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9-Minute Read

In the mornings, I am always sleepily waiting on the coffee pot to finish brewing that first cup of coffee to get my day started. That first morning sip of wonderful, warm, steamy, caffeine laden liquid is much anticipated. Until you see something small floating in your dark wonderful liquid and discover a nasty little fruit fly has decided to take a death bath in your morning coffee. Gross 🤢

Fruit fly, Drosophila, bathing in my morning coffee :(

Fruit fly, Drosophila, bathing in my morning coffee :(

Fruit flies can be some of the most annoying, and gross, pests out there. Chances are if you eat fresh produce with any regularity (especially organic things), you’ve probably had a small fruit fly infestation in your kitchen at one point or another. It doesn’t take much. A banana that sat too long and got overly ripe. A tomato that got bruised shoved in a corner before you remembered it. Even a potato that fell out of a bag in the cellar and got forgotten until something smelled foul. All could be the potential patient zero of your fruit fly invasion if they had eggs laid on them.

Fruit fly that was in my morning coffee :(

Fruit fly that was in my morning coffee :(

Fruit flies, also known as Pomace Flies or Vinegar flies, are small flies, usually yellowish with red eyes, in the family Drosophilidae. They mostly feed on decaying fruit or other organic materials and there are more than 180 species found in North America! The specific fruit flies plaguing my kitchen at the moment are Drosophilidae flies found in the genus Drosophila. The name Drosophila means “dew-lover” in Greek, which I presume refers to their love of sugary fermenting juices and not morning dew on the grass lol. I’m not sure which specific species I have in my kitchen, but Drosophila is the same genus of flies that scientists have been using for ages to study genetics and evolution. Unfortunately, I am not studying fruit fly genetics, and I don’t have a pet mantis to feed them to (also a good purpose for fruit flies), so they are really just an annoying pest…

Fruit fly on my window screen taunting me

Fruit fly on my window screen taunting me

Often, we may not know how fruit flies got into the kitchen. In my case though, I know exactly where the fruit flies came from. I had a bunch of tomatillos I brought in right before we started getting hard frosts (and now snow). I should have cleaned and stuck them in the fridge, but there were a lot of them and I figured I’d make salsa or something else I could can. When I had time. So I left them on the counter. Bad idea :( At least one, likely more, must have been attacked by fruit flies. As I don’t use any pesticides in my garden, I often find things eating my produce – but usually I leave the veggie-eating culprit(s) outside. Fruit flies are sneaky though. So tiny. And if the fruit/veggie looks undamaged, how am I supposed to know it is a fruit fly invasion waiting to happen?

Fruit fly, Drosophila, scoping out my tomatoes

Fruit fly, Drosophila, scoping out my tomatoes

So, we got a small infestation of fruit flies in my house. They’ve been a bit annoying, but not too bad and I figured I could procrastinate a while before getting rid of them to make sure I get some decent pictures for the blog… Easier said than done when they are so small though lol. Unfortunately, you can tell when you’ve let your fruit fly population stay for too long. Most fruit flies are pretty quick, and not the easiest to smash if they fly in front of your face. However, if you let the population go too long, you’ll likely start to find slightly larger and fatter flies that are much slower and actually hard to miss when you swat at them flying around your fruit. Definitely a sign the population has been around too long if they start producing lazy flies so securing their surroundings they aren’t worried about predators… Despite the signs, I continued to procrastinate in the dispatchment of our fruit fly tenants. Oh what fun my partner must have living with an entomologist lol.

The fruit flies did finally overstay their welcome in my kitchen though. One of them decided to take a bath in my coffee. The sacred liquid that keeps me functioning… That was the last straw. The flies need to go. NOW. So how do you get rid of a fruit fly infestation once a population has taken up residence? It’s actually pretty easy as long as you are willing to remove or toss out a few things in your kitchen.

