December 16th, 2013

The fruit fly war

I think I’m winning. For now.

It all started with an event so ordinary as to be unremarkable: a couple of fruit flies (or their larva) came in with some purchase or other. After I spotted them, I was very careful about keeping the kitchen free of any food hanging about, and thought they’d go away, as they always had before.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Drosophila—as I recall their more formal name from science class, where their reproductive/genetic life was looked at in some depth—can be tenacious if given half a chance. The problem—I discovered after the proliferation had already occurred—was that a visiting friend had thrown some fruit in a garbage can I don’t usually check because I don’t usually use it. It was there that the fruit flies had lain in wait, swelling their ranks to become an almost overwhelming force.

Yesterday was D-day for my counterattack—which was quite literally a counter attack. My weaponry consisted of a huge vat of apple cider vinegar and some Saran wrap. Put the vinegar (with a teensy bit of sugar) into some bowls, cover with the wrap and seal tightly with rubber bands, poking holes in the wrap with toothpicks. The little guys can get in but can’t get out.

Actually, some of them can get out, because I’ve watched a few of them do so and live to fight another day. But most of them can’t, and they ultimately die in the vinegar soup. Or perhaps they die and then fall into the vinegar. It all takes quite some time, and my efforts to help them along by coaxing them into the vinegar prematurely don’t seem to have borne—ahem—much fruit.

C’est la guerre.

Despite what some will tell you, red wine doesn’t work nearly as well. Nor do traps bought in the hardware store (I spent about ten bucks on one) or cone-shaped entryways to the vinegar death trap. Take it from me, I know whereof I speak; I’ve got quite the experiment going, with a good hefty n.

32 Responses to “The fruit fly war”

  1. bob r Says:

    I’ve had good luck with just a little bit of dish soap added to the apple cider vinegar; this will lower the surface tension and make it much harder to take off again if a fly lands in it.

  2. T Says:

    I read once that using some dishwashing liquid with the apple cider vinegar coats them to make it impossible for them to fly and escape.

  3. vanderleun Says:

    Yes…. yes…. the dishwashing soap. That had slipped my mind as well. Just a tad mind you.

  4. vanderleun Says:

    “I love the smell of fruit flies in vinegar in the morning. It smells like VICTORY!”

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    The castle has been sabotaged, the gates have been opened by a saboteur inside the walls!

  6. Ray Says:

    I use a bug spray containing pyretherin.

  7. CV Says:

    This sounds like my ongoing battle with the pantry moths, who arrived in a bag of rice a few years ago and (like Obamacare) are here to stay. Period!

    My weapon of choice is the pantry moth trap (about 6 bucks at home depot) and even though they seem to disappear they always reappear at some point.

  8. Eric Says:

    I’ve waged my own battle with fruit flies with similar tactics. I won. I have faith you will, too.

    My present vexing fight with insects inside my home is with clothes moths that have ruined one of my Army-issued wool/cotton blend undershirts and a childhood-favorite wool jacket. I’ve plastic bagged all my wool clothing items but clothes moths are still showing up in my apartment, and I don’t know where they’re coming from.

  9. KLSmith Says:

    I would suggest immediately going to and purchasing their awesome BugASalt gun. You will have a lot of fun killing your flies! Much better than a fly swatter. Kills them from two feet away and leaves them whole (but dead). No smeared bug guts to clean up.
    Not trying to make light of your problem, but for any escaped adults flying around, this thing works great and it’s fun. Practice your marksmanship on a piece of tinfoil as a target. It doesn’t take to long to figure out. It works like a shotgun with the salt being the shot. It only takes a little so there won’t be a bunch of salt all over the place.
    Flies can be hard to sneak up on with a swatter. You could put out a ripe fruit or sugary lure and stand there with the gun waiting for them from a foot or two away. You get about fifty shots befor you need to refill.
    Did I say this thing is a lot of fun? Bring out your inner G I Joe and good luck.

  10. expat Says:

    I have a little plastic jar-type thing that is armed with the vinegar/soap solution and it works really well. The little devils visit me every year when the temperature gets warm, so it’s nice to have something unobtrusive that I can keep on the counter.

  11. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I am still being plagued with the fruit flies, in spite of leaving out dishes of cider vinegar seasoned with dish soap. They came in the spring, and have never departed…

  12. Paul in Boston Says:

    Fly paper, available at your local hardware store. Just. Hang it from a few strategic locations and wait. Works like a charm.

  13. Michael Adams Says:

    They are positively phototaxic, which means that they fly toward light. A desk lamp with a white bowl under it, and a puddle of mineral oil covering the bottom of the bowl, will have drosophila lining up to commit suicide in your little oil patch. Fleas? Put the whole thing on the floor. Wherever you put it, turn out every other light in the house, even an aquarium light, or cover it over-night with a dark cloth. Close the drapes or blinds, if there is any light outside.

    BTW, why would anyone throw food in a trash can other than in the kitchen? Do your friends need an in-service in normal life?

    Now, someone find a “dark”, that works like a light, to draw cockroaches.

  14. JThoits Says:

    I had great luck using my vacuum wand attachment this past summer. I had fresh peaches on the counter and it was an invasion. They fly away before you can “smuch” them, but they can’t escape the suction! Try it!

  15. Yancey Ward Says:

    I say you take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only to be sure.

  16. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Vacuuming the little bastards has a kind of savage satisfaction. You put out the bait and go over there every twenty minutes or so.
    I discovered that cheap wine–the kind I drink–doesn’t work. They have higher standards than I do. When I poured out a spoonful of some that a guest brought, they were all over it.

