In temperate climates, the approach of autumn is synonymous with the beginning of fruit fly season. Counter top baskets of fruit and kitchen compost canisters that sat unmolested all spring and summer suddenly begin to swarm with these pesky little insects. And just try to enjoy a fly-free glass of wine. Nearly impossible. Why do these pesky critters always tend to show up in the fall, and what can be done to eradicate them?
Why Fruit Flies Appear in Late Summer
The end of summer and start of fall are when local produce is at its peak. Home gardeners are harvesting the treasures that they nurtured all spring and summer, vegetable gardens are ripe, roadside produce stands are everywhere.
These are optimal conditions for reproduction of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Although these tiny flies can be a problem year round, the ripe and fermenting fruits and veggies that are abundant in late summer function as Drosophila magnets.
How Do Fruit Flies Get Into the House?
Produce brought in from the garden, or purchased fresh, can initially bring fruit flies, their eggs and larvae into the home. Once they are inside the house, any fresh or spoiling fruits and veggies provide ongoing nourishment and places for them to lay eggs that become the next generation of flies. And fruit flies are very talented reproducers. Each female can lay about 500 eggs, which hatch into larvae and then mature into adult flies in about a week.
Although fruit flies are mainly attracted to ripe fruits and vegetables, they can also breed in other moist spots in the kitchen, such as drains, garbage disposals, empty bottles and cans, trash bins, and on wet dish rags. Since these blighters are so tiny (approximately 1/8 of an inch long) adult flies can easily move in and out of the home through windows and doors, especially if there are any small tears or holes in the screens.
How to Eliminate Fruit Fly Infestations
The best way to get rid of fruit flies is to eliminate the areas where they are breeding within the home. Keep fresh fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator. Frequently empty the trash and be sure the trash can is clean. Rinse out recyclables and ensure that the recycling canister is clean. Hang dish towels in a way that allows them to quickly dry.
Although eliminating the places where fruit flies are breeding is a must, traps can help reduce the current population of adult flies. For instructions on how to build a simple fruit fly trap see the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s article on fruit flies.
Additional SourceColorado State University Extension (2009) “Flies in the Home.”