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.
Following are a few steps to help remedy a fruit fly infestation.
Fruit flies are often 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 sometimes 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 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 a 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 fruit 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, the flies may remain in the trash can.
Cleaning materials, such as mops, may have fruit particles stuck in them after heavy use. 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 may need to check your drains.
Fruit flies can breed in the thin films of water easily found in drain pipes, and the 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. You may need to use a brush to remove residue from the sides of the pipe.
After the breeding sources have been removed, remaining fruit flies can be controlled with household aerosol sprays that contain pyrethrins. Always follow label instructions and be cautious when using around the kitchen.
You may also need to check the screens on windows and doors to check for proper fit and any holes that may be present. Check household doors and windows for proper seals.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.