Everyone's seen them. In homes, in grocery stores, in restaurants, pretty much any place that has food. No, we're not talking about teenagers. We're talking about fruit flies (also known as gnats): those incredibly annoying pests with wings that try to reproduce on your food.
How to get rid of fruit flies is a commonly talked about topic. Yes, you can swat them or try to let them out a window, but if you have areas where they are breeding, those options won't get to the heart of the problem.
For those who have been plagued with an infestation and don’t know how to get rid of gnats in the house, figuring out how to get to the heart of the problem can be a daunting task, especially since gnats breed so quickly. This guide is going to help you by giving you suggestions on how to kill fruit flies—and keep them from coming back—by showing you what attracts them and how to make a fruit fly trap.
What are Fruit Flies
Scientifically known as Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly is a common household pest that drives both homeowners and restaurant owners alike crazy. Adult fruit flies are usually around one-eighth of an inch long and have a lifespan of between 40 and 50 days. Their eyes are usually red, and their bodies are tan and black.
The reproductive capabilities of fruit flies are amazing, given that a female can lay up to 500 eggs at a time. Females typically lay their eggs on rotting fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, other suitable decaying foods, or even beer cans or other containers that have held fermented drinks. The eggs hatch within 12 to 15 hours after being laid.
After hatching, the larvae go through two molting stages before they reach adulthood, during which time they eat both the sugars of the fruit and the bacteria that is decaying the fruit. The entire process of developing from larvae to adulthood can be completed in 8 to 10 days.
Many things attract fruit flies. We will talk about a few of these in more detail in the next section, but they are most attracted to overripened fruits or vegetables, whether they are in the garden or the kitchen.
Ingredients That Attract Fruit Flies
When it comes to how to catch fruit flies, one of the most important things is to know what it is that attracts them. If you know what attracts them, you can use those things as bait in a homemade fruit fly trap. As we said earlier, many things attract fruit flies, but some are more practical to use as bait than others.
Apple Cider Vinegar
You’re probably wondering how to get rid of fruit flies with vinegar. The answer is, it’s not just the vinegar. All the ingredients in this solution work together to help get rid of gnats.
Apple cider vinegar fruit fly traps are highly praised for their simplicity. All you do is pour a couple of drops of dish soap into a cup along with some apple cider vinegar. You can either cover the container with plastic wrap and poke holes in it or leave it open.
The vinegar fly trap concoction has a sweet odor that is strong and attracts the gnats. But the dish soap decreases the surface tension of the apple cider, so when flies land on the mixture they sink through it and drown.
Red wine mixed with a couple of drops of dish soap is also an effective fruit fly killer. Gnats are highly attracted to fermenting foods and drinks. We go to the specifics of red wine simply because it gives off more of a scent than white wine, and the smell reaches further, too.
As before, the dish soap decreases the surface tension and makes the flies sink and drown, but you might want to pick a dish soap that is unscented, as the scented soaps can overpower the smell of the wine and it won't attract the gnats.
Gnats are attracted to beer because of the yeast. The yeast creates a compound called glycerol, which smells similar to ripening fruit. It is this smell that attracts the flies.
Beer and other fermented drinks and foods also attract gnats because they provide a perfect place for them to lay their eggs. The right concentration of ethanol will help the larvae mature into healthy adults and protect them against parasites.
The use of beer as a gnat trap isn’t a widely-circulated solution, but we are positive that using a beer and dish soap concoction would likely work just as well in capturing them as the previous two attractants.
Sugar attracts fruit flies, so drinks that have sugar in them make great ingredients in DIY fruit fly traps. The most common one is a mixture that consists of 1 cup of milk, four tablespoons of sugar, and two tablespoons of ground pepper.
You combine these ingredients and let them simmer on the stove for about ten minutes then place them in a bowl. The milk mixed with the sugar attracts the gnats, and the peppers suffocate them.
Overripe fruits are basically fruits that have rotted and are no longer fit for eating. They are the most common breeding ground for fruit flies; as such, they make an excellent ingredient that you can use to lure a fly into a trap.
The easiest way to create a trap using overripe fruit as the bait is to cut a rotten fruit into slices and put it in a glass bowl. Then, you cover the bowl with saran wrap and poke holes in it with a toothpick. The pests will be able to find their way into the bowl but will not be able to figure out how to escape.
