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by: Robert Fox
I hate wasting food, and for me every time I see a fruit fly it is just a reminder that I let something go bad!
To help prevent this, I like to keep an eye on my fruits and veggies, and if I don’t think I’ll use them in time, I throw them in the freezer so that I have them for next time I make a smoothie!
Once you have fruit flies or gnats in your home, you’re going to want to get rid of them ASAP!
Table of Contents:
- What’s the difference between a fruit fly and a gnat?
- Can fruit flies contaminate food and cause disease?
- How do fruit flies appear out of nowhere?
- How long do fruit flies live?
- What is the benefit of fruit flies?
- Can I eat food that fruit flies have been on (or the flies themselves)?
- Will fruit flies die in the fridge?
- Ways to get rid of fruit flies (traps and methods)
- How to prevent future fruit fly invasions
What’s The Difference Between a Fruit Fly and a Gnat?
I should mention off the top here that fruit flies and gnats are different, even though they’re both small and are members of the fly family.
Fruit flies, for instance, are from the fly order, the phylum Arthropoda, and the specific scientific name: Drosophila melanogaster.
Fruit flies and gnats are similar in that they both small, annoying, and found around the house. Gnats also sometimes bite, whereas fruit flies don’t, because they don’t have any “biting” parts in their mouth.
They do not look the same either, really, if you take the time to look at each of them closely. Also, they gather in different areas and for different reasons. This should help you begin form a strategy to eradicate fruit flies for good.
Fruit flies look like tiny little flies and have red eyes, whereas a gnat looks more like a mosquito.
The other big difference is that gnats are more concerned with your potted plants, and live in the soil, and fruit flies are after your food (particularly fruit) and the general grossness around any home that doesn’t keep things spick and span all the time.
Personally, I find them both to be a nuisance, but this article specifically focuses on how I deal with getting rid of fruit flies more than gnats.
Can Fruit Flies Contaminate Food and Cause Disease?
One of the reasons I think fruit flies need to be dealt with ASAP is because they do contribute to disease in general, and potentially make you sick.
No, they aren’t bringing back the bubonic plague, or are even really much of a threat per se, but they are basically an indication that disease is coming because they are attracted to, and consume, filth. Bottom line: they’re gross. Not exactly a danger to our race, but certainly not something you want on your food.
But also – we should note they are only there (the fruit flies, that is) because you (and me) are a bit gross ourselves, because they’re after our mess that we’ve left out.
The main “feature” of fruit flies that most people are aware of is that they are primarily attracted to old and rotting food. If you have a compost bin with some mouldy peaches exposed to the open air, that’s just perfect for your average fruit fly.
For the record, fruit flies aren’t just attracted to thinks like over-ripe fruit and that onion or potato in the back of your pantry (they’re fond of veggies too btw). They’re also quite fond of dish rags, mops, trash bins, and drains. Basically, they like moisture, and eat garbage.
Grossness aside, you might wonder, what’s so bad about fruit flies, REALLY, besides swarming around and landing on things like your half eaten sandwich. Well, I’ll tell you.
The reason they cause contamination is because of their breeding habits and short life cycles.
How Do Fruit Flies Appear Out of Nowhere?
The reason fruit flies seem to appear out of nowhere is because just one little fruit fly can lay up to 500 eggs, and within hours, those eggs are hatched and flying around your (or my) kitchen.
Fun fact: they can lay up to 500 eggs on your food, after having sex on it. So my opinion is that I don’t like that. The fruit, like say for instance a mango that’s been partially sliced open and left on the counter, is a perfect place for them to either lay their many eggs or do their love-making. Right.
The problem here, as I see it, is that since fruit flies can appear en masse in a matter of hours, this means that once you cut that orange in half, and leave it there on your counter, thinking to return to it shortly, that’s plenty enough time for fruit flies to appear.
How Long Do Fruit Flies Live?
That few hours of you leaving your fruit aside momentarily is a few months in fruit fly time since their lifespans are about 40-50 days long. A few hours is enough time for a couple of lovestruck fruit flies to meet, fall in love, and have 500 children.
Then those children “grow up” during the time you took to go out for coffee that afternoon and they had children of their own. So that’s 500 x 500 children. Oh no.
So the question isn’t so much how long do they live, which I guess is an interesting question, but the more important thing is how often do they procreate.
The reason that they never seem to die is because generations of fruit flies are being lived out on the surfaces of your counter, sink, and food. Remember – they mate ON your food. And eat it, by spitting on it.
Since they do live for say 45 days, they are like humans in that they are always trying to further their annoying little species, except they have way, way, WAY more children then we can have (unless we’re talking about Genghis Khan, who populated half the world).
