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Summer means ripe tomatoes, tall glasses of lemonade and, yes, fruit flies. The pesky pests are the last thing you want buzzing in front of your face — especially when you’re prepping dinner or having friends around for a weekend soiree.
Fruit flies reproduce at an astonishing rate: According to pest control company Orkin, female fruit flies lay hundreds of eggs in a very short time, commonly on moist foods like overripe fruit and vegetables. Then, within 24 to 30 hours, those eggs hatch into larvae, or maggots, that feed on the food source on which they were laid. Within about a week those larvae become sexually active and not more than two days later, start the cycle over again — leaving you with way too many fruit flies to stomach.
Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to get rid of fruit flies indoors fast — maybe not in under five minutes, but certainly in overnight — using fruit fly traps that you can DIY at home. All it takes to stop these irksome insects in their tracks is some strategic cleaning and a few household supplies.
What causes fruit fly infestations in the house?
Fruit flies are attracted to ripe, rotting or decayed fruit and produce, as well as fermented goods like beer, liquor and wine, say the pros at Orkin. They also like to buzz around trash cans and garbage disposals if enough food is present. And, unfortunately, considering their reproductive prowess, two tiny fruit flies will quickly multiply into an infestation that can feel almost impossible to control.
Are they really fruit flies?
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If you see little black bugs flying around your kitchen, you first want to make sure you identify the critters correctly. Fruit flies usually appear light or dark brown in color with red eyes. Double-check that your pests in question aren’t drain flies, which lurk around drains or garbage disposals, or fungus gnats, which prefer overwatered houseplants. For those bugs, check out our guides on how to get rid of gnats and how to make a homemade fly trap.
How to get rid of fruit flies for good
Start by deep cleaning your kitchen and throwing out any rotten food. To cut off fruit flies from their food source and prevent them from entering your home, take these preventive measures to avoid a future fruit fly infestation:
- Throw out overripe produce
- Store fruits and veggies in the fridge
- Wash produce as soon as you get home to remove any potential eggs or larvae
- Take out the garbage regularly
- Clean up spills ASAP, especially fruit juice or alcohol
Then, you’ll want to find a way to trap the existing fruit flies in your kitchen, fast. Our experts have found that a DIY fruit fly trap is a quick and effective solution. What’s more, these homemade fruit fly traps can be fashioned from supplies you likely have on hand in your pantry. If you want to skip the DIY route, you can buy premade fruit fly traps, too. Here are the best ways to kill fruit flies, according to pest experts:
1. Apple cider vinegar and plastic wrap trap
For this DIY fruit fly trap, sweet apple cider vinegar (ACV) is more effective than white vinegar. They can’t resist the scent of vinegar, and they won’t be able to exit once they’re inside! For an even better chance at success, make several of these traps and place them around your kitchen. Here’s how to do it yourself:
- Pour a little ACV into a glass.
- Cover the opening with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band.
- Poke a few small holes for the fruit flies to enter.
2. Paper cone, vinegar and old fruit trap
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The smell of rotting produce will help entice the fruit flies into the mixture, but the cone part of this fruit fly trap makes it difficult for them to get out. Here’s how to do it yourself:
- Place a little vinegar and a chunk of very ripe fruit in a jar.
- Roll some paper into a cone and stick it into the jar, placing the narrow opening down. (You can recycle or compost the homemade funnel afterwards.)
3. Vinegar and dish soap trap
If you find your fruit flies impervious to your plastic wrap or paper cone traps, try adding three drops of dish soap to a bowl of vinegar and leave it uncovered. The soap cuts the surface tension of the vinegar so the flies will sink and drown.
4. Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch
The experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute were excited to see this product cross their desks, especially senior chemist Sabina Wizemann, who found that it worked better in her home than other DIY remedies she’s tried. The premade mixture uses the active ingredients sodium lauryl sulfate (a surfactant used in soaps) and malic acid (found in fruit) and comes in a stand-up jar. All you have to do is open the top, set it on your counter and “watch the cycle of life unfold.”
5. Old wine or beer trap
Like vinegar, fruit flies love the smell of wine. Try leaving out an open bottle with a little leftover liquid — the skinny neck will keep the flies trapped. The Old Farmer’s Almanac also recommends using stale beer to attract fruit flies to a DIY trap. Add a couple of drops of dish soap to either for surer success.
Can I just use bleach kill fruit flies?
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If you notice fruit flies in your drain, you might be looking for an instant fix — like pouring bleach down the drain. But experts say this isn’t the most effective solution. Doing so might kill some larvae, but it will not kill enough of the eggs or larvae to eliminate the problem. That’s because bleach passes down the drain too quickly to do a thorough job.
If you have a garbage disposal, here’s how to keep it clean and free of fruit flies:
✔️ Always run cold water before turning on the disposal or grinding food, and for a few seconds after the grinding stops. The water flow will help food move all the way through the pipes after it leaves the disposal.
✔️ Every week or so, with the disposal and faucet both turned off, toss in a bunch of ice cubes, a tablespoon of baking soda, a few thin lemon slices and a teaspoon of bleach. Turn the disposal on without running water until you hear the grinding stop. Then, with the motor still running, flush the machine with cold water for about a minute.