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How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies (7 Different Methods)

Fruit flies are aggressive pests.

Fruit flies aren't just annoying insects that feed on decaying fruit. They have the potential to carry bacterial diseases that can put your entire family at risk. This article tells you what you need to know about exclusion, restriction, destruction, and monitoring, the four phaes of getting rid of fruit flies for good.

Fruit flies can be a terrible nuisance around the home. They are drawn to fruit that is just becoming fully ripe and luscious. They swarm around drains and garbage cans. They land on cleaning rags and mops. They are unwelcome guests on salads and fruit cups and even soft drinks and iced tea.

Fruit flies can be a bigger nuisance in the home garden. They ruin apples, pears, persimmons, citrus, berries, grapes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and more. All the work you put into raising beautiful fruits and vegetables can be ruined by fruit flies.

And fruit flies never quite go away on their own. Fruit flies are more common during moist weather in summer months, but your home can be infested with fruit flies any time of year. In this article we will tell you why you need to get fruit flies under control, some do-it-yourself methods of fruit fly control, and what the experts told us about getting rid of this pest. But first, let’s review the basic facts about fruit flies.

Related: Types of insects commonly found in and around the home

Meet the Fruit Fly

A close-up image of a fruit fly.

Fruit flies are a group of flies that, as their name suggests, do most of their feeding on fruit. Fruit flies can also feed on vinegar, wine, and peelings from fruit. Like all other insects, they have six legs. Their eyes are red or pink, and they have two pairs of wings. In biology class, you may have heard them referred to by their scientific name, Drosophila.

Every female fruit fly has several male mates. Male fruit flies are food for predator insects as robber flies and yellow jackets. Hawaii solved its fruit fly problem by importing yellow jackets to eat the fruit flies, but now it has a yellow jacket problem. Fruit fly larvae are food for cockroaches. When you have fruit flies buzzing around your fruit bowl, cockroaches may soon follow. Fruit flies are relatively long-lived as flies go, usually living for 30 to 40 days.

Fruit flies lay their eggs in fruit, but the young larvae do not eat the fruit itself. They feed on the molds and fungus growing on the fruit. If you don’t let fruit get moldy, you deprive young fruit flies of the nourishment they need to become adult flying pests. And fully mature fruit flies can cause more problems than just ruining good fruit.

Fruit Flies Aren’t Harmless

A fruit fly on a green stalk.

Do you really need to wage war on fruit flies? Aren’t they more of a nuisance than a danger to your health? The most obvious problem with fruit flies is the damage they do to fruit, but fruit flies can also damage your health.

Fruit Fly Allergies

Fruit flies don’t bite. That’s because they don’t have teeth. But fruit flies can leave red marks on the skin in susceptible individuals who have fruit fly allergies.

A scientific study has shown that the more often you are exposed to fruit fly saliva, the more likely you are to develop an allergy to fruit flies. Fruit fly allergies most often cause watery eyes and a runny nose, but they also can result in sore throat and chest congestion.

The members of your family who are most likely to develop fruit fly allergies are those who can’t swat them away, such as babies and sick people. Once you develop an allergy to fruit flies, it tends to stay with you indefinitely, so prevention — by eliminating fruit flies — is essential.

Can Fruit Flies Spread Infectious Diseases?

Fruit flies deposit bacteria in rotting fruit.

Viral diseases like the West Nile virus, Zika virus, and dengue fever can be spread by biting insects such as mosquitoes. A mosquito bites you to feed on your blood, and in the process of withdrawing blood from your skin, it injects the virus it picked up from the person or animal on which it fed earlier. Mosquitoes spread parasitic diseases like malaria the same way.

Fruit flies don’t bite, so they don’t spread diseases this way. However, that doesn’t mean fruit flies don’t spread any diseases at all.

The infectious disease issues with fruit flies arise from their feeding habits. Whatever else can be said about fruit flies, they aren’t picky eaters. Mediterranean fruit flies, for example, are known to feed on at least 200 kinds of commercial and wild fruits and berries.

Fruit flies also feed on protein of animal origin, which they locate with their tiny noses that especially sensitive to ammonia. The protein that they are most likely to locate is found in urine and feces, which they can carry around with them when they land on any of the over-200 kinds of fruit they will eat.

That’s not a big problem with male fruit flies. They leave only small amounts of bacteria on the fruit they eat. But the female fruit fly lays her eggs by puncturing the peel of a fruit and injecting batches of eggs into the soft flesh of the fruit. Research scientists have found that fruit flies can carry E. coli and Salmonella for at least seven days after they feed on dung and that the bacteria they inject into the fruit with their eggs cannot be removed by washing. Fruit flies have also been captured and found to be carrying Staph bacteria, the bacteria that cause serious skin infections.

