We get it — insects are important to the ecosystem and without them, pollination of important food crops decreases and if insect populations go extinct, it means less food for other small animals that rely on that population as a food source. Bottom line: Insects are important. Spiders and even mosquitoes play a vital role in nature even though they’re a total pain to humans. But despite whatever role they may play — (even if we’re not totally sure what fruit flies and gnats do in our ecosystem) — it doesn’t mean we want them in our homes. They can do their thing outside; that’s fine. But when it comes to swarms infiltrating the kitchen? No thank you.
While there may be a ton of non-toxic ways to get rid of different species of bugs naturally — citronella plants, UV light insect traps, wine bottles and vinegar, and even electric bug zappers if you’re desperate — you still might find the fruit fly particularly difficult.
This is because fruit flies make their way into your home unlike most other bugs — through the food you personally bring into the house. Gross, right? But totally true. A spider may creep its way in through a crack or a housefly might zip in when the window’s open, but fruit flies don’t exactly come in uninvited. When you bring home fruits and even some vegetables, you’re also inadvertently bringing home fruit flies.
Adult fruit flies lay their eggs on the skin of produce; if you allow the produce to go bad or overripe, they will hatch, and you’ll find yourself dealing with a fruit fly infestation. Also, it’s worth noting that you can prevent this by composting produce that’s too old or overripe, but also by washing your produce thoroughly once you bring it home. A 30-second or so rinse should wash off any miniscule eggs, but it can’t be guaranteed.
So, once they’re inside, what do you do? Keep reading for tips for getting rid of fruit flies.
How to get rid of fruit flies:
There are a few ways to get rid of fruit flies in your home once the eggs have already hatched. Moving forward, you’ll want to take preventative measures — like washing your produce thoroughly and getting rid of produce before it goes bad — but if you’re actively dealing with fruit flies now, pin the preventative measures for later and let’s focus on what you can do today.
One of the easiest ways to get rid of fruit flies is to lure them in with what they love most: sweetness. You can do this by using an old, expired wine. The wine has to be expired so that it’s more vinegary than usual; fruit flies will be instantly attracted to the vinegary nature of the wine, but the secret is adding in a few drops of liquid dish soap. The flies will fly down the wine bottle neck to get to the vinegary wine, but they’ll become trapped in the soap.
To make your fruit fly trap even more complicated, you can add in a paper cone. So, add a piece of rotten fruit or a half cup or so of vinegary, expired wine to any container. (If you use the piece of rotting fruit, just add a tablespoon of vinegar over it to really sweeten the deal.) Roll a piece of paper into a cone shape, then put it in the container, narrow end at the bottom. Fruit flies will fly down the cone to get to the sweetness, but they won’t be able to fly back up through the cone.
If vinegar alone doesn’t seem to do the trick, you can try to make your trap a little sweeter by adding a tablespoon or two of sugar.
Traditional white vinegar generally works well for trapping fruit flies, but apple cider vinegar is also another effective option. Because it’s fermented, it smells extra sweet to fruit flies. To make a trap out of apple cider vinegar, mix two tablespoons of ACV, one T of sugar, and add a few drops of liquid dish soap. Mix up the solution so the sugar dissolves, then set a few of these bowls throughout the areas where you notice fruit flies the most.
Growing up, you may have heard that beer was effective in getting rid of outdoor slugs, but believe it or not, beer is also great for luring in fruit flies. Again, you’ll need a few drops of liquid dish soap — as this is the key to trapping the flies — but a ½ cup of beer should smell sweet enough to fruit flies (since it’s fermented) to lure them into any container.
At-home sprays can work well for killing individual fruit flies — so long as you have decent aim. Combine a mixture of two cups of water and a few drops of essential oil like peppermint or rosemary in a reusable spray bottle. You can attack each individual fruit fly with spray, or simply spray commonly infested areas you’ve seen fruit flies frequent the most — the kitchen, bathroom, or area around the garbage.
What won’t work to kill fruit flies:
You may have heard that bleach will get rid of fruit flies, but unfortunately, it won’t. This is why it’s so important to identify the insect you’re dealing with because if it truly is a fruit fly infestation, bleach won’t work.
However, if you have tiny flies flying around the drains in your home — like the sink or the tub — you might not have a fruit fly issue at all. These are more likely to be drain flies. Drain flies tend to hang around the shower drain, sinks, or bathtubs, so if you see them isolated in these main areas, bleach will likely work on them. After all, these are most likely drain flies, not fruit flies.
Alternatively, if you’re noticing tiny flies hanging around your plants, these probably aren’t fruit flies either. They’re more likely to be fungus gnats, which tend to come around when plants are overwatered and start to grow mold. Luckily, the same remedies of liquid soap, ACV, and a T of sugar generally do the tricks for fungus gnats, too; but if you’re worried about killing your plants, you might want to simply repot the plant with new soil instead of resorting to downing the plant in soap and vinegar.
What to do when DIY fruit fly traps don’t work:
If you’ve tried the vinegar, the wine, the beer, the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and liquid dish soap and it’s all been for naught, it’s time to get more serious.
You may want to consider buying a fruit fly trap online or at your local grocery or hardware store. There are several different models of fruit fly traps, so just pick a reusable one that works best for your home.
You could also look into a fruit fly spray. Some insecticide aerosols work well to kill fruit flies, but it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. These sprays are notoriously bad for the environment and they are generally not considered non-toxic either. These insecticides use the main ingredient pyrethrin to kill of fruit flies and while it works, you may want to consider it a last resort.