P&PDL Picture of the Week for
October 26, 2009

How to Easily Remove Pesky Fruit Flies From Your Home - For Good

Timothy J Gibb, Insect Diagnostician, Department of Entomology, Purdue University

I thought that might get your attention.  While I wish there was an easy, permanent answer to this problem, the reality is that there is not.  These tiny flies have been a pest every year at this time as long as I can remember and I suspect that they will continue to appear in kitchens and pantries long after I am gone.  These flies are commonly known as  ‘Fruit flies’ or ‘Vinegar flies’ (Drosophila melanogaster). They are especially common during the fall time because fruits and vegetables that have ripened outside have allowed their populations to soar.  The flies either enter homes through open windows or doors or are actually brought into homes and buildings by people. Fruit fly eggs or larvae are common on all produce from gardens or orchards.  People unwittingly carry their eggs and larvae into homes on the fruits and vegetables that are brought in.  Suddenly, as if overnight, they become pesky flies and homeowners cannot figure out where they came from. 

Fruit flies are known for their small size, red eyes and for their association with the kitchen area.  It seems that they can be swatted and squashed and sucked up in a vacuum cleaner every day – and yet they come back the next.  This occurs because fruit flies have a life-cycle of about 10 days, so they can appear and repopulate seemingly overnight. 

Control is difficult.  Pesticides, if used at all must be done sparingly and cautiously as these nuisance flies generally occur near food. Most fly traps are ineffective. We have found that sanitation is the only long-term resolution as this will remove the food source as well as the breeding areas.

The following list contains steps that will help to resolve most fruit fly issues in homes.

  • Cover fruit bowls or store fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator.  (Also remember that, raisins, dates and prunes are favorite attractants. Monitor stored potatoes and onions.  If they go bad they attract flies).

  • Discard all overripe fruit.

  • Wash all dishes.

  • Clear the drains and especially the garbage disposal regularly.

  • Launder the dishrags, or at least wash them thoroughly with soap, rinse them well and wring them dry before hanging them up (don't leave them in the sink).

  • Store trash in a covered bin.

  • Seal organic food garbage before placing in receptacle.

  • Clean opened containers of fruit juice, fermented or vinegar products, including ketchup and cooking wine. Seal them and keep these in the refrigerator.

  • Wipe up crumbs and spills from your cabinets, counter and floor.

  • Take out all trash often -- do not re-use the plastic liner garbage bags.

  • Clean the seals of your refrigerator door, the top and under the fridge, especially clean the evaporation pan if it has one.

  • Clean under and around your dishwasher and stove.

  • Dump mop water, clean the pail, launder the mop rag.

  • Remove damp lint from the laundry room.

  • Take out your compost and keep your collection bin covered and food additions to your pile buried beneath yard waste.

  • Use screens on doors and windows well into the fall.

  • Record what methods seem to work the best and save them for next year – because they certainly will be back.

Click image to enlarge

Fruit flies

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service