So you’ve spent the entire week end cleaning the kitchen: the countertops are clear of clutter, paper is out of sight, the fridge is clean, the groceries are neatly put away, the sink is shining…Then just like that, and seemingly out of nowhere, you wake up Monday morning to find an infestation of fruit flies! By infestation I mean more than three flies, but really they never come in threes, they come by the dozen! Where did they come from? You ask yourself, the kitchen has never been so clean!
I have been battling the fruit fly war for the entire summer and it did not matter whether I would remove the trash out of the house right away, clean the countertops with my vinegar + dawn concoction or leave everything out of sight, they just never seemed to go away. I would open the bread box and a few would come out, lift the now very tight trash lid and a cloud of gnats would come rushing out towards me, even the dry cat food (to her protest) was put away…All this, to no avail. The flies would come back, the very next day!
So I did some research, because surely, I cannot be the only one with this never ending problem and I thought I might as well share what I would find with MGC readers and fans.
At first I thought maybe they were baby flies from the few bigger green body ones I had spotted and chased around (very gross). Maybe they came from the store, in larvae form. As it turns out, fruit flies come from the great outdoors and are a species of their own (not babies from bigger flies – that’s a relief). Their amazing sense of smell allows them to spot food, preferably the yeast in fruit and bread, at a distance, pretty much on the spot as you take your groceries out of the car and into the kitchen. And if you leave your windows open, such as in the summer months for those of us who are not AC dependent, the screens on windows are not small enough to keep them out!
Their reproductive cycle, I found out, is under 5 days and since they lay a lot of eggs (think hundreds at a time) you can imagine how the problem would multiply within a week…soon to get out of hand, now spreading to other areas in the house. I, for instance, found them in my boys’ bathroom, roaming around the trash bin thanks to a late afternoon snack, in the form of a discarded banana peel left there by a certain someone who shall remain nameless because he is only 5 years old! To my great disgust, they also took a liking to fish food and enjoy all you can eat buffet near the fish tank where my boys, alas, always drop a “few” flakes around!
Through my research I found out that even if they seem to have disappeared, unless a thorough cleaning and disinfecting is complete, they will come back since they enjoy any kind of moisture and yeast filled environment. They, for example, can live inside your kitchen drain and some studies have found them to be able to survive and thrive on alcohol fumes alone, so even if you got rid of a piece of fruit that had seen better days, the residual smell from the fermented fruit is enough to keep attracting them! They love fermented stuff and a ripe fruit or a piece of whole wheat bread is enough to send a signal that a feast is about to be had at your house!
My tomato plants are also to blame! You see, I have tomato plants still standing in the yard, I keep them up because some of the tomatoes are still green and I am hoping that the last few days of sunshine before the winter will help them turn red, or at least orange. But in that process, other tomatoes I did not care to pick or tomatoes that had fallen to the ground are left unattended…They are fermenting (for a lack of a better word) on the ground and pretty much alerting the neighborhood flies that my house is The One!
Tips on how to prevent fruits flies
Here are your hot zones:
Kitchen Sink + Scrubbers
The yard: You will need to thoroughly assess your home and your yard for any potential breeding ground for fruit flies. For instance, do you, like me, have leftover gardening with fruits and vegetables that are rotting on the ground? If so, time for some serious yard work. Do you keep a composter? If so, can you move it away from your house, say to the far end of your yard?
Fruit Basket: Where do you keep your fruits? Can you make room and store them in the fridge instead of the counter? I understand that some fruits, like bananas, do not keep well in the fridge as they would turn brown in a few days, perhaps purchasing bananas in less quantities (only a few at a time) is a solution for you. Wash fruits as soon as you return from the store. While it takes additional time, it will help in two ways: remove pesticides and if the fruits have fly eggs on them, you can get rid of those before they turn into more fruit flies! Upon discovering flies in your fruit basket, it is not enough to remove the fruits. Do spend the time to clean your basket with hot water and a solution of soap and white vinegar. Using a dish brush, scrub your basket inside and out to ensure no fruit skin or juice is lodged in the wicker.
Bread Box: If you currently spotted fruit flies by your bread box, get rid of that bread as the package may have been contaminated. Thoroughly rinse your box with hot water and a solution of bleach and dish detergent, wipe dry and replace with fresh bread. Always ensure that your bread is tightly sealed and only keep what you will eat in a few days, freeze the rest.
Recycle Bin: Where do you keep your recyclables? If you keep them near the home or in your home, make sure you thoroughly rinse your bottles and cans before putting them in the recycle bin since any residual juice, soda, beer, wine, sauce of any kind will make for a good fruit fly fermented supper!
Sink Area: make sure that your brush, sponge and dish rags are always clean and disinfected. Though that is a common sense kind of tip, food particles inside a scrubber or any odor from your sponge will attract them as well. Don’t forget the drain! Scrub your sink as usual then fill it all the way up with hot water and a solution of dish soap and ½ cup of bleach. Once the sink is full, let it drain. The hot water and cleansing solution will take care of your drain for you. While you are at it, don’t forget the seal around your fridge!
Trash Can: Rinse your trash can daily as long as you have fruit flies in the house. Only spraying a disinfectant such as Lysol will not do much and quite frankly I find them too harsh on human and pets. Don’t forget the lid, inside and out. If you have a trash that has a swivel top, perhaps you may want to consider purchasing one with a tight lid and a pedal instead. We found a very nice stainless steel one at Home Goods for under $30. Do not leave food scraps, meats etc. in your trash can. Instead, keep a mini trash bin on your countertop lined with a grocery plastic bag or small trash bag. Once you are done cooking or after each meal, dump the scraps there. Tie the bag tight and throw it in your larger trash can after each meal. This will eliminate food odors from attracting the flies.
Pet Areas: Do you keep dried pet food outside in a bowl? Stop! If you crate your dogs, make sure you routinely check for un-chewed biscuits behind and around their crates.
Kids: Make it a rule – No drinks, food of any kind allowed in the living areas of the house. I once found a glass of unfinished juice under a bed…with a few additional guests!
Getting rid of your current flies
Yes, they can be trapped! But trapping your fruit flies will not get rid of them permanently as it will only temporarily remove the existing ones. So I recommend you take all the steps above in addition to the one trick I am about to share with you!
I found this easy to do solution on Pinterest, but I am sure it is an old one. You will need:
- Cut up fruit
- Glass Jar
- Paper cone made out of cardstock
- Packing tape
Create a paper cone and fit it on the jar (tight end at the bottom) until it rests tightly at the mouth of the jar. Once you have the right size cone, tape where needed to keep its shape. The small end of the cone should be no more than 1/4 inch in diameter.
Place the cut up fruit at the bottom of the jar and insert the cone.
Use tape all around the mouth to seal.
How does it work?
The flies are attracted to the smell of fermenting fruit and will fly into the cone and into the jar. Unfortunately for them, but good for us, they simply cannot find their way back up and out!
It took under three hours for me to trap as many as 40 fruit flies. By day three all flies in the house were trapped. And that is when I conducted the thorough cleaning described above!
Voila! So far, we have had no recurring infestation and the trap made a great science project for the boys. It’s a WIN-WIN!
You can also buy commercial fruit fly traps like these. Just click on the link below each picture:
|Glass Fly Trap Jar - $15.99|
|Glass Pear - Fly Trap Kitchen Jar - $19.95|
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