Introduction to Fruit Flies

Fruit flies or fruitflies are names used for two different species of flies. The very small fly, Drosophilidae, which is commonly used as a laboratory insect and is often is found indoors, is one. The larger, outdoor fly that causes problems for fruit growers, Tephritidae, which causes problems particularly for blueberries, cherries, and apples, is the other. This article focuses on the first, the one most commonly found in homes.

Recognizing Fruit Flies

Also called vinegar or pomace flies, the fruit fly has over 1,000 species. A small, brownish fly with red eyes, the adult females lay their eggs in the skins or exposed pulp of fruit and vegetables. They range in size from 2–4 millimeters in length, and are variously yellow, red-brown, black, or a blend. The chief problem is simply that they are a nuisance.

Ridding Your Home of Fruit Flies

Once you identify fruit flies in your home (they require different treatment than cluster flies, for example), you need to decide what form of treatment to use. In any case, it is important to eliminate food sources if possible, as well as to use a substance that will kill them.

Fruit flies seek warm, moist areas with organic matter in which to lay their eggs, and are found most commonly in kitchens, around compost bins, in unsealed garbage containers, and in clogged drains. They will also find and take advantage of any small imperfection in fruit skin, so any fruit that has even the slightest damage should be used immediately or consigned to the refrigerator (even though this may diminish its flavor). Because fruit flies are so small, it is probably impossible to seal all possible access, and pesticides (besides being dangerous in themselves) only eliminate current adults. So, the best approach is to remove any food sources in your home.

Eliminating food sources may also include:
  • Cleaning all dinnerware, pots and pans, kitchen utensils and flatware after each meal is prepared and served.
  • Washing all dining and food preparation surfaces, whether tables, trays, desks, or counters.
  • Eliminating any food waste from surfaces around the eating area after each meal.
  • Securing waste in plastic and removing it from the premises every evening.
  • Sweeping/washing the kitchen floor every evening.
  • Removing uneaten pet food and cleaning the surrounding area after every meal the pet has.
  • Finding and repairing any clogged drains that could be providing an attractive breeding area.
  • Frequently checking stored fruits and vegetables for spoilage.

Although proper disposal of vegetable and fruit waste usually eliminates the problem, other non-chemical steps you can take to combat an existing fruit fly population are:

  • keeping basil, said to be a fruit fly repellent, near fruits and vegetables and/or planting it outside the kitchen door.
  • creating fly traps by placing an attractive item (a slice of fruit for example) in a jar or glass, in which a small-holed funnel of plastic or paper is placed, giving the flies a wide entrance, and a very small exit. This will trap the flies which can then be disposed of.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Introduction to Pesticides
  • Introduction to Wasps
  • Introduction to Ants
  • Introduction to Silverfish
  • Introduction to Cockroaches
  • Introduction to Flies
  • Introduction to Spider Mites
  • Getting Rid of Gnats
  • Introduction to Moths