7 Simple Home Methods for Getting Rid of Fruit Flies

An improvised home-made fruit fly trap.

1. Vinegar and dish soap

Small infestations of fruit flies can be controlled with easy, inorganic methods that cost almost nothing at all. You can put about a quarter of a cup of vinegar in a dish and add a few drops of dish soap. Fruit flies will be attracted to the vinegar but will not be able to fly out because of the soap.

2. Rotting fruit in a jar

Or you can place rotting fruit in a jar, collect the fruit flies that gather to consume it and dispose of fruit and flies inside plastic wrap into the trash.

3. Red wine, mashed bananas and ketchup

You can trap fruit flies with red wine, mashed bananas, and ketchup. Y

4. Around the sink drain (infestation)

ou can poison their water supply by closing the drain in your sink and filling it with a solution of water and bleach, about 50 times as much water as bleach. (Be sure not to mix bleach and ammonia. The combination will release chlorine gas. This will kill fruit flies, but it can make you sick, too.)

Fruit fly drain treatments stop fruit flies that congregate around your drains. Or you can kill fruit flies with a simple candle trap.

5. The candle method

Place a candle (or more than one candle) in a dish with water around its base. When it gets dark, light the candle and turn off all other light sources in the room. The light will attract fruit flies. The flame will singe their wings, and they will drown in the water.

6. Commercial fruit fly traps

For just a few dollars more you can use any of a number of commercial traps and killers. The BEAPCO Fruit Fly Trap lures fruit flies into a fruity-scented trap from which they cannot escape. It is nontoxic for people and pets and lasts 30 days, but it will only control fruit flies when they do not have other food sources in the room where the trap is used.

BEAPCO 10036 Prefilled Fruit Fly Traps, 6-Pack, Red
Click image for more info

7. Essential oil method

If you prefer an organic approach, you can make a fruit fly trap with any essential oil containing a compound called eugenol. This chemical is a fruit fly attractant that can lure them into soapy water or candles. Essential oils that are rich in eugenol include oils of artemisia, cinnamon, galangal root, and hyssop.

Preventing fruit flies in the first place

It also helps to make sure you never leave dirty dishes in the sink, always cover your trash can, get of leaks and moist spots, completely turn off faucets so they don’t drip, and avoid keeping your houseplants too moist. If you can’t stop a dripping faucet, then part of your fruit fly control may be calling a plumber.

Some kinds of fruit flies feed on fungus that grows in potting soil. They can also grow in food or water leakage at the bottom of your trash can. Don’t over water houseplants and replace leaky garbage cans.

All of these methods of fruit fly control work on a small scale, but sometimes you need fruit fly control on a large scale. When do you need to call in a professional?

When Do You Need Professional Help for Getting Rid of Fruit Flies?

An exterminator with insecticide sprayer.

It’s not common for homes to be overrun with fruit flies, but it can happen. Here’ are a couple of possible scenarios.

Your air conditioning goes out in the middle of sticky, humid weather in the middle of summer. You open your windows for fresh air and circulation. In with the fresh air comes swarms of fruit flies. No amount of bug spray gets them all and you can’t figure out where they keep coming from even when your air conditioning is repaired.

Or maybe your plague of fruit flies arrives after your basement floods. Hordes of fruit flies find their way to your basement to feed on fungus. The same thing can happen when you have a broken pipe or suffer flood damage anywhere in your home. And flooding around your house can also create a haven for these flying pests. If you aren’t using a reputable flood restoration company with experienced follow-up care to prevent infestations of various kinds of bugs, you will almost certainly need to call experienced pest control. Experts agree that fruit flies are among the most common critters to infest homes after flooding.

Fruit flies are also a major problem for restaurants and grocery shops. No kind of fly is ever a good housekeeping seal of approval for any commercial establishment that sells food. Any kind of fly will turn off customers and get the attention of the health inspector.

What Can Professionals Do to Control Your Fruit Fly Problems That You Can’t Do for Yourself?

The ten extermination companies we consulted for writing this article all told us that controlling fruit flies consists of five steps:

  • Exclusion,
  • Restriction,
  • Destruction,
  • Monitoring,
  • And repeating the first four steps until fruit flies are gone for at least six months.

Exclusion

A full-geared exterminator with a pesticide sprayer.

You will never get control over a serious infestation of fruit flies unless you can stop them from coming into the area you are trying to protect. That’s the idea with fruit inspection stations for travelers to California and Hawaii. The same principle applies to your home or retail establishment.

