Late summer in South Carolina: flower petals line the sidewalks, farmer’s markets are stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, and food truck festivals arise in the parks every weekend. Unfortunately, the abundance of organic material makes this a prime time of year for fruit fly infestations. Fruit flies thrive in the late summer and early fall, feasting on overripe produce and circulating in search of new kitchens to raid.
If you’ve ever dealt with these unwanted invaders, you know that getting rid of them is easier said than done. Just when you think you’ve won the battle, you find more flies surrounding your new bananas or glass of wine.
While fruit flies are not the most damaging insect our pest control specialists have tackled, they may be one of the most irritating. To help you enjoy this upcoming harvest season fly-free, we’re sharing everything we know about fruit flies, including how to address them and ways to get rid of them for good.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies For Good
When dealing with any kind of pest, it’s important to become familiar with your enemy. At first glance, many species of small insects look similar. However, knowing exactly what type of insect you’re dealing with allows you to choose the right extermination strategy the first time.
So, how do you know if you have a fruit fly situation on your hands?
How to Identify Fruit Flies
Fruit flies, or Drosophila melanogaster, are small, winged insects with tan fronts, black abdomens, and red eyes. These insects measure around ⅛ inch, similar to the length of the top of a cotton swab. Unlike gnats, fruit flies have a rounder shape, similar to that of a miniature house fly. While the two are often confused, gnats possess long, spindly legs and an elongated mosquito-like body.
Fruit flies tend to congregate around trash cans, fruit bowls, and drains, though they don’t shy away from your face or food. At close range, you may be able to hear the quiet humming sound that their wings make. This noise is much softer than the high-pitched whine of a gnat or mosquito.
As soon as you see a fruit fly, take action — they multiply fast. A single female can lay up to 500 eggs at once, which often hatch in as little as 30 hours. One week later, they’ll be mature adults, reproducing and continuing the cycle for up to a month following.
What Attracts Fruit Flies?
It’s no surprise that a fruit fly’s favorite meal is overripe fruit, but that’s not the only thing on their menu. They thrive on any damp, fermenting substance — spilled drinks, kitchen crumbs, or moist rags are often responsible for a swarm. They prefer to lay their eggs on the surface of organic materials, with fruit as their top choice, so the larvae have a meal once they hatch.
They often sneak into your home by hitching a ride on your fresh produce from the grocery store. Once inside, they’ll follow the scent of fermentation and settle down in fruit bowls, drains, trash cans, damp corners, or anywhere that they can find old food. Once they’re in, it can be tricky to get them out, so prevention is key.
How to Prevent Fruit Flies
The best way to keep fruit flies out is by making your home unattractive to them in the first place. Fortunately for us, fruit flies and humans have very different tastes in home decor. They’re drawn to exposed food like we’re drawn to a scented candle, so be sure to throw away all food scraps and wrappers as soon as you’re done with them. Take out the trash frequently, and keep the kitchen sink, countertops, and garbage disposal clean. Pro tip: try pouring boiling white vinegar down the drain for a quick and easy cleanse.
To avoid bringing the flies into your home, make sure to wash your produce as soon as you return from the store. If you go through fresh groceries quickly, try covering up the fruit that stays on the countertop with a glass dome or a paper bag. Keep in mind that these efforts will accelerate the ripening process, so this may not be the best method for you if your fruit goes bad too quickly. Instead, try storing them with a few basil leaves or setting up an essential oil diffuser in your kitchen. Fruit flies hate the scent of basil, peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, and clove, so bringing these scents into your home can be an extra deterrent.
If you have a recurring fruit fly problem, talk to your local Palmetto Exterminators in Greenville, SC, and across the Carolinas when they come by for your quarterly pest control treatment. They can set you up with a free pest inspection, identify any entry points, and formulate a pest control plan tailored to your home or business.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
What should you do if your kitchen is already buzzing with unwelcome guests? First things first: set a trap to start thinning the herd. Mix a dash of dish soap in a small glass with apple cider vinegar and place the blend where the fruit flies are most active. Fruit flies love fermented fruit, so apple cider vinegar will draw them in. The dish soap breaks the surface tension on the vinegar, so even the lightest flies can’t rest safely on the surface.
We’ve found that this is usually enough to trap the flies, but adding another component for extra security is never a bad idea. Fruit flies’ limited brainpower tells them to fly straight upwards to escape, so covering the glass with plastic wrap or paper will create an obstacle too difficult to overcome.
Now, it’s time to tackle them at the source. The adult flies buzzing around are only part of the problem — there’s a good chance those flies laid eggs before you set your trap. The only way to solve the problem for good is to remove them before they can hatch and start the cycle over again.
Wash any dirty dishes in the sink and throw out all food left out on the counter. Thoroughly scrub new produce and keep it in the fridge until the fruit fly crisis is under control. Wipe down the kitchen surfaces and check the floor for spills. Once you’ve discarded all food-related trash, emptying the garbage ensures that you aren’t left with any lingering food items from your cleanup.
When to Call a Local Exterminator
If you don’t see any improvement in a few days, or if the flies return, consider calling a professional local exterminator for help. There may be a breeding site you haven’t been able to access or an unsealed entry point for the pests. Professional exterminators can perform a detailed free pest inspection to identify the problem, formulate a plan, and take action to make your home yours again.
Whether you’re struggling with a stubborn pest problem or you want to prevent a future infestation, Palmetto Exterminators can help. With over 60 years of experience, our professional exterminators in Greenville, SC, Charlotte, NC, and across the Carolinas can keep you pest-free with quarterly pest control treatments, mosquito barrier treatments, termite protection, or any other pest control needs. For more information, sign up for a free pest inspection or contact us today!