Jeannette Baum6-Minute Read
UPDATED: May 25, 2023
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It’s a tiny, airborne menace. It flies circles around your head, buzzing incessantly in your ear. It seems to appear out of nowhere. But before you know it, he and 400 of his closest friends are hovering over your dinner plate, circling your trash can and taking over your kitchen sink.
Household fruit flies. You can swat them away, pray they disappear or throw your entire garbage can outside, but fruit flies are like many other household hazards. Until you know what causes them, you won’t be able to get rid of them for good.
Plenty of things could be at the root of your fruit fly problem. Here are some of the main causes.
The primary culprits of fruit fly infestations are fruit or veggies left out on the counter for long periods of time. Fresh fruit and veggies go bad pretty quickly. While it’s disappointing to have to throw out food you didn’t eat, tossing it the moment it starts to go bad could save you a huge headache in the future.
So you shook the orange juice with the lid off again. It happens. When cleaning, maybe you “forgot” to clean up the little bit under the fridge you can’t reach. Nobody ever sees underneath the fridge anyway, right? Your mother-in-law might not, but the fruit flies will. Even that little puddle of juice will have fruit flies zipping around your kitchen in no time.
You know when someone opens a trash can and it the smell is so pungent that it seems to engulf your entire kitchen area? Cleaning out the fridge before garbage day can make for some serious gut-churning odors. These smells may repel us humans, but cause fruit flies to beeline for the garbage bag.
Garbage disposals are a godsend for those of us who have an irrational yet very real fear of touching food scraps once they’ve landed in the sink. You just direct them to the drain with the stream of the water until all your worries and food scraps wash away. What you can’t see is the buildup of rotting remnants of food beneath the surface. Fruit flies flock to these unseen corners and multiply exponentially. Before you know it, not only is there a rancid smell coming from the drain, but droves of tiny flying insects have taken over your entire sink.
Fruit flies might not be your only concern when it comes to the sink. The drain fly is another common pest that takes a totally different approach to eradicate.
As if one species of fruit fly wasn’t enough to drive you senseless, there are a couple of other similar types of pests that can wreak havoc on your household. Here’s how you can differentiate them.
Appearance: Fruit flies range in color from tan to black and have rounded bodies similar to a smaller version of the common housefly.
Where they can be found: They can be found in trash cans, dirty drains or anywhere rotting foods can be found.
How to get rid of them: Remove any overripe or rotting fruit from the house and use drain cleaner to clear out the sink.
Appearance: Gnats are usually dark gray or black and have long, skinny bodies with dangling legs that resemble mosquitoes.
Where they can be found: They feed on the organic matter found in the soil of indoor houseplants.
How to get rid of them: Repot your houseplants with new soil every few months or at the first sighting of a gnat infestation.
Appearance: Similar to tiny moths, drain flies have tufts of fur on their bodies and heads and wings that spread out wide.
Where they can be found: Drain flies feed on organic debris, so they can be found in places like sewers, septic tanks and like their name suggests, drains.
How to get rid of them: Thoroughly clean and dry any pipe leaks and treat your drains with a strong drain cleaner.
If simply removing the rotting fruit from the house doesn’t cut it, there are a few more options to try to eradicate the fruit fly problem in your home.
The first step for getting rid of fruit flies after removing soiled fruit is to thoroughly clean any infested areas. The kitchen is a great place to start. Scrub down the entire trash can, making sure to get all around the inside and the bottom, too. Be sure counters, sinks, stoves and ovens are properly cleaned and disinfected.
You can find inexpensive fruit fly traps online or at most grocery stores. Terro, FlyPunch and Aunt Fannie’s each have easy set-and-forget options that do all the work for you.
If you’d like to take the DIY route, there are traps that can be made at home from ingredients you likely already have in your panty. The most popular choice is to place a cup of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar and a couple of drops of dish soap in a container and place the jar in the infested areas of your home. The fruit flies will be attracted to the vinegar and they’ll be captured by the dish soap.
Another option is to put ripe fruit in the bottom of a jar and curl a piece of paper until it resembles a cone shape. You should have a tiny hole at the bottom and a large opening up top. When you place the cone in the jar, the fruit flies will be able to reach the fruit, but the paper will make it much more difficult for them to get out, trapping them inside.
If all else fails, insecticides are another option to eliminate your fruit fly problem. There are aerosols you can keep on hand to spray away any tough-to-beat fruit fly takeover. Be intentional about finding insecticides that are nontoxic to humans and any animals you might have in your house. Worse comes to worst, you can always call in the pest control experts if you decide you need more help.
The lifespan of a fruit fly is 40 – 50 days on average. Within that time, the fly can reproduce several times, laying about 500 eggs each time. They reproduce in rotting produce to provide food for their offspring once they hatch.
If the thought of flies laying eggs in your fruit isn’t enough to motivate you to give your kitchen a serious deep clean, I don’t know what will.
Perhaps the best way for getting rid of fruit fly infestations is to prevent them from happening in the first place. While it’s impossible to guarantee fruit flies will never get into your home, taking preventative measures can seriously reduce the chance of a major headache later on.
Be sure to wash your produce and eat or toss any out that’s past its prime. It’s not a great feeling when you realize you’ve wasted an entire bunch of bananas, but an arguably worse feeling is when a fruit fly makes a beeline for your ear hole. It’s the tickle nobody asked for. So, when you know your fruit is about to go bad, consider throwing it in the freezer to use at a later date. Frozen fruit is great to toss into smoothies to thicken them up a bit and add some sweetness to the mix.
These tiny, buzzing insects may be a menace, but you don’t have to let them get the best of you. Maintain your fruit bowl and keep your space spic and span, and you can keep fruit flies far away from your home, your food, and your ears alike. You might even be able to get rid of them for good.
If you’re interested in reading about more Homeowner Tips, head over to the Rocket HomesSM Blog.
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