This piece originally appeared on Fix.com.
The fruit fly invasion: It happens without fail every spring, sometimes lasting well into the autumn months depending on where you live. This nasty, annoying, and sometimes embarrassing problem has plagued households for decades.
You can stop this invasion in its tracks in a couple of ways. But first, to understand how to fight a problem, it’s important to understand how it begins and how it spreads.
Where Do They Come From?
Have you ever noticed that fruit flies seem to appear overnight? You’re not alone. These tiny insects enter homes covertly within eggs and larvae that are already on the skin of fruit we purchase at the grocery store.
It follows that the first defense against a fruit fly invasion is to invest in a good, all-natural, food-safe cleaner and wash all the fruits and veggies you bring home. It’s crucial that you focus on anything that will end up in a bowl on the counter – yes, even wiping down your bananas with a damp, soapy rag. Did you know bananas are one of the biggest fruit fly breeding grounds?
Most people likely won’t wipe down their bananas diligently enough to thwart an invasion, so let’s assume that step doesn’t happen and the invasion occurs anyway. One great tip is to simply bait the insects and trap them. It’s like a mousetrap, but for teeny, tiny flies.
Creating a Fly Trap
A variety of methods have been given for creating the best fruit fly trap. One involves making a cone out of a piece of paper and inserting it into a jar or juice glass that has about half an inch of fruit juice in it.
The flies will be attracted to the sweet sugars in the fruit juice. So they will fly down for a taste and, for some anatomical reason, be unable to fly back up the paper cone from whence they came.
The second way to achieve this result is similar, but it includes a slight variation. In this case, you take something even more sugary and acidic, such as cooking wine or red wine vinegar.
Pour about an eighth of a cup into a cereal bowl, then cover that bowl with plastic wrap. Use a fork to puncture holes in the plastic.
The flies dive bomb the tasty vinegar, get trapped, and drown. The serious (and gross) downside to both of these methods is that you inevitably end up with a vessel full of fly carcasses that has to be dumped out and cleaned.
But there is another way! Some fruit flies originate on the skin of fruits from temperate countries, but most come directly from a breeding ground that’s much closer to home – the sink drain. Fruit flies are also commonly known as drain flies.
Once they arrive in your kitchen, they breed. When they breed, they like to sit on or cling to any kitchen surface touched by your hands or food waste. Why? Because human hands carry food and sticky sugars the flies like to eat. One place that is chock full of food-based sugars is the sink drain. Here’s another way in which you can tackle those pesky flies.
Stop the Problem from Spreading
Fill your sink about one-third of the way with hot water from the tap. As it’s filling, add a capful of liquid oxygen bleach (or a quarter scoop of oxygen bleach crystals.) This stuff is food-safe, and it has multiple uses throughout the house, from cleaning the kitchen to laundry and spot-cleaning upholstery. It’s important to use oxygen bleach and not regular bleach, which is not food-safe and will emit toxic fumes.
Immerse a dishrag in the water. Let it sit there for at least 10 minutes and no more than 20 minutes.
Then, use the bleach-water-soaked rag to wipe down every surface in the kitchen – knobs, door handles, fridge, stove handles, blender, juicer, fruit bowl, coffee maker – whatever you’ve touched that is potentially “fruity.” Then, wipe the sink thoroughly with that same rag.
After another 10 minutes or so, drain the sink of the bleach water while running hot water at the same time. Thoroughly wipe out the drain and stopper. Provided you don’t bring more infested bananas into the house, this should cull the herd! Repeat this as part of your weekly cleaning routine and your fruit fly problem should abate significantly. Bonus – this doesn’t waste any wine, and you don’t have to see fly carcasses everywhere.
To an extent, fruit flies will always be a problem. As long as summers are warm and humans enjoy eating fruit and other sugar-loaded foods, the fight to keep fruit flies out of your life will be an ongoing one. These three simple tips, however, will help you make sure you’re on the winning side and that your home doesn’t become embarrassingly fly-ridden in the warmer months.