At best, they’re annoying, hovering in your peripheral vision. At worst, they’ll multiply into swarms, carrying germs as they go. That’s why learning how to get rid of fruit flies is vital, especially if you love a countertop fruit bowl. “They especially love fruit bowls because their favorite food is acetic acid, the main component of fruit fermentation,” says Tracey Brooks of Wondercide, the Austin-based company that has been protecting homes from bugs with plant-powered solutions since 2009. “They voraciously feed on fermenting foods, sweet foods (like nectar), and yeast—compost piles are their Disneyland,” she says.
To keep these pests from making you bug out (not-so-fun fact: adult fruit flies can each lay around 400–500 eggs during their lifespan, and eggs hatch within hours), we talked to Brooks about how to avoid them and what to do if you already have a fruit fly problem.
What causes a lot of fruit flies in the house?
We’ve already mentioned that fruit, especially rotten fruit, is a breeding ground for fruit flies. Brooks points out that acetic acid can also be found in vinegar, wine, and yeast, which is why these flying insects are also attracted to those foods. Essentially, she says, “They love anything that’s yeasty and starting to ferment.”
That means that even if you keep your fruit bowl fresh, you might be attracting flies with cocktails and open containers of wine, uncovered charcuterie boards, and even empty cans or jars in your recycling bin. Even mini morsels can be problematic. “Tiny food crumbs left on your kitchen sponge or countertop are a feast for the fruit fly,” says Brooks.
How do you distinguish fruit flies from gnats or other bugs?
“Fruit flies are closely related to gnats, but belong to a different insect order,” says Brooks. “In fact, fruit flies and fungus gnats are similar in size and both cause many of the same issues inside the home, so they’re often confused for one another.”
They do have differences in appearance. Fruit flies are usually brownish with large, red eyes and oval bodies. Fungus gnats, on the other hand, are dark gray or black with small eyes and longer bodies, resembling small mosquitoes. But because fruit flies are only about an eighth of an inch as adults, it might be more helpful to assess where they hang out rather than the way they look. Brooks says, “You’ll find fruit flies around ripening fruit and sinks. You’ll typically find fungus gnats around the soil of houseplants.”
Do fruit flies go away naturally?
As mentioned earlier, fruit flies reproduce fast. “Seriously, one female fruit fly can lay approximately 500 eggs,” says Brooks. “So the little ones will quickly appear in your home and then start to breed themselves. And so on…. Worst case, you’ll be overrun with thousands and thousands of fruit flies in your home.” That’s why getting rid of these buggers at the first sign of an issue, then keeping your home spick-and-span, is the best way to go. “Fruit flies also carry germs and can cause some pretty bad health issues,” says Brooks. “So keeping them off the food you eat and surfaces you touch is a top priority.”
How do you get rid of fruit flies in five minutes?
If you want to get rid of fruit flies fast, you’ll need a trap. Wondercide’s plant-powered Fruit Fly Trap works quickly and remains effective for up to three weeks. It’s a self-contained solution that you’ll simply pop open and place on your kitchen counter. If the container doesn’t quite go with your kitchen aesthetic, Brooks recommends repurposing an empty candle jar to hold your Wondercide. Additionally, Wondercide makes an Indoor Pest Control spray that kills and repels fruit flies, in addition to ants, roaches, spiders, and moths.
Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch! Fruit Fly Trap, available on Amazon, is another countertop solution. It uses a specialized blend of vinegar and ferment to lure and eradicate the produce-loving pests. The container resembles a spice jar, so it’s not entirely out of place in the kitchen. But if you really want to disguise your bait, a Soapstone Box with Fruit Fly Traps is discreet (and dare we say it, attractive even?).