I walked into my kitchen earlier today and found myself in an unanticipated cloud of fruit flies. Oh gawd. This was my punishment for allowing a lemon to go mouldy in the fruitbowl.
It had lain there concealed by the shiny yellow glow of all the other lemons…
Toxic kitchen massacre
Fruit flies are pretty harmless, but they’re annoying. I went away on holiday once and came back to find that a solitary red chilli had become a fruit fry incubator in my absence. I dealt with it then by purchasing one of those insecticidal flower stickers that you can apply to the window – you know the ones I mean? It worked – next day all the flies were tiny corpses on every kitchen surface.
But after the massacre I started wondering exactly what was in that sticker – and was it something I actually wanted in my environment.
The answer, of course, is no. What I needed to do was work out how to get rid of fruit flies naturally.
Fruit flies reproduce pretty quickly. You’ll know this if you ever spent more than half an hour awake in a biology lesson. Virtually everything we know (that is to say, everything I know) about genetics has come from the study of rapidly breeding fruit flies. That’s why just one fruit fly in your kitchen can suddenly become a storm of fruit flies. (OK, technically there would need to be two fruit flies – I did stay awake long enough to learn that.)
Recycling and compost bins are common sources of fruit fly proliferation. If you’re repeatedly infested with fruit flies, you need to be thinking ‘life cycle’ whenever you recycle. Fruit fly maggots are tiny – barely visible – and not unpleasant by comparison with housefly or bluebottle maggots (don’t even start me). Still, you don’t want them breeding in your banana skins.
A week is a whole family tree to a fruit fly. Two weeks is a series of ‘Who do you think you are.’
Deep inside your bin, once they’ve emerged from their larval stage and become flies – which, as we know, doesn’t take long – they make their way to the top of the bin and wait there for some unsuspecting chump to open the lid. If you have a compost caddy that you suspect contains the little fellas, don’t be that chump. Do not open it inside your home or you’ll have a cloud of them, plus their 3 million descendants, in your kitchen. Take the whole bin outside and let those little guys loose! See ‘em fly! Those ten flies that just escaped were about to turn into a plague in your kitchen, so count yourself lucky.
A friend of mine has chronic, recurring fruit fly plagues which – she says – are because they lie dormant in fruit, even in the fridge, and are unleashed whenever the fruit peels are added to the compost bin. I say: put the compost bin outside. If you’ve got a recurring problem with fruit flies, don’t leave out anything that might become a breeding station. Put those bananas away. Put ‘em away! Wrap them up in plastic bags. Keep fruit in the fridge if possible. Keep compost caddies and bins clean and empty them often. Once a week is too long. A week is a whole family tree to a fruit fly. Two weeks is a series of ‘Who do you think you are.’
The vinegar solution
But say you have an immediate problem – such as I had, earlier today – and need to get rid of fruit flies fast. Well, then you need to take decisive action. I’m happy to report that my fruit fly invasion was quickly solved, and without recourse to nasty chemicals. I keep in both my kitchen and bathroom a spray bottle that I use for cleaning. It contains a mixture of water, white vinegar, and essential oils, plus a tiny squirt of washing up liquid or liquid soap which helps emulsify the oils. Typically I have lavender and citronella in the spray bottle, both of which are antibacterial and anti fungal, properties helpfully shared with the vinegar – plus they are natural insect-repellents. Win!
Neat vinegar will kill anything (imagine being immersed in it). Because it’s non-toxic, you can spray it freely into the air – or at your cloud of flies – and they’ll fall to the ground. In fact, they will drop like flies. They’re not dead, but they’re temporarily immobilised meaning you can just wipe them up off the floor or kitchen worktop with a cloth. You can also squirt bigger buzzy flies if you want to slow ‘em down long enough to swat ‘em.
Obviously you could achieve similar effects by spraying them with a commercial household cleaner, or even Raid, but that would mean spraying toxic chemicals into the air – and why would you want to do that? In fact, why do you even have that bottle of nastiness?
Geoff’s Top Tip: Do be careful when using citronella oil around cats. It can be toxic to felines, so don’t allow them to ingest any or get it on their paws or fur.
Plus it tastes nasty.
All the trappings
If you’re interested and only mildly sadistic, a highly inefficient way to get rid of fruit flies naturally is to leave a glass of water mixed with cider vinegar out on your kitchen worktop. I know this, as I habitually drink water mixed with cider vinegar (I know, I know – what is it with me and vinegar?). Cider vinegar attracts them – in fact, some cider vinegar recipes require the intervention of fruit flies to help with the fermentation process. So with luck you might find one or two or five or even ten fruit flies drowning in the acidic brew. More likely they’ll just land on the rim of the glass and taunt you for days.
A more effective fruit fly trap might be made as per this post here. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t comment directly, and thank the Lord of the Flies there are currently no fruit flies on my boat for me to test out the methodology.