And then those young maggots turn into more fruit flies and those fruit flies live for a couple of months, copulating all the time, and making more more more of these things. This, I guess, is why they never really go away.
There are differences between male and female fruit flies and I suppose some scientists know the difference, but the only reason I care about the difference is because if there’s enough boys and girls, it means they’re going to be mating, and spreading.
No, these tiny flies won’t go away on their own, or simply die off without you taking action.
So they all must be killed. Fruit fly genocide it is.
What is the Benefit of Fruit Flies?
Remember how I just said we need to eradicate all fruit flies in a fruit fly holocaust? Scratch that. Fruit flies can apparently be helpful to humans.
How are they beneficial to us?
First of all, they like to dine on our rotting fruit and veggies, and that means that they’re eating the decaying matter that might otherwise become fungal that we would eat, causing bacterial infections.
Also, if the rotten fruit sat around even longer, the bad food would start to attract other things, starting with normal house flies, roaches, beetles. Then here come the mice, rats, squirrels, snakes, and giant Japanese hornets from across the sea and straight to your backyard or screen door.
Oh, and don’t forget the scavenger birds, and gulls, who come along and crap all over everything.
And, once those unholy creatures arrive, it’s a real party, but not quite, until the raccoon and skunks get on the scene. This whole fiasco can place inside or outside, where ever food is going bad. Makes me think that fruit flies aren’t so bad, maybe.
On top of all this, believe it or not, we as humans are actually not dissimilar genetically from fruit flies. WHAT? Yes. The genes in fruit flies are similar to human genes. So much so, that many of the diseases we have, they have, or vice versa.
And so, geneticists study fruit flies all the time because they’ve mapped out their genome (fully sequenced March 2000), and their short life cycles make them easy to study.
Here’s a video by UNC Health Care that allows us to solve problems in our own human nervous systems via biological studies in…you guessed it, fruit flies!
As you can see, fruit flies are very important for us as humans in many ways.
I would argue that having them crawling on my food is still gross though.
Can I Eat Food That Fruit Flies Have Been On (or the flies themselves)?
Well, you *can* if you want to. :O Will you die? Not very likely. Is it good for you to eat that food that they’ve been lounging on? Well, that depends what disease the fly itself has and what it has ingested.
Best case scenario: You eat some semi-rotten fruit that the fruit fly was on, and nothing will happen to you. That’s because the fly hasn’t been puking or pooping or having sex on that food and is a particularly clean-living, polite fly.
Worst case: Flies are known to carry lots of harmful diseases to humans, including typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, poliomyelitis, yaws, anthrax, tularemia, leprosy, and tuberculosis. So absolute worse case scenario is you catch all of them at once and die quickly and horribly. Just kidding. 😉
Here is a video that talks about what flies like to do when they land on your food. Watch it, and it might give you a few more insights to whether or not you want to be eating what fruit flies, or any kind of flies, have been sitting on.
Or eating the flies themselves (barf!)
Just because this video isn’t about fruit flies, remember that fruit flies are still flies and they still have the same types of habits.
Namely: flying, landing, eating, and bodily functions. They aren’t extremely complicated, those flies.
Will Fruit Flies Die In The Fridge?
Many a time has a fruit fly found its way into the fridge. This happens because they were on a piece of fruit, munching away having a jolly old time, and that fruit ended up in the fridge without anyone knowing (fruit fly included). Transported through the ignorance of their whereabouts.
Once in the fridge, the temperature drops and fruit flies don’t like it. The average temperature of a fridge is about 37 degrees fahrenheit, according my fridge I’m looking at right now. The freezer is 0 degrees.
Once the temperature drops below 60 degrees fahrenheit, fruit flies catch what you might call a “cold”. As in, they begin to feel unwell. Once it goes below 53 degrees fahrenheit, their development into strong young future voters in the next fly election is extremely hindered. In other words, they start to die.
The issue is, once a fruit fly lays its eggs on something that goes in the fridge, those eggs can survive being in the fridge. Maybe not the freezer. But certainly the fridge. And also, if you’re like me, you’ve probably seen fruit flies fly happily (or angrily, hard to tell) fly out of a fridge.
Here’s a clip that has nothing really to do with fruit flies, but it has a fridge in it and it’s funny. At least I think so. 😛
Feeling good and ready to annihilate some fruit flies?
Great! Let’s do it!
Ways to Get Rid of Fruit Flies (Traps and Methods)
Here are a few do it yourself ways that you can get rid of these pests if you have just five minutes to spare, using ingredients you likely already have:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar Trap
This is a quick way to get rid of fruit flies, because they are attracted to the sweetness of the apple cider vinegar and sugar.