The kinds of places a professional exterminator will look for fruit fly flyways into your home include kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. All of these rooms offer fruit flies a constant supply of moisture and food. The exterminator will look for leaky plumbing, tears in screens, cracks in windows and walls, broken grout around bathroom tiles, and gaps where utilities and cable come into your house.

Doors that don’t close, window air conditioners with loose filters, and, for people in dry summer climates, swamp coolers will all be inspected and corrected. Your exterminator will also have an eye out for potted plants that are so moist that they produce fungus to feed fruit flies. Keeping new infestations of fruit flies out of your house is fundamental to fruit fly control. But not all the work of exclusion can be done by your exterminator.

Your pest control specialist does a great job of preventing swarms of fruit flies from invading your house. Your pest control specialist can’t keep smaller numbers of fruit flies from hitching a ride on produce you buy at the supermarket and especially on produce you buy at an open air market.  If you buy ripe fruit and tomatoes, you need to eat them right away, or cook them. The exterminator can point out special problems in the fruit and vegetable supply in your location that are causing problems in multiple homes.

Restriction

A hanging insect and fly trap for the garden.

It’s also essential to shut down your fruit flies’ all-you-can-eat buffet. Removing the food fruit flies need at any stage of their life cycle stops the infestation.

First, it’s critical to make sure fruit flies can’t get the protein they need from kitty litter boxes and random dog poop. If there are problems with flushing in the bathroom, those need to be addressed to. If fecal matter is restricted, female fruit flies can’t lay their eggs.

Next, it’s necessary to deprive fruit flies of their nursery. Female fruit flies lay their eggs in over-ripe or nearly-ripe fruits and vegetables. Even if you don’t want to put tomatoes and tropical fruits in the refrigerator so they will maintain their intense flavor, you do want a barrier between food and flies to stop egg laying.

Wriggling fruit fly larvae grow in fruit as it turns vinegary. They swim out of the rotten part of the fruit and wriggle through it to any part of the fruit that is still relatively fresh. Discarding damaged fruit altogether gets rid of the fruit fly larvae. Your exterminator will make sure that you are not giving young fruit flies a home.

Destruction

A wall-mounted electrical insect killer with UV lamps.

Modern pest control has safe methods of killing fruit flies. Just as there are “mosquito zappers,” there are also electronic fruit fly killers, such as the Lumnia brand. These fruit fly killers have a subdued design that make them suitable for use even in public spaces without calling attention to a fruit fly problem. They require no chemicals and leave a minimal environmental footprint. Most importantly, they keep dead fruit flies out of public view after they have been “zapped.”

There are also chemicals that kill fruit flies. They are much more problematic. A pyrethrin or pyrethroid spray will cause fruit flies to drop from the air. The problem with this kind of spray it that, while it is safe for dogs, it can cause seizures in cats, and it will kill fish. Pyrethrins and pyrethroids come in dispensers that will release a spray every 15 minutes, but neither you nor your pets should be in the room for several hours after the last spray.

When public authorities want to wipe out huge populations of fruit flies, they sometimes use a chemical called malathion. This product works by interfering with the insect’s central nervous system, but it can have a similar effect on people and pets. Use malathion only as a last resort, preferably allowing a licensed pest control specialist to apply it for you.

Monitoring

A bright yellow sticky insect trap installed on a tree.

Professional exterminators monitor the progress of fruit fly eradication with sticky traps. You will want to place these sticky traps in a place where fruit flies fly but guests and customers won’t see them. Small yellow sticky traps, even without insecticide, can be hung discreetly near potted plants and food storage to help you detect any new infestation.

When you stop seeing new fruit flies in your traps, you will know that you have your fruit fly problem under control. And should changing conditions bring you another fruit fly infestation, you will have had successful experience to keep fruit flies in control for the long run.

FAQs

Where do fruit flies come from?

Fruit flies are small insects that are commonly found in or near areas with moisture and aging organic material, including fruits and vegetables. Generally, they can migrate short distances to reach farms, orchards, fruit bowls, garbage disposals, bottles, and cans that have remnants of fruit juice and many other areas that are relatively moist.

A female fruit fly will lay several hundred eggs per event, so the presence of a single fruit fly in an area can quickly lead to an infestation. Because it only takes a few hours for these eggs to hatch, you may quickly notice hundreds of fruit flies or more in an area that did not have any only a day or two before.

How long do fruit flies live?

