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By Adam Russell/Texas A&M AgriLife—
Fruit flies can be a pesky pest, especially indoors. While they can be annoying, Mike Merchant, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service urban entomologist, Dallas, said infestations of fruit flies and other flying pests are relatively easy to control.
“Fruit flies are almost impossible to keep out of homes,” Merchant said. “They can fly in doors when we come and go, hitch rides home on ripe fruit, and are even small enough to enter through window screens. They are very good at smelling out food nearly anywhere in the house.”
“The fruit fly is a pest that can find its way into homes relatively easy. But they’re also relatively easy to control once you’ve found the food source and breeding site.
Removing the breeding site is the best way to get rid of fruit flies, according to Merchant.
“We all have an instinct to grab the Raid or a bug bomb, but we’re not going to get rid of them until we get rid of their breeding sites,” he said.
Fruit flies just need a little moisture in their food to breed, Merchant said. Larvae feed on decaying plant material, including fruits like strawberries and bananas, and vegetables like onions and potatoes, he said. They also are attracted to wine and beer, vinegar and other sugary beverages.
“They are a major pest for bars and restaurants where they breed in any drink spillage,” he said. “In homes, they are more likely to breed in overripe fruit, rotting onions or spoiled potatoes. Knowing where to look is key.”
The top spots Merchant recommends checking if no “obvious” breeding spot is located are pantries and the trash can. “It’s good to check the pantry for those forgotten bags of potatoes,” he said. “Another top spot a lot of people don’t think about is the bottom of the trash can. Any spilled liquids or syrups in the bottom of a trash receptacle are great breeding sites for fruit flies.”
Merchant said removing potential breeding sites and proper sanitation – cleaning and wiping up any spills on countertops or floors, especially cracks in flooring – will reduce the likelihood of an infestation. Fruit flies have a life cycle of a week or less, so once the breeding sites are removed, flies will disappear relatively quickly.
“They really bother people, but aren’t really hurting anything,” he said. “We get a lot of calls about them year-round. They’re more prevalent in summer but can be a problem for indoor environments at any time.”
Baited traps are a good way to help catch fruit flies while the breeding sites are being located, Merchant said. “Suitable attractants for traps include apple cider vinegar, wine and bananas. Traps can be as simple as a plastic bowl containing an attractant, like apple cider vinegar, and a few drops of soap to drown flies that attempt to land on the solution.”
Commercial traps with funnels or small entry ports that make escape difficult are another option, he said. “Fruit flies and other flying pests like gnats are just one of life’s little annoyances,” he said. “Making sure they don’t have a place to call home inside your home is the best first step to controlling them.”