Fruit Fly Invasion: This is war! (a.k.a. Getting Rid of Fruit Flies FAST)

Ah, summertime!  Sunny skies, warm breezes, and plenty of fresh fruit in season!!

But with all of this wonderful fresh fruit comes that annual dreaded nemesis: fruit flies.

Fruit looks so pretty set out in a basket on the counter
–unfortunately, fruit flies think so, too. Don’t do it!

It doesn’t take long for these nasty little buggers to move in and take over–they hitchhike along with the fruit you buy at the store, and once they start breeding, they reproduce at an incredible rate.  I’ve read that fruit flies can lay up to 500 eggs, which mature and hatch in about a week, and less than a week after that, they’re buzzing around your house, landing in your wine glass, and being generally annoying as heck. Adult fruit flies can live for up to 50 days, so once you start seeing them, you’ve got to take action, and keep it up for awhile to fully eradicate them.

This is a familiar scenario for us at this point–even if we’re careful to wash our fruit, it’s inevitably the darn bananas that bring them in. (Sometimes, it’s those fresh basil plants or succulents, too.)

I’ve seen others post “humane” traps that allow you to trap the flies and set them free, but I’m telling you right now–you’ll never be able to catch and release them all, so unless you can figure out a way to make the little pests pay rent, I would advise the tried-and-true method we use: Apple Cider Vinegar Traps-of-Doom.

After only 7 hours–ugh!

They way they work is simple: pour some apple cider vinegar into a wine glass, mason jar, or even a small plastic cup, add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid to break up the surface tension on the vinegar so that the flies can’t just skim the surface, and set the glass out wherever you’ve spotted fruit flies.  The flies are attracted to the scent of the cider vinegar, fly down into the glass, get too close to the surface of the liquid, and drown.  The deeper the glass, the better–fruit flies may be excellent hitchhikers and prolific breeders, but they’re not exactly Mensa candidates. Once they fly into a tall glass (I find that wine glasses work the best) they have trouble figuring out which way is up and which way is down, and get stuck inside, eventually finding their way to a vinegary demise.

This is a trap that I left
out overnight–horrifying!

If you do some searching on these types of DIY traps, you’ll see others who recommend putting plastic wrap on top with holes punched in it for the flies to crawl through, or methods that involve sticking a paper coffee filter into the jar.  These steps are unnecessary–just set out the trap I’ve described above, and you’re all set.

In addition to setting the traps, you’ll want to do the following to avoid the flies from coming back:

Remove all fruit from your kitchen for a couple of weeks–wash any fruit you bring home immediately, and put it in the refrigerator.

— For bananas or other items you’d rather not refrigerate, like tomatoes or onions, put them in labeled paper bags to keep the fruit flies from laying eggs on them.

Empty your garbage out every night–given the absence of overripe fruit, they’ll go for anything with a strong odor.

— If you have a food waste disposal system hooked up to your sink, make sure you grind up everything right away and rinse the drain the thoroughly to avoid any residue that will attract flies. If you spot flies coming and going from your drains, you can pour a couple of quarts of boiling water down there to help flush them out (I’ve heard boiling white vinegar works well, but that sounds like it would stink up your kitchen.  If you decide to go that route, sprinkle a little baking soda down the drain first–it will react with the vinegar and bubble up, helping to clear your drain of any debris.) 

Keep surfaces dry and clean, including sponges, dish towels, and the drainage tray in your kitchen. Fruit flies will seek out any damp surface they can find, so once you’ve taken away their fruit, they’ll look to lay their eggs elsewhere. Which reminds me of one last tip….

Set traps in other rooms, especially high-moisture areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms. Fruit flies aren’t going to respect room boundaries, and will migrate to other areas in your home, especially areas where you have sinks or water.  Even damp towels left in a hamper can spell trouble.

Follow these steps and you should notice a big improvement within a couple of days. Within 2 days, after following all of the tips above, we didn’t see anymore fruit flies and were able to ditch all of the vinegar traps. (I honestly thought it would take at least a week, but was pleasantly surprised.)  If you’ve succeeded in cleaning all of the surfaces where the eggs were laid, and you don’t keep fruit out for a few days, you should be in the clear.

Once you’ve kicked the fruit flies to the curb, treat yourself to a nice, fly-free glass of wine–just be sure to rinse it out before you go to bed, or you could end up having to start the whole process over again.

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