By Helen Booth
Dealing with seasonal pests in the kitchen is irritating, but figuring out how to get rid of fruit flies can become an equal annoyance. Luckily, we have an easy homemade solution that takes just a few minutes to execute
Ah, glorious summer - you’ve waited months for the warm weather to arrive, throw open your windows, and you’re making the most of the bright sunshine spilling across your kitchen. And then you notice a few dreaded fruit flies lingering on the countertop or buzzing around your head. It’s an extremely common scenario - and incredibly irritating - but thankfully, the problem is easy to solve if you know how!
What causes fruit flies?
A fruit fly infestation can occur at any time of year. Still, it’s more likely to be a problem in the summer and autumn months when ripe fruits are plentiful, and fruit fly eggs or roaming flies can find their way into kitchens through fresh garden produce brought indoors or an open window.
Sometimes no matter how often you clean your kitchen, there can be less obvious sources of infestation, too. Fruit flies are generally attracted to ripe and/or rotting fruit and vegetables, as well as fermented foods and drinks - making our kitchens, unfortunately, breeding grounds. “Fruit flies can breed both indoors and outdoors. “They can start reproducing in trash cans [which are usually full of food], garbage disposals, drains, and even mop buckets,” says Jordan Foster of Fantastic Pest Control.
In addition to being annoying, each fruit fly has the potential to spread bacteria and disease, and an adult fruit fly has a typical lifespan of 40-50 days. Furthermore, adult females can lay up to 500 eggs – so it’s important to address the problem quickly.
But there are ways to try and prevent them from surfacing. “To prevent an infestation, regularly empty your trash cans, wipe countertops, and clean spills,” Jordan explained. “Clean your garbage disposals and drain lines. Don’t keep food waste around for too long.”
Thankfully, there is a simple step-by-step process to eliminate fruit flies and keep prevent future infestations. Below is our action plan for getting rid of fruit flies, once and for all.
How to get rid of fruit flies in five steps
1. Find the source of the problem
Despite the name ‘fruit fries,’ the source of an infestation can also be found in other types of produce too, such as a forgotten bag of potatoes or onions in the back of a cupboard. It’s also possible that you don’t have a fruit fly problem at all; the soil from houseplants and potted herbs can be a breeding ground for fungus gnats, which look very similar to fruit flies. Tackle this problem by caring for your plants as required, removing dropped leaves, and being careful not to let them sit in water-logged soil – topping the soil with gravel can also help.
2. Wash and refrigerate ripe fruit
To eliminate possible breeding grounds, wash fruit with apple cider vinegar as soon as you bring it home. “Getting rid of and keeping fruit flies away is straightforward if you know what to look out for,” says Clara Velho, CEO of Gemstone Cleaning Services. “As a general rule, start with keeping the kitchen clean, including washing the fruit and the bowl you keep it in. I soak my fruit in apple cider vinegar mixed with water for about 20-30 minutes as a fantastic way of getting rid of bacteria.”
It can also help to store ripe fruits in the fridge. As soon as any produce starts to look overripe, chop it up and freeze it, then use it as an ingredient in baking or for making smoothies in your very best blender.
3. Empty your bins
While it’s tempting to put off the task of emptying bins until they are completely full, it’s important to empty them daily in the summer. This is particularly true of compost bins or any other bin that contains food waste. Even a recycling bin that contains any lingering food residue could provide a breeding ground for fruit flies. Emptying and wiping down bins daily will not only reduce feeding and breeding grounds for fruit flies and other pests but will also prevent unpleasant and lingering smells in the kitchen.
3. Sanitize and close your drains
While not strictly fruit flies, drain flies (or sewer gnats) are another pest that can be mistaken for fruit flies as they are very similar in appearance. If you’ve noticed these teeny pests gathering near the sink, you can use bleach, drain cleaner, or a homemade solution (for example, a mix of baking soda and vinegar) to deep clean the drain, then keep the plug closed when not in use.
4. Set a trap
Once your kitchen is clean and you’ve removed any potential fruit fly breeding grounds, you’ll need to set a trap for any pests still buzzing around your kitchen to get rid of them completely.
Simply fill a few small containers with a mixture of apple cider vinegar, a squirt of washing up liquid, and some ripe chopped fruit such as grapes or banana, then cover the container with cling film and prick it with a toothpick to create a few holes. If you don’t have any cling film, you could also top the containers with a piece of paper rolled into a funnel. The fruit flies should be able to get in, but not out of, these traps. Leave a few of these around your kitchen for a few days to catch any lingering flies.
5. Clean regularly and use a repellent
To prevent future infestations, keep surfaces clean, including those in cupboards and fridges, and deal with leftover foods (including any scraps left in your food processor, for example) as soon as you’re finished eating by throwing it away or storing it in an airtight container. You can also use a repellent to keep flies out of your home – for example, keep a pot of basil near your window (where fruit flies often enter), or scatter some individual basil leaves around your fruit bowl. You could even diffuse an essential oil to keep fruit flies at bay; lemon verbena, thyme, or peppermint are thought to be the most effective.
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