If your kitchen or worm composting area is suddenly filled with small flies or gnats in your kitchen, they're probably fruit flies. These miniature pests can be an annoying problem throughout the year, but are especially common during late summer and fall when fruits and vegetables are ripe and ready for harvest.
Adult fruit flies are less than 1/8” long with tan and black bodies. Once they emerge from their eggs, the tiny larvae continue to feed near the surface of the ripened or fermenting organic matter. By cutting away and composting any damaged or over-ripened portions of fruits and vegetables, you are eliminating their food source and any developing larvae. Fruit flies are crazy breeders. If left unchecked each little fly can lay as many as 500 eggs, and babies become adults in about a week.
Your kitchen and worm bin areas are not the only places where fruit flies will breed. They can also enter your drains, garbage disposals, house plants, empty bottles and cans, trash containers, mops and cleaning rags – any place that has the potential for a moist film of fermenting material to form. The adults can also fly in from outside through open windows and doors.
Not only are fruit flies annoying pests, they can also contaminate food with bacteria and other disease-producing organisms, and they can be incredibly difficult to eradicate. Prevention is the key! By eliminating sources of attraction, such as over-ripe produce, you can ensure your home is not a comfy place for fruit flies to congregate. Keep in mind, a single rotting potato or onion forgotten at the back of a cupboard, or fruit juice spilled under the fridge can breed thousands of fruit flies – even your recycling bin can attract them if any spills have occurred from cans or bottles that you have recycled.
Installing tight-fitting screens on all windows and doors will also help keep fruit flies outside where they belong.
Eliminating Fruit Flies
Launch your attack on fruit flies by first locating and eliminating all potential breeding areas. No amount of insecticide will destroy all of the fruit flies in your home until you remove all breeding sites and thoroughly clean counters, under your sink, recycling tubs and areas, and all other sources of moisture. It’s not always easy to find all of the source(s) of attraction and breeding, so you will have to be patient and persistent. One method of inspection involves taping a clear plastic food storage bag over the opening of your garbage can and leaving it overnight. If flies are breeding in these areas, the adults will emerge and be caught in the bag.
Because fruit flies are so small, it’s difficult to swat them all, so let Mr. Hoover be your accomplice. Use your vaccuum to suck up air-borne flies, and remember to empty and dispose of the bag afterwards.
Once you are confident that you have eliminated all sources of attraction and breeding, you can spray the area with a pyrethrum-based, aerosol insecticide to kill any remaining adult flies in the area. Of course, you should always read and follow the directions on the label of the product you use to ensure you’re safely using the pesticide.
Fruit Fly Traps
Fruit fly traps can be effective tools in your battle to eradicate fruit flies. A number of commercial fruit fly traps are on the market. Check out the fruit fly traps and replacement attractant packs available online at the ATO Store.
You can also construct a trap by placing a paper funnel (rolled from a sheet of notebook paper) into a jar which with a few ounces of cider vinegar. Place the jar trap(s) in select areas of your home, wherever you see fruit flies flying around. This simple but effective trap will soon catch any remaining adult flies.
Diligence, persistence and patience are paramount when battling those pesky fruit flies. Don’t give up, even if your efforts seem futile. By systematically eliminating all sources of breeding and attraction you are creating an inhospitably environment for fruit flies to live, breed and eat. Eventually, your home will be free of these pests, and you can once again enjoy indoor composting and food preparation without fear of attracting this nuisance back into your home.