If you were to make a list of the nastiest pests on earth, where would fruit flies rank? Probably somewhere below cockroaches, rats, and pigeons, but above ants.
Regardless, fruit flies definitely have the gross factor in spades. Just seeing one of those tiny black specks buzzing around your head is enough to make your skin crawl.
They’re not just icky—in fact, fruit flies can be a serious health hazard. Research has shown that the insects can transmit pathogens like E. coli to fresh foods. In other words, even one fruit fly in the kitchen can put you at risk for foodborne illnesses.
Even worse, a fruit fly problem can escalate quickly. Females can lay up to 500 eggs at a time, which hatch within three days. Pretty soon, those two little flies have spawned into an entire army.
Don’t wait until they’ve totally infested the kitchen to take action. Instead, follow these six tips for dealing with fruit flies as soon as you spot the first one.
Eliminate the source
First, figure out what’s attracting the flies. They can congregate on overripe or damaged fruit left out on countertops, around dirty garbage bins, in a garbage disposal that hasn’t been run in a while, and even on damp sponges. Put fresh produce away in the fridge—bananas or other fruit that shouldn’t be refrigerated can be stored in a container with a lid. Thoroughly clean any part of the kitchen where you see flies congregating.
Harness the power of herbs
Flies don’t like all fresh foods—in fact, a few herbs will actually repel them. Lavender stalks (or even a few drops of lavender essential oil) in a small dish on the counter will ward them off. Rue will work as well, although it can be a little trickier to find.
Set a funnel trap
It’s time to get crafty. Grab a mason jar, tall glass, or slim-necked bottle and fill it with fruit fly bait. They seek out sugar, so try:
- Chopped overripe fruit
- Juice or soda
- Leftover wine
- Apple cider vinegar
Roll a piece of paper into a cone with a very small opening at the point and tape it together. This is the funnel, which goes in the top of the trap. The flies will zoom inside toward that intoxicating sweet smell, but won’t be able to escape.
Once you’ve caught several flies, you’ll need to kill them before you dispose of the trap. Make a solution of warm water and dish soap, then, working quickly, remove the funnel and pour it in. Dump out the contents and thoroughly clean the container you used.
Create a bowl trap
You can make another variation of the same trap with a small bowl and plastic wrap. Fill the bowl with any of the bait options above, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Poke miniscule holes in the plastic with a toothpick or the tines of a fork—you want the flies to be able to enter but not get out.
When you’re ready to dispose of the trap, remove the plastic wrap and pour in the same dish soap solution. You may want to do this outside so the flies don’t escape into your kitchen.
Spray them with rubbing alcohol
Don’t want to wait around for a trap to work? Fill a spray bottle with 70 percent rubbing alcohol and then spritz directly on flies—it’ll knock them right out of the air. Spray once more, to make sure they’re dead, then sweep them into the trash.
The sure bet: use Aunt Fannie’s Fruit Fly Trap
When you have a full-blown invasion on your hands, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Aunt Fannie's is known for their food-based cleaning and pest solutions, and for good reason. Their fruit fly traps use a blend of natural ingredients and a specialty industrial-strength vinegar that flies find intoxicating. Just pick up a trap, open the lid, and wait—it’s that easy.
Once the flies touch the liquid inside the open jar, it disables them and actually starts to break down their exoskeleton. (Brutal, but effective.) Next, they’ll start to sink, effectively drowning any flies that are still alive. Even better, the trap is totally self-contained, so there’s no need for clean-up afterward!
Photo illustration by Alicia Cho