How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies in the Home
Fruit flies are invasive, opportunistic pests that can quickly infest your entire home. With their rapid breeding and short life cycle, fruit flies seem to just multiply in front of your eyes. Having a full-fledged infestation in your house can happen in a matter of just weeks.
There are many effective short-term and long-term solutions available for you to try out. From creating a vinegar trap to hiring a professional extermination service, there are several ways to eradicate them. Sometimes just being mindful of your waste and eating habits can help keep them out without having to use any harsh chemical treatments.
The most popular methods to get rid of fruit flies in the house are:
- Dispose of any rotten food
- Regularly take out the trash
- Store food in air-tight containers
- Use DIY fruit fly traps
- Install mesh screens on doors and windows
Is It a Fruit Fly, a Gnat or Something Else?
The first step towards getting rid of any pests in your home is identifying it. If you spot little insects buzzing around your home, you might not be able to tell what they are right away. There are a few key distinct characteristics that differentiate fruit flies from gnats or other pests.
Fruit flies are small, with adults being about 1/8 inch long. The front part of their body is tan, while the rear potion is black. They have bright red eyes and translucent wings.
Gnats are a common lookalike for fruit flies. Fungus gnats are usually gray or black color with long legs and antennae.
Feeding and Living Habits
The main way to tell the difference between fruit flies and gnats is from their color and their feeding habits.
Fruit flies thrive on high-fructose, fermented substances. You’ll often find them hovering over ripened fruit or garbage cans. Fungus gnats, on the other hand, live in soil and on plants.
If you’re finding a lot of tiny bugs in your garden, they’re most likely gnats. If instead, the insects seem to be congregating in your kitchen or around food, you most likely have a fruit fly problem.
Where Did They All Come From?
The adult female fruit flies lay their eggs on the top of or right under the skin of fruit or vegetables that are rotting or overripe. They’re attracted to fermented liquids secreted by rotting produce. These fermented liquids provide sustenance for both mature adult fruit flies and freshly-hatched larvae that are in their pupae phase.
Each individual female fruit fly can lay up to 500 eggs at a time. The entire lifecycle from egg to adult can be completed in approximately one week. The reproductive potential for fruit flies is, therefore, huge!
In just one week, a new generation of mature fully-developed fruit flies is born. This is why they seem to appear out of thin air and in surprisingly large quantities.
Stages of the Fruit Fly Life Cycle
Understanding the different stages of the fruit fly’s life cycle makes it easier to both control and remove them. Having a basic understanding of the life cycle can help you ascertain:
- Where the fruit fly is most likely to be given its life stage
- When the fruit fly is most vulnerable
- How to create inhospitable conditions
- Its feeding patterns
Stage 1: Eggs
The female fruit fly lays her eggs into the ripened fruit of the host plants. After only a few days, the eggs hatch into larvae. At this phase in the life cycle, you probably won’t be able to notice the presence of eggs in your fruit. It’s during the next phase that you can begin to take action.
Stage 2: Larvae
The larvae hatch and begin to feed inside the fruit or on the surface level. The feeding activity of the larvae, as well as the bacteria that accompanies it, causes the fruit to rot internally. The larvae feed on the year and fungi organisms growing in rotten or spoiled material.
The larval stage is when you would initially recognize that you have a fruit fly problem. If you cut open a piece of fruit, you might find maggot-like insects inside the flesh.
Stage 3: Pupae
After feeding off of the fermented juices and bacteria in the fruit, fruit flies emerge as fully-mature larvae. They may leave the piece of fruit and seek a dark, dry place to pupate. Usually, this is somewhere very close to the original host fruit.
The larvae become inactive for about a week while they’re encased in the pupae. After a week, the larvae emerge as fully developed adult fruit flies. It might be difficult to spot the fruit fly pupae at this stage as well if you’re not actively looking.
Stage 4: Adult
At this stage, the fruit fly has finished developing and begins the hunt for food and energy sources. The adult fruit fly will look for nourishment in overripe food, garbage disposals and even alcoholic drinks such as wine. This is because these sources contain the fermented juices fruit flies need to thrive.
Keeping an eye out for where you see fruit flies gathered the most would help you immensely in choosing the appropriate removal method. Identifying the sources of attraction is the first step in the overall eradication process.
Fruit flies use their antennae to detect odors, and they’re known for their keen sense of smell. Fruit flies follow odors — such as the smell of fermentation — through doors and windows.
You should look to equip all your windows and doors with tight-fitting mesh screens. Keep in mind, though; fruit flies are so small that sometimes they’re able to pass through even the tightest opening in mesh screens.
Be Mindful of Eating and Purchasing Habits
Produce that’s ripened should be eaten as soon as possible, discarded or stored appropriately. Damaged or bruised parts of fruits and vegetables should be trimmed off and thrown away. This is because there may be eggs or larvae present in the damaged area.
