County Extension Agent
Summer and fall are the most common times to find fruit flies in your home.
Although they may occur year-round, the usual abundance of ripening fruit in many people’s homes in the summer and fall tend to attract more flies. Fresh fruit is an important part of a healthy diet, so don’t let fruit flies deter you from eating right. Here are a few steps to help remedy a fruit fly infestation.
Fruit flies are identified by their erratic flying patterns, usually in the vicinity of ripening fruit in the kitchen. They are small, between one-eighth and one-fifth of an inch long. They usually have red eyes and can vary in color from black to tan. Fruit flies aren’t a direct health risk, but they can be extremely annoying.
Fruit flies are commonly found in restaurants, markets, homes, and anywhere food is allowed to decay and ferment. They may be brought in on previously infested fruit. They can also easily find their way into your home through broken window screens and doors that have been left open.
Female fruit flies deposit their eggs on the surface of fermenting foods, such as vegetables and fruits. The larvae then develop and feed on the surface. The females have incredible reproductive capabilities, and, if left alone, may deposit up to 500 eggs! Fruit flies can transform from egg to adult in about one week.
Fruit flies’ favorite foods include over-ripe apples, bananas, melons, peaches, and squash, all items that tend to be left out exposed on countertops. They can also breed in sinks, garbage disposals, trash bins, and empty cans. All they need is a thin film of water to hatch their eggs.
To remedy a fruit fly infestation, the main method of control is to find and eliminate the source. Discard any decaying fruits or vegetables that are not properly stored. Remove any trash bags that have been in use more than a few days. Even after throwing out infested fruit, flies may remain in the trash can. Mops and brooms may have fruit particles stuck in them after heavy use, make sure to clean these items. A few small drops of spilled fruit juice behind the refrigerator can be the source of thousands of fruit flies.
If you have removed all outside breeding sources and are still experiencing fruit fly problems, you need to check your drains. Fruit flies can breed in the thin films of water often found in drain pipes, and larvae feed on the residue on the sides of the pipes. Keep sink drains covered to prevent flies from getting to the water in the sink trap. Consider using a pipe brush to remove residue from the sides of your drain pipe.
After the breeding sources have been removed, remaining fruit flies can be controlled with traps. DIY traps can be made by filling a shallow glass or bowl with apple cider vinegar, a few drops of dish soap, and a splash of water. Fruit flies will be attracted by the vinegar and will become trapped by the bubbles from the dish soap. Similar traps can also be purchased pre-made from hardware stores.
Consider checking the screens on windows and doors for proper fit and any holes that may be present. Check household doors and windows for proper seals.
For more information on household pest control, contact the Dawson County Extension office at 706-265-2442.