Types of Traps
Knowing what attracts fruit flies is only half the battle; you also must know how to make a fruit fly trap and what kinds there are. Fruit fly traps DIY are usually easy to make. You may want to experiment with different types to find the best fruit fly trap for your situation.
Conic traps are traps that use a cone shape to trap the gnats inside a bottle of some sort. Conic traps are better for you if you want to know how to catch fruit flies rather than how to kill fruit flies. Making a conic trap is easy. All you need is a bottle or jar with a neck on it, a piece of paper that you can easily roll up, some tape, and of course the bait. For conic traps, liquid bait works best.
All you do is take your piece of paper and roll it into a cone shape, leaving a hole big enough for the gnats to get through. Then you insert it into the neck of the bottle and secure it in place with tape. The flies will be able to get into the bottle but not out.
A banana trap is exactly what it sounds like: a trap that uses a banana as bait to capture gnats. All you need to make this trap is a banana (rotten works better than ripe), some saran wrap, a toothpick, and a jar or bowl of some kind.
All you do to make a banana trap is cut the banana into chunks or slices and put it in a bowl or jar. Cover the jar with saran wrap and poke holes in it with a toothpick. Like with the conic trap, the flies will get in but not out.
Liquid traps use the wine, beer, apple cider, and sugary drinks that we talked about earlier in this guide. The liquids are generally either mixed with ground pepper to suffocate the gnats or with dish soap to drown them.
To make a liquid trap, you need to place the liquid bait of your choice (there are more than the ones we have listed; a simple search of the web will reveal other options to you) into a cup, bowl, or jar. Afterward, you place either a couple of tablespoons of ground pepper or a few drops of unscented dish soap into the jar and stir it together.
Either option is effective in getting rid of the flies. When the trap has caught all the flies, simply throw it out.
How to Prevent Fruit Flies from Returning
Now that you know how to make a fruit fly trap, you need to know how to keep those pesky creatures away from your house. There are several different measures you can take when “how to get rid of gnats” comes to “how to prevent gnats from returning.”
Before you do anything, you need to be sure that you find all the areas that they could potentially be breeding in and eradicate them. Then you can proceed to these five—of many—solutions to ensure that the pests stay away.
Keep a Clean Kitchen
Keeping a clean kitchen is an important part of ensuring that these pests won’t come back. Having a clean, organized kitchen is a good way to eradicate anything that might attract them.
Fruit flies are attracted to both rotting and ripe fruits and vegetables alike, so when you are not eating them, store them in a covered bowl or the refrigerator so flies can't get to them. Other tips include:
- Disinfect the counters every night
- Clean up any spills right after they happen
- Empty the food out of the kitchen trash
Clean Your Drains
Gnats love to breed in areas that are damp or that have rotten food. That makes drains and garbage disposals a prime place for them to do the deed. Even after you eradicate them, you need to continue to clean your drain to ensure that they don’t return.
Vinegar is an effective way to keep your drain clean. The natural antiseptic qualities of Vinegar combined with baking soda create a foam that kills both the gnats and the bacteria within the drain that attracts them.
After you have eradicated the gnats, pour one cup of white vinegar down your drain once a week, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then rinse it with water. This will keep your drain clean and prevent the flies and the bacteria from coming back.
Rue gives off a smell that is pleasing to humans, so you're probably wondering, how will this help repel gnats? The answer is, while rue is pleasant to humans, it is repulsive to gnats. Keeping some rue in your fruit bowls or windowsills or other places flies are likely to enter your home will deter them from eating and breeding on your food.
Gnats hate cloves for the same reason they hate rue: they can’t stand the smell. There are a couple of different ways to use cloves as an insect repellant. The first way is to take an apple or an orange and poke 20 to 30 holes in it. Then place the nail-shaped cloves in the holes and put the fruit in a place where you think the gnats would be likely to enter your house through.
But since rotting fruit is the number one attractor of gnats and the smell of rotting apples and oranges will eventually outweigh the smell of the clover, option one is only temporary. The second way is just to use the cloves. You can put them in a cheesecloth or muslin bag and hang them in an entrance point. It is longer-lasting than the first option. The odor is so repulsive to them that they won’t even go near it.
Essential oils have components that naturally repel insects. They are toxic to flies, ants, and other pests, but safe for you to use in the bathroom and the kitchen. Some good oils to start with include:
- Peppermint oil
- Tea tree oil