Fruit fly pupa (fly equivalent of a butterfly chrysalis)

Fruit fly pupa (fly equivalent of a butterfly chrysalis)

Fruit Fly Control

To get rid of the fruit flies in your house, just follow these 3 easy steps:

Step 1. Remove any and all produce or open food containers from your kitchen. You must remove any place the fruit flies may have already laid eggs in as well as any places that may attract them for future eggs.

  • Trash any overly ripe produce sitting out. If you’ve seen flies hovering around it, there’s a good chance they already laid eggs in it. While eating fruit fly eggs or even the adults won’t hurt you, it’s a gross factor I try to avoid – especially since the mother flies put a bit of poop on their eggs for extra nutrients…
  • Put any unripe produce, or things you are unwilling to toss, in the fridge or in an airtight container so the flies can’t get to it. You can also segregate “iffy” produce in it’s own airtight bag and monitor it for a couple days to make sure flies don’t hatch from it.
  • Empty the trash, compost, and recycle bin if they are kept in or near your kitchen. Fruit flies love to hang out in these places and can get enough sustenance from these places to last until the next batch of produce appears if you leave them. If you don’t use can liners, make sure you thoroughly rinse out these containers after emptying them too – eggs, pupa (fly version of a chrysalis), and larva (baby flies) can be pretty small and stick to container sides.
Fruit fly larvae and pupa in box that was holding tomatillos

Fruit fly larvae and pupa in box that was holding tomatillos

Step 2. Set out some fly traps to hasten the fly’s population crash. These can be store bought or super cheap and easy things you make at home. I’ve found the following helpful:

  • Old pickle jar trap (DYI).
    • Supplies: Pickle jar with leftover pickle juice, piece of plastic wrap, rubber band or tape.
    • Put plastic wrap over the pickle jar opening.
    • Rubber band or tape plastic wrap to top of jar.
    • Punch a small hole in plastic wrap for flies to get through.
    • Done! Fruit flies love old pickle juice and anything else that smells vinegary or like fermenting fruit.
My lazy version of the pickle trap with lid set slightly ajar

My lazy version of the pickle trap with lid set slightly ajar

  • Vinegar & soap trap (DIY).
    • Supplies: empty plastic soda bottle, apple cider vinegar, liquid soap, & tape.
    • Cut soda bottle in half to you have a top half and bottom half
    • Fill the bottom half with a little apple cider vinegar (white vinegar, beer, or wine also work) and a few drops of liquid dish soap. Maybe a quarter to a third of the way up.
    • Tape the lid of the top half of the bottle.
    • Invert the top half of the bottle so the small pour spout is upside down and place it on top of the bottom half of the bottle.
    • Tape the inverted top half of the bottle to the bottom with the vinegar in it so that it doesn’t move and flies can sneak in the sides.
    • Done! The flies will be attracted to the smell, funneled through the top and then trapped in the bottom. The soap helps break surface tension so they can’t fly out again once touching the liquid.
  • Yellow sticky tape traps (purchase).
    • Open and hang or otherwise place in your kitchen. The flies are attracted to the yellow color and then of course get stuck.
Sticky fly tape with an assortment of flies…

Sticky fly tape with an assortment of flies…

  • Electric fly swatter (purchase).
    • Insert batteries and go for it.
    • Not the most effective way to catch the fruit flies, but it sure is satisfying to hear them get zapped…

Step 3. Wait. Wait for the fruit flies to die. Fruit flies only live a few days, so if you’ve followed steps 1 and 2 (step 2 really being optional) you’ll be fruit fly free in a week. Hopefully less. Easy right? Step one is really important though. If you don’t remove all preexisting eggs, pupa, and food sources, it’s really hard to get rid of them…

If you’ve had one too many fruit flies bathe in your morning coffee, hopefully you’ll find this article helpful in getting rid of them. No one should have to share their coffee with fruit flies… :)

To read more about fruit flies, check out:

Want to see something really gross? Check out the video of these fat and happy fruit fly larvae that were hiding under a rotten tomatillo…

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Written by an entomologist for the enjoyment of all... The goal is to post 1 new story every week or so. Stay tuned!