What Causes Fruit Flies and What Is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Them?

Medically Reviewed on 12/8/2021

What are fruit flies?

Fruit flies can potentially spread bacteria from surface to surface as they feed. They are attracted to ripe or overripe plants, especially fruits and vegetables. Once you have these pests in your house, they are hard to eliminate.
Fruit flies can potentially spread bacteria from surface to surface as they feed. They are attracted to ripe or overripe plants, especially fruits and vegetables. Once you have these pests in your house, they are hard to eliminate.

Fruit flies are common pests found in homes, yards, restaurants, and grocery stores. They don't bite, but they are very annoying. They can potentially spread bacteria from surface to surface as they feed. They are attracted to ripe or overripe plants, especially fruits and vegetables. Once you have these pests in your house, they are hard to eliminate.

Fruit flies are tiny flying insects that are attracted to decaying fruits and vegetables. They can live indoors and outdoors. You may find them around your garden, compost bins, trash cans, or in your house. 

Fruit flies are recognizable by their red eyes and yellowish bodies, though their appearance may be hard to ascertain. They are only 1/8 inch long, and they fly around quickly. You might only be able to see what color they are if you can trap or kill them.

These pests have a short life cycle, lasting only 8-10 days. Females lay eggs in batches of approximately 500. These eggs hatch within a day and a half. The larvae mature over the next week before transitioning to the pupa stage. Adults emerge from the pupal form in 2 days and begin mating and laying eggs within 24 hours.

Adult flies lay their eggs on ripe or decaying fruit or vegetables. The larvae feed off the moist organic material but move to drier areas to transition to pupas. Once they hatch, the new adults seek out more fruit or vegetables.

How do they get into your house?

Fruit flies in the house aren't a sign of poor hygiene. Fruit flies can get into homes very easily. They're tiny enough to fly in through screens. They may also hitch a ride on your groceries. If you buy fruits and veggies with fly eggs, the eggs will hatch in your house, leading to a population of fruit flies.

Fruit flies are hard to eliminate. They lay so many eggs, and their life cycle is so swift that new flies hatch before you can track down the source. You'll need to take multiple steps to get rid of them, and the project might take several weeks.

Find the source of new fruit flies

To get rid of the fruit flies once they're in your house, you will need to do more than kill the adult flies you see. Learn where they lay their eggs so you can clean those areas out.

Fruit flies lay their eggs on any food waste or wet organic matter. Clean any area where the flies might have laid eggs. Common spots for fruit fly eggs include:

  • Fruit or vegetables set out in bowls
  • Kitchen trash cans
  • Recycling bins
  • Food scrap containers for compost
  • Garbage disposals
  • Sink or shower drains
  • Produce drawers in refrigerators
  • Mops and cleaning rags

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Clean to prevent fruit flies

The best way to discourage fruit flies is to remove anything that might attract them.  Regular cleaning and careful storage of food will eliminate their opportunities to lay eggs.

Trash and recycling

To prevent fruit flies in trash cans and food scrap containers, you should use tight-fitting lids and empty the containers every day. Rinse any food residue from the containers and let them dry before putting them back into use. Rinse any recyclable materials before putting them in the recycling bin. Clean the bin after your weekly recycling collection.

Kitchen surfaces

You can eliminate fly eggs in drains and garbage disposals by flushing them with boiling water. Thoroughly clean your countertops to remove residue from spilled food or drinks. Clean any decaying produce from your refrigerators and clean the drawers and shelves with hot water and a food-safe detergent. Let the drawers dry before replacing them.

Cleaning supplies

Rinse and wring out any mops or cloth rags you use for cleaning. Lay them out to dry thoroughly. You can wash rags in the washing machine in a hot water cycle to kill any eggs on the fabric.

Food storage

Wash produce when you bring it into the house. Put any ripe produce in the refrigerator or eat it right away. Dispose of fruit and vegetables if they start to get overripe, or they decay:

Fruit fly traps

To get rid of adult fruit flies, you can use pesticides that contain pyrethrum. However, you need to be cautious spraying these in the house. Make sure the insecticides you buy are labeled for household use and take precautions to protect pets and children.

You can also make fruit fly traps with items you have at home. Fruit flies are attracted to fruit juice, wine, crushed fruit pulp, or apple cider vinegar. Place one of those ingredients in the bottom of a jar. Make a paper funnel that fits into the top of the jar. The flies will go in, but the funnel will prevent them from flying out.

You can also put the liquid bait in a shallow dish and add a drop or two of liquid soap. The soap will break the surface tension, so the flies can't rest on the surface of the liquid. They will get trapped and drown.

Place your traps near any area where fruit flies might go, such as the kitchen sink, near trash cans, or near recycling bins. Clean the traps out each day. You may need to keep traps out for several weeks to eliminate the problem.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/8/2021
References

Michigan State University: "How to get rid of fruit flies in your home."

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment: "Fruit Flies."

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture: "Fruit Flies (Vinegar Flies), Drosophila spp."