You’re going to want to combine Apple Cider Vinegar (approximately 1 tablespoon), Sugar (about half a teaspoon), Water (two tablespoons), and dish soap (one teaspoon) into a small container (an old water bottle should work well), and leave it out near where they are gathering.
The fruit flies will smell the sweet mixture, fly into the bottle and drown in the mixture. The dish soap makes them unable to fly out, and using a water bottle helps to prevent the more ruthless ones from escaping!
Here’s a video I like, detailing this process, courtesy of YourProduceGuy.
2. Fruit trap (ie. use a banana)!
For this, you will need a piece of rotten or over ripe fruit (or even a banana peel will work), a cup or bottle, and plastic wrap or a piece of paper and an elastic band.
First, take the container you’re using and fill it about 1/5th – 1/4th of the way up with the fruit (you want enough to attract them, but not enough that they can easily climb out!), then cover the lid with the plastic wrap and poke some holes with a push pin, sewing needle, or something else small enough for the bugs to climb in, but so that they will have trouble climbing out!
If you’re using paper and an elastic band, you’ll do everything the same, except cover the container with the paper, wrap the elastic band around it to hold it in place, and then poke some holes!
Here’s a video detailing a variation this process, using a banana and some water.
3. Bleach in drains (or baking soda)
This is especially helpful if you find you have gnats/fruit flies coming out of your drains.
Just as you might have guessed, for this step you’re going to be pouring some bleach into the drains.
Start with pouring one cup of water into a container, and add about a teaspoon of bleach into it, and then slowly pour it down the drain, being sure to hit the sides!
This should kill any fruit flies nesting/reproducing in the drains!
This guy here uses baking soda and vinegar, which also can work.
4. Red wine trap!
Similar to the Vinegar trap, for this you will use a small amount of red wine, and about a fifth part of dish soap (4 tbsp red wine- 1 tbsp dish soap).
The wine will attract the fruit flies, while the dish soap will make them unable to fly away.
Here’s a great video featuring red wine and fruit slices.
5. Katchy Indoor Insect Trap
For those of you who don’t have time to make the above mentioned traps, or want to try a device which should do the job for you, there’s always the Katchy Indoor Insect Trap.
This is basically a bug vacuum that uses UV lights and glue to trap and kill mosquitos, fruit flies, and smaller bugs. It doesn’t work on big house flies though.
The Katchy insect trap is a kid-friendly device (no zapping, non-toxic) that you can use indoors, which is even registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.
It has a lot of other features as well but essentially this is a simple and fairly cost effective way to take care of your fruit fly problem.
Here’s a video review of the Katchy insect trap if you would like to know more.
Alright, that should provide you with enough methods to deal with the fruit flies.
Now, to prevent more invasions in the future, here are some ways to do that as well.
Prevent Future Fruit Fly Invasions
In order to prevent fruit flies and gnats in the future, make sure to:
1. Use a sealed compost bin and avoid keeping organic trash indoors!
I love composting, but it attracts bugs.
Because of this, I use a small jar inside my kitchen and keep it sealed when I’m not using it, and then dump it in my compost bin outside whenever it gets full!
This helps tremendously because there is never rotting foods in my kitchen (not even in the garbage!)
2. If you’re going away, freeze your fruits and veggies.
Not only does this help keep bugs away, it’s also awesome not having to pick up a soggy apple or shrivelled orange to put into the compost!
This also makes for delicious smoothies later, and even easier smoothies if you cut and/or peel your veggies before freezing them!
3. Don’t let dirty dishes pile up!!!
I find this one especially hard! After eating, I just want to relax for a minute and digest my food, and then after that minute, my free time is up and I need to get work done!
To help avoid letting dirty dishes sit, I just make sure to rinse them after eating (and then usually realize once I start; “this isn’t so bad” and then wash all the dishes!)- it’s so much easier when it’s just from one meal!
4. Wash produce immediately!
Often times, fruit flies come in on your fruits and veggies, and a quick and easy way to prevent an infestation is to give your fruits and veggies a quick rinse!
I am obsessed with plants, but one thing I could live without is fungus gnats. Like I mentioned previously, these guys like to lay eggs in the soil and they fly around the plants.
To get rid of fungus gnats, you can use any of the above listed tricks, but another one specific to these ones that I just recently learned is lighting a match and placing it in the soil!
You light the match, let it burn a few seconds and then blow it out and place it on top the soil. Somehow this gets rid of fungus gnats! Amazing!
Fruit flies can be so frustrating, but knowing how to combat them makes a heap of a difference! My favourite part of these DIY recipes is that you’re not using crazy toxic chemicals to get rid of them!
What are some of your favourite ways to get rid of fruit flies? Which ones work best for you?