  17. parker Says:

    Recently, FFs invade a bottle of balsamic vinegar, inside a cupboard, via the drizzle nozzle. They all drowned and spoiled about of quarter of a bottle. We think they road into the house on some pears a neighbor brought over to share. Usually we keep FFs off fruit by keeping fruit in a sealed plastic bag or the frig. Given the time of the year we were lack in our security measures and put the pears in a bowl on the kitchen island. Every possible source of food for FFs are now protected.

  18. David Avera Says:

    Beer works best of all for the traps.

  19. KBK Says:

    Parker – I lost a large bottle of soy sauce with a drizzle spot.

    I find that scotch works very well in the trap, but you have to replace it after four days or so as the alcohol evaporates.

  20. Francesca Says:

    Fascinating thread!

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Now, someone find a “dark”, that works like a light, to draw cockroaches.

    Like what, John Kerry?

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    Obama is the Lord of the Flies, btw. Seems to attract flies a lot.

    But I also think Demoncrats consider us like rats in their maze. They are always setting up neat little traps and tricks to “test” us.

  23. carl in atlanta Says:

    This fruit fly thread brought to mind an old, old memory of mine:

    One of the greatest teachers I ever had was my 8th grade science teacher, a little old lady who’d had polio as a child and got around on those aluminum polio crutches and leg braces.

    I vividly remember the day she introduced the class to the subject of genetics. She had in her hand a jar full of fruit flies. When she pronounced their Latin name, “Drosophila”, she remarked, in her beautiful southern accent:

    “Drosophila. Repeat that word with me: ‘dro-so-phi-la!’. Just let that roll off your tongue. Now class, isn’t that one of the most beautiful words you’ve ever heard? We call that kind of word ‘euphonious’. Another example is the word “syphilis”, but we won’t go in to that one today”.

    At the time I didn’t catch her sense of humor but that single comment seared a memory into my mind that’s lasted for almost 50 years. Thanks for bringing it back!

  24. liz Says:

    My solution for the pantry moths is to take the food out of the original packaging and put the stuff into glass jars or plastic containers. Take the boxes out asap!

    My bug problem the last few years has been black widow spiders. Luckily, they have been outside only, but it’s changed the way I garden. I wear gloves more often and carry something to check out anything weird looking.

  25. artfldgr Says:

    we can use the name for this conflict:

    The Fruitfly war

    The Dec. 5 incident involved the USS Cowpens, a guided missile cruiser, and a People’s Liberation Army Navy tank landing ship in the South China Sea. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and four accompanying warships were in the area at the time of the incident.

    The Washington Free Beacon first reported the incident, which U.S. officials said nearly triggered a dangerous military confrontation Friday.

    According to defense officials, the Cowpens was sailing in the South China Sea near the Liaoning when it was hailed by radio from a Chinese warship and ordered to stop.

    The cruiser was operating in international waters and therefore declined to stop, at which point a Chinese tank landing ship sailed in the path of the Cowpens, forcing the cruiser to make an abrupt turn to avoid hitting the ship. The Chinese ship was within 500 yards of the cruiser.

    buzz buzz buzz… the fruitfly war…

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    Yancey Ward,

    We’re saving that one for another target.

  27. holliford Says:

    the drop of dishwashing soap breaks the surface tension of the water and makes it much more challenging for them to fly off again, thus the greater rate of success. We had em super bad in Pennsylvania–turns out it’s not so warm here in the Rockies so they tend to phase out pretty easily in the wintertime. Also works for drain flies–nasty things.

  28. artfldgr Says:

    But the problem lies not just with our political leaders. We voters are no better. The historians will say of our response to this slow-motion crime against humanity that for all our talk of “never again”, we once again played the part of bystanders. And they will add this. We didn’t notice, so busy were we playing an elaborate parlour game called “the God debate”. While Churches were burned and their worshippers were slaughtered, the historians will record that we spent our time at book festivals cheering on Christopher and Richard and Sam as they… stuck it to the Christians and their imaginary friend.

    debating bystanders pretending they are just observers to be entertained or something

  29. Ruth H Says:

    I think fruit flies find more than one way into the house. I think some rode in on a houseplant in my house. I forget which plant; but inspect the plants before bringing them in. On the other hand, apparently they do arise from the muck, the miasma, the fog. Whatever, they find their way into our homes.

  30. John Kidle Says:

    We live along Lake Michigan in the middle of orchard country. When the fruit ripens and the wind is from the right direction, fruit flies arrive in staggering numbers. We’ve found the vacuum wand to be a noisy but effective tool for a quick assault. However, a neighbor’s gift of a hand-held bug zapper has proven superior. It’s a battery-powered gatcho that looks like a small tennis racquet (you can find them on Amazon and other places). Striking the critters in mid-air results in a satisfying zzzt! that quite makes up for your demented appearance swinging a tiny tennis racquet inside your home. Be aware, however, that their electrocuted bodies must fall somewhere–keep that wine glass covered.

  31. IGotBupkis, "'Faeces Evenio', Mr. Holder?" Says:

    }}} Like what, John Kerry?

    Cockroaches are often found together, but that does not mean one cockroach draws another to him…

  32. IGotBupkis, "'Faeces Evenio', Mr. Holder?" Says:

    I just use bleach to clean out the areas they’re hanging in, and/or pour a couple drops of bleach into nearby water where they might hang. The smell appears to annoy them, the bleach itself kills any larvae.

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