Only buy as much produce as you can eat before rotting. Any uneaten ripened fruits or vegetables should be either placed in the fridge or stored in air-tight containers. Keep susceptible foods in cold storage such as a refrigerator or freezer to impede the development of larval fruit flies already inside.
A single rotting piece of fruit or vegetables can breed thousands of fruit flies in a very short period. Fruit flies don’t need much to survive and will enter your home in pursuit of even the smallest amount of food residue.
The removal of any overripe produce should alleviate any recurrence of fruit flies as they have no motive to infiltrate your home. This method can be used preemptively to prevent fruit flies from coming in in the first place. It can also be used to get rid of an already present fruit fly infestation.
Prevention takes persistence, but it’s effective, especially if you’re against using chemical sprays and formulas. You’re not only getting rid of the fruit flies already present in your home. You’re also stopping new fruit flies from entering your home.
Cleanliness Is Key
Along with making sure to properly store food products, cleaning your house is also an important part of eradicating and preventing fruit flies. Used dishwashing or cleaning tools harbor a lot of bacteria. The same goes for improperly cleaned trash cans. These can easily serve as breeding areas for fruit flies due to the bacteria and food residue present.
Accumulation of food products that you may think are harmless can build up in cracks and corners in your home. If you have a full-fledged fly infestation on your hands already, you might want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service. You might not be able to clean out all the crumbs hiding in the tiny crevices in your home on your own.
If you can’t afford a cleaning service, or if it’s inconvenient, clean as meticulously as you can. Make sure to wipe down all countertops and surfaces that have had contact with food with a good antibacterial solution. Throw out all garbage as soon as possible and make sure to clean out drains and kitchen sinks as well. Eliminate all potential food sources and breeding areas.
If preventative measures such as installing mesh screens aren’t working for you, there are more aggressive, effective methods you can use.
Cleaning and properly storing food products should still be a part of your strategy, no matter what method you use. They’re an essential part of the eradication process. You must always locate and eliminate all their food and breeding sources. Unless these sources are eliminated, the fruit fly problem will continue to persist. It doesn’t matter how often you use insecticides or other chemical products.
Aerosol insecticide that is pyrethrum based can be used to kill any adult flies in the house. This won’t eliminate the root of the problem but will kill individuals fruit flies on contact. There’s a wide range of these products on the market.
If you want to avoid using harsh chemical products, you can make your own homemade spray. All you do is mix two cups of water with a few drops of essential oil. Mix well and use on any fly-infested area.
DIY Fruit Fly Traps
You can also create a disposable fruit fly trap. This is a better hands-off approach. The construction takes a bit of time, but after that, you can just set it aside and let it do its job. You can create this simple yet highly-effective trap with a few household items.
You’ll need first to construct a paper funnel:
- Do this by rolling a sheet of notebook paper
- Place the funnel, narrow side down, into a jar filled with a couple of ounces of apple cider vinegar
- This trap will catch any remaining fruit flies, which you can then dispose of or release outside
It’s highly suggested that you make several of these traps and place them around your home. It’s best to place them in areas where food is often consumed, such as the kitchen or dining room.
If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can also make a yeast solution with sugar and water. If you don’t have yeast, you can place a piece of fruit like a banana in the trap. It seems kind of silly, but these traps really do a great job of attracting and trapping them.
This trap can be constructed with a plethora of different materials and substances. You can fill a bowl with apple cider vinegar and dish soap, for example. Cover it with plastic wrap and poke tiny holes in it.
The fruit flies are attracted to the smell of the vinegar for its stale sweetness. The dish soap serves to decrease the liquid’s surface tension, so the flies drown upon contact.
Hire A Professional Extermination Service
If the fruit fly infestation in your house gets completely out of hand, call a professional. Due to fruit flies’ small size and rapid reproduction rate, it can be difficult to recognize initially that you have an infestation.
When you do notice, sometimes it’s too late. That’s when you should consider calling a professional extermination service. They know their breeding and eating habits and sites better than anyone.
Fruit flies carry a wealth of bacteria and have the potential to contaminate a lot of the food in your house. Although they’re not harmful to you or your family, they can still be a huge nuisance and disturb your peace of mind. Nothing is more annoying than hearing that buzzing sound when eating a meal or drinking some wine.
There are many products on the market that are designed to combat fruit flies. The most effective method, however, includes being mindful of your eating and cleaning habits. Make sure to regularly dispose of and store food properly. Similarly, aim to maintain a regular cleaning schedule and dispose of any bacteria-ridden cleaning supplies. The most essential part of the eradication process is eliminating fruit flies’ food and energy sources.