An adult fruit fly will live for approximately 40 to 50 days. Females will lay several batches of eggs within that time period. The full life cycle of a fruit fly is much longer. After the eggs mature and hatch, the larvae will feast on the food source in the vicinity as they mature for four days into the pupal stage. Pupation is completed within four more days. Adult fruit flies are ready to mate and reproduce as soon as two days after the pupation phase has been completed.

What attracts fruit flies?

Fruit flies are attracted to decomposing vegetables, rotting and fermenting fruit, and even remnants of fermented alcoholic drinks in bottles or cups. While they feed off of these natural sugars, the females also inject their eggs underneath the skin or surface of overripe fruits and vegetables.

Fruit flies are also attracted to moist areas, such as mops, wet towels, and rags, drains, and other areas. Therefore, these areas are essential for feeding and reproduction.

What do fruit flies eat?

Fruit flies have a long feeding tube that they use to penetrate through the skin of aging fruit and vegetables. The natural sugar that they consume through this process provides them with essential energy and is their primary food source. Fruit flies are also attracted to beer and wine because of the fermentation, and they can turn these liquids to vinegar.

Why do I have fruit flies?

Fruit flies are found in areas that are conducive for their survival, and a vital component that they look for in an ideal environment is a food source. If fruit flies are in your home, they may be breeding in your fruit bowl or in another area where you store fruits and vegetables. They can also be attracted to the organic material that is found in drains, garbage cans, and even potted plants.

Fruit flies can even be prevalent around wet rags and mops because they are attracted to moisture. Because a single fruit fly can lay several hundred eggs multiple times over her life, it is easy for an infestation to develop if you have a conducive environment in your home.

Where do fruit flies lay their eggs?

Fruit flies lay their eggs on or in organic material that will be an excellent food source for the larvae after the eggs hatch. Typically, this is an area where the adults naturally feed. The female fruit flies may also lay eggs on other surfaces that are moist and have organic material, such as moist soil in a potted plant, a garbage disposal drain, a garbage can, and other similar areas.

How are fruit flies born?

A female fruit fly can begin laying eggs approximately two days after maturity is reached. Up to 500 eggs may be laid at a time, and they may hatch within a few hours of being laid in a conducive environment with moisture and an organic food source.

A small larva will emerge from each egg, and all of the larvae will consume the organic material nearby for approximately four days as they grow. After that period of time, they will spend approximately four more days in pupation before reaching maturity and beginning the cycle again.

Do any insects eat fruit flies? If so, which ones?

Fruit flies are a food source for other larger insects as well as for some types of fowl. The fowl, such as chickens, do not typically seek out the fruit flies as an individual food source. Instead, they may consume fruits and vegetables where the fruit flies are present. Ants, beetles, mites, wasps, and even crickets may feed on the fruit flies as well as on their eggs and larvae.

Are fruit flies dangerous?

At first glance, fruit flies are simply an annoyance when they are in your home. This is particularly true when you have trouble identifying their breeding ground and eradicating them from your space. However, fruit flies can be harmful to your health as well. Their tiny bodies are mostly covered by small hairs, and pathogens can easily stick to these hairs.

This includes various types of bacteria and other illness-causing germs, so you should fight an infestation as soon as you notice signs of fruit flies indoors. One of the more common health problems that they cause is diarrhea.

Do fruit flies bite?

Fruit flies do not consume blood as a food source, so they do not bite humans. They can swarm around you in droves, and they may fly into your eyes, nose, and mouth if you are not careful. Regardless of how many fruit flies are in your area, you will not be bitten by them. Fruit flies have a long feeding tube that is ideal for sucking sugars out of fruits and vegetables, but they do not have teeth or even a mouth.

Are fruit flies attracted to light?

Fruit flies are not attracted to light sources, and they likewise are not repelled by light. Rather than being most active during the dark hours of the night or in the middle of the day, they are usually more active in the transitional periods around sunrise and sunset.

Are fruit flies bad for compost?

Compost is comprised of decaying or decomposing organic material that is a primary food source for fruit flies. Because of this, it can be difficult to keep fruit flies out of your compost pile. Once fruit flies identify your compost pile, they can become seriously problematic. In fact, some people have swarms of thousands of these insects in or around their compost pile if they do not take steps to prevent an infestation. However, fruit flies will not specifically harm the compost.

Can fruit flies live in plants?

Fruit flies do not live inside plants, but they are commonly found in the soil of indoor potted plants. This is because they consume the decomposing vegetation found in the soil. Their presence is most common in moist soil that may be over-watered frequently.

When do fruit flies sleep?

Fruit flies have periods throughout the day when they are more and less active. They are not specifically drawn to darkness or light, so they are most active twice each day during the transitional periods between full daylight and nighttime.

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