As the garden produce has come into the kitchen, so have the fruit flies, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Fruit flies are those pesky tiny insects harboring around the kitchen with reddish eyes and are attracted to anything fruit or vegetable in the area. Beyond being a nuisance, they can also carry harmful bacteria. They multiply rapidly so if not controlled quickly, a small problem becomes a big problem.
They breed in overly-ripe vegetables and fruit. Once inside, fruit flies will emerge from your vegetables and will lay eggs on fruit on the counter, in food debris in your garbage disposal or garbage can. They can also breed in a rotted potato or onion. And can be found in recycled cans if not thoroughly rinsed. Even liquid from soda, beer or wine can produce fruit flies.
One of the best ways to control fruit flies in the home is to practice excellent sanitation, eliminate rotting fruits and vegetables and keep as much food in the refrigerator as possible. Keep counters, sinks and drains clean at all times — even the dishwasher. Trash should be kept tied and taken out frequently, and compost scraps should not be allowed to pileup on the counter. Cracked or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables should be cut off and discarded immediately to prevent infestation.
Chemical control is not recommended; however, you can make your own traps using attractants commonly found in the kitchen such as cider vinegar, wine or even a small piece of fruit. Put a small amount of the attractant in a glass or jar, cover with a plastic wrap that fits tightly to the glass and poke very small holes in the plastic. Fruit flies will enter the glass but find themselves trapped. The University of Nebraska offers another simple trap using yeast and sugar. For details, go to https://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/335frufy.pdf
Once you’ve done the work to kill or trap fruit flies, keep them from coming back with these preventative measures:
1. Keep the counter clean. Fruit flies don’t just like to eat fruit; they also like spilled food, crumbs, spilled juice — just about anything. Wipe your counters frequently throughout the day and dry thoroughly.
2. Wash any produce coming into the home. Fruit flies piggyback their way into our homes on fruits and vegetables. By washing fruit and vegetables, you get rid of any eggs that may have been laid on the produce.
3. Keep produce covered or in the refrigerator. If produce must sit on the counter, be sure that it is fully contained and covered.
4. Remove odors immediately. If something smells, chances are it will attract fruit flies, too. Clean drains, garbage cans, pet bedding, litter boxes and similar things.
Female fruit flies lay 100 or more eggs per day. With the possibility of new eggs hatching, a couple of weeks of diligence will be necessary. Continue using traps, depriving them of food and water and stepping up sanitary procedures to keep them from breeding and eventually eliminating them from the home.
Linda Robbins, CDN, is assistant director and nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Herkimer County.