How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
Discover easy ways to get rid of fruit flies in your home with clever tips and traps.
There are many, many ways to get rid of fruit flies. But one expert we consulted, Todd Schlenke, assistant professor of biology at Emory University, spends all day studying these pesky pests.
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."
What Is a Fruit Fly, Anyway?
The fruit flies you are seeing around the house are genus Drosophila—as opposed to the larger Mediterranean fruit flies that live in orchards. They are most common in late summer and fall.
Female fruit flies lay their eggs on or in fruit that is decaying. And after the larvae hatch, they eat their rotten, fruity surroundings before they grow into adults.
Ways to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
There a number of methods to get rid of fruit flies in your home and we rounded up a sampling of some of the most tried-and-true methods here.
The Vinegar Method
When fruit flies show up by the dozen, whip up a batch of fruit fly magnet, a quick blend that lures these winged pests to a buffet they can't resist — and can't escape. The ingredients are likely already in your cupboard: sugar, vinegar and dish soap.
Use 1 1/2 tablespoons each of vinegar (apple cider or white) and sugar. Add a small amount of warm water, stirring to dissolve sugar. Complete the mix with a few squirts of dish soap and enough water to make 8 to 16 ounces of the mixture. How much water to add depends on what you use to hold the blend — and this is where your success hinges.
How It Works
Researchers have discovered that fruit flies track potential food sources by both odor and shape. In particular, they're looking for roundish shapes that resemble fruit. Displaying your fruit fly magnet in a round bowl or tea cup enhances the odds you'll catch more fruit flies.
Why This Blend Snares Fruit Flies
First, it reeks of the odor that's irresistible to fruit flies.
Second, the soap cuts the surface tension of the solution, which means once fruit flies land, they sink.
Let the solution sit out for up to 14 days, adding water as needed to replace any that evaporates.
Place it near ripening fruit on the kitchen counter.
For a massive outbreak — the kind that occurs in autumn when fruit trees are heavy with ripe fruit — fill large serving bowls with the mixture to provide a larger surface area to catch more fruit flies.
The Red Wine Method
If fruit flies have made themselves at home in your kitchen, Emory University's Todd 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."
More Tips for Ridding Your Home of Fruit Flies
- Place a few drops of dish soap in a shallow bowl of water and mix to form bubbles. Place the dish under a lamp so that the light will attract the flies that will then land and be trapped in the foamy water.
- Boiling white vinegar or just plain boiling water and then pouring them into shower, kitchen and bathroom drains are both great ways to rid your home of fruit flies.
- Fill a dish with apple cider vinegar. Cover it with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band, then poke a few small holes in the plastic wrap to allow the flies entry. The smell of the vinegar will attract the flies and the plastic wrap will trap them in the dish.
- Place a chunk of rotten fruit and a little vinegar in a jar. Create a paper cone by rolling a piece of paper into a cone shape and insert it into the jar. Fruit flies will be drawn to the rotten fruit smell and once in your clever trap, won't be able to get out!
How to Prevent Fruit Flies in the First Place
- Keep all of your produce in the refrigerator.
- Don't keep overripe fruit and vegetables around.
- Wash your produce when you bring it home from the store or in from the garden to remove any possiblity of transporting fruit fly larvae into your home.
- Take out the garage frequently since fruit flies can breed in empty bottles, trash cans and cleaning supplies like mops and rags.
- Clean up spills immediately, especially sticky, sugary spills.
- Use a commerical product like Aunt Fannie's FlyPunch.
- Keep food residue out of the drain.