10 Neat Things About Fruit Flies
by Shauna Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

June 12, 2018

1. Ugh! Bugs. Newsletter recipients may have noticed that I find bugs pretty darned neat. Fruit flies are as interesting as any other bug, maybe even more so. But one thing I absolutely hate about summer is these dastardly little creatures invading my kitchen. My quick fix is to vacuum them up. Don't laugh-it works and it's kind of fun chasing them with an open vacuum hose.

2. Lushes. Fruit flies live on fermenting fruit juices; in other words, alcohol. They also lay their eggs in fermenting fruit. You may feel confident that your fruit is not over ripe, but all it takes is, say, a tiny tear at the stem end of a plum to start fermentation.

3. Spontaneous generation. It used to be believed, until the 18th century, that flies occurred spontaneously on food, with no parents. They don't, of course. Fruit fly eggs are very tiny and are located underneath the fruit skin. They do hatch into itty-bitty maggots and go through a pupa stage before they emerge as flying adults. All those things happen in your fruit bowl; you just don't notice it until they start flying.

4. Sickening! What happens when you unintentionally ingest fruit fly eggs? Not much. If you consume enough, you might have some diarrhoea.

5. How'd they get there? Fruit flies enter your home by two methods. Some come in on your fruit as eggs. Some arrive from outdoors in the summer. If you have a nasty infestation, they are almost certainly reproducing in your home.

6. Reproducing where? Even if you get rid of every speck of fruit in your home (or put it in the fridge), you may still suffer a fruit fly infestation. Other survival spots for them are inside drains, in crevices (such as between floor tiles) where there is food present, in mops and sponges, and on any spills you may not know about, such as under the fridge or stove.

7. How fast? One female can lay 500 eggs. Those eggs can become mature insects in as little as eight days and start reproducing themselves.

8. What can you do? First, eliminate all the obvious sources of food. Take out organic garbage frequently, along with any recyclables that are not scrupulously scrubbed. Bleach mops. Throw out old sponges or disinfect them by microwaving for a couple of minutes. Never leave dirty dishes in the sink and always keep the sink clean. Keep fruit in the fridge. (Bananas don't respond well to refrigeration; if you're desperate, eschew bananas until the infestation is under control.) Bleach your drains and search for hidden spills under appliances and furniture. Keep doors and windows closed if you can to prevent new fruit flies from coming in.

9. Traps. There are a few fruit fly traps on the market, most of which lure the flies with cider vinegar. Fruit flies aren't very good at getting themselves out of liquid once they get in and they die there. You can make your own trap by putting vinegar in a bottle with a paper funnel on top, but the commercial versions tend to be more effective.

10. Finally. To get and keep your home fruit fly free, you will need a multi-pronged approach of cleanliness and vigilance. Good luck! And remember, if all else fails, winter will come soon enough. (Sigh.)

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