A Surprising Way to Banish Fruit Flies

Get rid of fruit flies by pouring them a nice glass of wine.
Fruit Fly

Fruit Fly

Rotten fruit is a siren song to the fruit fly.

Rotten fruit is a siren song to the fruit fly.

Similar Topics:

People have been writing about ways to get rid of fruit flies since fruit, flies, pens and paper were created. Some say you should refrigerate all fruit. Others say you should buy commercial traps. But we have the end-all, be-all, now-and-forever answer thanks to Todd Schlenke, assistant professor of biology at Emory University, who spends all day studying these pesky pests.

Schlenke works with the genus Drosophila—as opposed to the larger Mediterranean fruit flies that live in orchards—and studies their immune systems and resistance to insecticides. Despite a really fantastic photo on his website that shows him and "Team Schlenke" wearing fruit fly t-shirts to a Drosophilia conference in Chicago, Schlenke swears he's not a fly guy. "I'm not interested in flies per se; I'm just interested in them because they're useful to answer scientific questions."

Fruit flies may be tiny, but they have a powerful sense of smell and pick up on "odor plumes" that emanate from your home. "Fruit flies spend their whole lives searching for the smell of rotting fruit, then get in through cracks in the door or however the smell is getting out of your house," Schlenke says. "Fruit flies don't actually eat fruit, despite the name. They eat the fungus or rot that grows on the fruit. So the best thing is to not let your fruit rot."

According to Schlenke, a brown banana isn't a problem—it's fruit that's molding or visibly decaying in your kitchen that attracts the flies. If fruit is left to rot for long periods of time, fruit flies can lay and hatch eggs on it. "It's rare that flies are reproducing in your house unless you have rotting fruit around a lot," he says. "In the best conditions it takes 10 days to go through their whole cycle from larvae to pupae to metamorphosis."

But if fruit flies have made themselves at home in your kitchen, Schlenke says the best way to get rid of them is to give them a nice glass of wine and say goodbye. "Fruit flies like the smell of rotting fruit because they eat the microorganisms, like fungi, that make up the rot. Fungi convert fruit sugars into energy using the process of fermentation, of which alcohol is a byproduct," he says. "So if you have a glass of wine—which is really fermented fruit—or vinegar—which is really, really fermented fruit—that's where they want to be."

And that's where you want a funnel to be. "Fruit flies will go through the hole for that smell and get trapped in the liquid," Schlenke says. "Around the lab, we make traps like that with vinegar all the time. If you want to make it even better, you can put baker's yeast in the vinegar as well."

Next Up

How to Remove a Tick

Forget the folk remedies and pick up the tweezers.

Banishing Bunnies From the Garden

See these seven tips on how to keep rabbits out of your garden.

How to Keep Yellow Jackets Away

How to avoid this wasp in bee’s clothing.

How to Manage Mosquitoes in the Garden

Use basic strategies as well as new approaches for controlling mosquitoes in your outdoor spaces.

Ordering Beneficial Bugs By Mail

Send insect pests packing with mail-order beneficial bugs.

Ground Beetle

This fast-running beetle is a friend to gardeners.

Keeping Mosquitoes at Bay

A female mosquito typically lays several broods of eggs, and she needs only a thimbleful of water. Here are some non-chemical approaches to managing the mosquitoes in your yard.

How to Get Rid of Moles

Don't let these burrowing varmints turn your lawn into their playpen.

Wildlife Wall

Many beneficial garden insects, such as ladybugs and ground beetles, struggle to find habitats in our neat gardens. Consider creating an attractive wildlife wall to lure them in and keep them happy.

Deer: How to Keep Them Away From Your Garden

From using deer-resistant plants, to deer-repelling scents, there are a number of ways to keep them out of your garden.