-inches wide
  4. Fill one-third of your trap with bait
  5. Use a wire to tie the trap to a tree branch

What to Use as Bait?

The simplest bait is a protein-based mixture designed to attract both male and female flies:

  • 80 grams of sugar
  • 1.5 grams of dry brewer’s yeast
  • 920 milliliters of water

A few homemade bait recipes include household ammonia, which needs to be handled with extra care:

  1. Ammonia solution 1: 5 milliliters of vanilla essence, 20 milliliters of ammonia, 1 liter of water
  2. Ammonia solution 2: A handful of mandarin/orange peels, 50 milliliters of ammonia, 1 liter of water

Managing Fruit Fly Traps in the Garden

Place the traps in your garden before trees are in their fruiting stage. The optimal height to hang the traps is from 1.5 meters to 2 meters above the ground. Hang them on a tree branch or near the tree — preferably in a shady spot.

Change the bait at least weekly, especially in hot weather, when the liquid evaporates faster. An empty trap will still attract flies, but they won’t die in it.

Keep Your House and Garden Fruit Fly Free

Preventive measures are a must, yet they can’t guarantee you a completely flyless house. Simple fruit fly traps or repellents are a necessity, especially in hot temperatures and during the peak season for fruits. Luckily, the DIY traps are easy to make, economical and effective.

The same goes for your garden. Garden hygiene is necessary to grow healthy fruits and control fruit fly infestations. DIY traps are simple to make and use. Keeping your garden free of fruit flies also means reducing the chance of the flies finding their way inside your house.