Fruit flies can thrive in your home year-round
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They are really tiny, only about 1/8-inch long. At first you might only see one or two, but then you realize there are a bunch of little gnat-like bugs buzzing around your sink, near your fruit basket, or in your garbage. These pests are called fruit flies.
Outdoors, fruit flies are most active during the fall harvest season. Indoors, however, they can thrive all year round, especially if you have an inviting sugary environment. This is why it is important to tackle your fruit fly infestation head-on. Otherwise, it might become a chronic problem that is difficult to solve.
All about fruit flies
What are fruit flies?
Fruit flies are a species of common housefly. They are very small, so many homeowners mistake them for fungus gnats. While it may be hard for the naked eye to distinguish between fruit flies and gnats, it is easy to know which you have based on where you find them. Gnats nest in soil. If you have potted plants, that is where you will find fungus gnats. Fruit flies, on the other hand, thrive on sugars, so you can find them near fruit and around soda and alcohol spills. Fruit flies also breed in decaying meat, garbage disposals, and sink drains.
What is the life cycle of a fruit fly?
Fruit flies have a remarkably brief life cycle — only a mayfly has a shorter one. Fruit flies begin life as an egg — females prefer to lay their eggs on sugary, moist and rotting surfaces. In roughly one day — approximately 30 hours — maggots hatch and begin feeding on decaying matter, such as fruits. Within two days, the flies are fully mature and ready to mate. The gestation period for a fruit fly is only about a day. A single fruit fly can lay anywhere from 50 to 70 eggs per day, which is up to 500 eggs in a lifetime.
If the temperature in your home is between 73 and 82 degrees, it is possible for a fruit fly to live as long as 50 days. However, it is much more common for a fruit fly to only live for less than a month. With such a rapid life cycle, it is easy to see why a seemingly small problem can quickly turn into an infestation if you do nothing about it.
What are the signs of a fruit fly infestation?
While it is possible that you might find pupae on a dry surface away from a food source, many people overlook these tiny objects. If they are discovered, they are often mistaken for rodent or cockroach droppings.
It is far more common to discover these nuisance pests flying around your kitchen. Often they will hover above the sink. However, you could find them near the trash can or around any fruit you have in the house as well. Another popular hangout for fruit flies is around any spilled sugary substance, such as soda, beer or liquor.
Why do I have fruit flies?
Like every other living creature, fruit flies are looking for a comfortable place to settle down and raise a family. Curb appeal for a fruit fly, however, differs greatly from what humans find alluring. A fruit fly is attracted to high-fructose substances. Fermenting fruits and vegetables, forgotten spills, slimy sink drains, rotting or decaying trash, and damp items like a mop — any of these things can make a fruit fly want to take up residence in your home. It doesn’t necessarily have to be fruit.
Are fruit flies dangerous?
Chances are, if you have fruit flies in your home, you’ve probably already accidentally eaten some. And, in moderation, that’s OK. Unlike mosquitoes, fruit flies are not vectors of disease — they cannot transmit diseases to humans. It is also comforting to know that fruit flies do not sting or bite.
In some ways, fruit flies are beneficial. They eat the decaying matter that would otherwise attract undesirable pests, such as mice or rats. Fruit flies are also an important part of the food chain. They are a tasty meal for everything from crickets and spiders to birds and frogs.
However, the bad part about fruit flies is they contaminate otherwise clean surfaces. A fruit fly carries around bacteria it picks up from decaying matter. It is not uncommon for people to break out in a rash when there is a fruit fly infestation in their home. So it’s best to get rid of them as quickly as possible.
Getting rid of fruit flies
Getting rid of fruit flies is not a one-step process. If you just get rid of the adults and not the food source, the females will continue to lay eggs. Every time you think you’ve solved the problem, a few days later, the fruit flies will return. Both steps must be performed if you want to get rid of fruit flies permanently.
The first, and most important, step for getting rid of fruit flies is to take away their food source. If there is nothing that attracts the flies, they will have no reason to breed in your home. Also, if there is no place to lay eggs, you can’t get an infestation.
This task isn’t hard, but it requires a little bit of investigative diligence. Search the room where you found the flies for places they might be breeding. This could be the obvious rotted fruit, damp mops, sticky spills, or accumulating garbage. However, fruit flies could also be breeding in a place you might not have considered, such as in a drawer, under the refrigerator, on the counter, or in your recycling bin.
Once you have found all the possible breeding grounds, the work begins. Toss the rotted fruit and vegetables, take out the trash, wash the recyclables, and clean. Use wipes or a cleaning solution of 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup distilled water to wipe down countertops and remove sticky residue. This is not a one-time task. Once you remove all the breeding locations, you will need to make this type of in-depth cleaning a regular weekly chore to keep your home free of fruit flies.
The second part of getting rid of fruit flies involves actually getting rid of them. If you’ve cleaned thoroughly and there is no place for them to breed, eventually, you can wait them out. But this might take a couple of months, and you run the risk of them finding a new favorite breeding location.
The best way to safely reduce the population of fruit flies is to trap them. For example, if you tape a food storage bag over your sink drain, and leave it there overnight, adult fruit flies will become trapped when they fly up from the drain.
For fruit flies that are buzzing around your kitchen, pour a few inches of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar into a small container or a bottle. Add a few drops of dish soap to the vinegar, but do not mix it in. The apple cider vinegar will attract the flies, and the dish soap will reduce the surface tension so the flies sink, get their wings wet, and can’t get out.
An alternative to building your own is to use a store-bought fruit fly trap. Insect traps typically have two components: a lure and a sticky surface. The fruit flies are attracted by some desirable element, but when they enter, they become trapped. Most of these items last for about a month, so you may need to use a few to get rid of all the flies in your home.
Fruit fly prevention tips
The best way to get rid of fruit flies is by never having them in the first place. In other words, your best defense is a strong offense. Here are some tips that can help keep fruit flies from infesting your home.
Only buy what you can eat
As long as your fruit and vegetables stay fresh, your chances of getting fruit flies remain low. Only purchase food that you can eat in a few days. Items that linger in the kitchen are one of the biggest reasons fruit flies infest your home.
Wash all produce
Clean up spills
If you or a family member spills something, clean it up quickly and thoroughly — don’t just pat it down with a paper towel. Any sugary residue can become a breeding ground for fruit flies, so use an all-purpose cleaner to make sure no residue remains.
Wipe down counters
Get into the habit of regularly wiping down your counters. Fruit flies will gravitate to unclean areas, so the cleaner you can keep all of your surfaces, the more successful you will be at deterring an infestation.
Empty your kitchen trash every day
The longer vegetable peels, potato skins, and other garbage sit in your kitchen trash, the more likely it is to attract fruit flies. If you have had fruit fly problems, consider emptying your kitchen trash daily.
Wash your recyclables
The residue inside cans and bottles is highly desirable to fruit flies. Before tossing items in the recycling bin, make sure they have been thoroughly washed.
Clean your garbage disposal
People tend to forget that a garbage disposal can get pretty dirty. Sometimes, running water through it isn’t enough. If you have had a fruit fly infestation problem in the past, or you currently have one, it’s time to start regularly cleaning your garbage disposal. The easiest way to do this is to sprinkle a half-cup of baking soda into the opening of the garbage disposal and add a cup of white vinegar. Let this sit for 10 minutes before running hot water and turning on the garbage disposal to rinse away the baking soda.
Clean your drains
This tip isn’t for the faint of heart. If fruit flies keep returning to your sink drain, it may be due to a buildup of slime in the pipes. If you have experience with sink traps, take yours apart and scrape out the slimy buildup you find inside.
Repair damaged screens
If you have any torn or damaged screens, your options are to repair the screen or keep that window or door shut. Fruit flies are tiny; they can get into a home through any imperfection.
What do fruit flies eat?
A. Fruit flies eat bananas, tomatoes, squash, apples, melons, rotten onions, rotten potatoes, leaves, plant secretions and decaying materials.
When are fruit flies the most active?
A. Fruit flies tend to be most prevalent in late summer through harvest time. However, if you keep your home at a comfortable temperature — which most people do — they can thrive indoors all year long.
How do fruit flies get into the home?
A. Fruit flies are attracted to food. They can come in through doors and windows in search of food. Alternatively, people can unwittingly bring fruit flies into the home on garden crops.
Will fruit flies go away on their own?
A. No. If the environment does not change — there is an ample supply of food and a desirable climate — fruit flies will not leave. To get them to vacate, you need to take action to make your home less inviting.
Can I use insecticides to get rid of adult fruit flies?
A. On its own, insecticides do not get rid of fruit flies — they treat the symptom without remedying the cause. Additionally, it can be hazardous. Since there are many non-hazardous ways to trap adult fruit flies, using insecticide indoors is not recommended.
Can I use bleach to clean out my drain?
A. Bleach is caustic. It can damage your pipes and kill helpful bacteria that break down clogs. If that’s not enough reason to avoid bleach, realize it will travel through the trouble spot too quickly to effectively break down any buildup that is creating a home for fruit flies. In short, pouring bleach down your drain is not recommended.
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