How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

updated May 25, 2022
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You’re rinsing the dishes when a tiny flying bug catches your eye. A simple clap of the hands takes care of that, but then you look over at the fruit bowl on the counter and see at least a dozen more swirling around your farmer’s market haul, looking for kitchen waste. Cue the sigh that comes with the realization that, yep, you’ve got a fruit fly infestation on your hands. 

We talked to Daniel Baldwin, director of technical, training, and regulatory services for Terminix Commercial to learn everything we could about fruit flies, including the best way to get rid of the little intruders.

What are Fruit Flies? 

Fruit flies are commonly found in homes during the summer and early fall months. Yes, even in homes where the windows are closed all the time. Why? Because they make their way indoors on fresh fruits and vegetables. These tiny insects (they only measure about 1/10 inch to 1/5 inch long) don’t bite and aren’t capable of causing any damage to your home or furniture, but they do multiply quickly; females can lay hundreds of eggs at a time. 

Fruit flies feed on overripe fruits, rotting vegetables, and pretty much anything else they can find. Common food sources for fruit flies include trash cans, backpacks and even your kitchen drain. When it comes to fruit flies, it’s hard to find any redeeming qualities, but here’s one: “They do not have the right type of mouthparts to bite,” Baldwin says. 

Where do Fruit Flies Come From?

If your house is as clean as can be, you may wonder how the heck you ended up with a fruit fly infestation. “They can hitchhike on foods, and they can exploit poorly maintained drains,” says Baldwin. “Having fruit flies doesn’t mean you have a dirty house, just that there is some small place that needs cleaning.” 

How Long do Fruit Flies Live? 

While a fruit fly’s lifespan can vary widely based on environmental conditions, two to four weeks is a good rule of thumb, Baldwin says. However, your problem won’t go away when the adult flies die away. If conditions like moisture (in your sink, via juice from rotten fruit, or even due to humidity), decaying food, and dirty drains continue, so will your fruit fly infestation, Baldwin explains. “Females can lay hundreds of eggs on a single piece of fruit that has fallen unnoticed under the refrigerator, supporting the development of thousands of flies,” he says. (Delicious, right?)

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

There are tons of DIY trap instructions out there, from wine or beer to apple cider vinegar to sugar water to fruit juice. Baldwin stresses that these traps only solve half the problem: capturing some of the adult fruit flies. Eggs may still be present on other items in your home, leading to more fruit flies. Only finding and eliminating those food and breeding sources will take care of the fruit fly infestation, he says.

Credit: Faith Durand/Kitchn

DIY Fruit Fly Trap 

Despite that, you can certainly cut down on your fruit fly infestation with a simple DIY fruit fly trap. Here’s the how-to:

What you’ll need:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Mason jar (8 ounces works best)
  • Plastic wrap

How to make it:

  1. Combine apple cider vinegar and dish soap in Mason jar
  2. Gently swirl mixture to combine.
  3. Cover the top with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band
  4. Poke a few small holes in the plastic wrap (this allows fruit flies to get in, but they won’t be able to get out)

If you don’t stock apple cider vinegar, you may be wondering how to get rid of fruit flies with white vinegar or other substitutes. Mother Nature Network reports that white vinegar isn’t a good swap for countertop traps, but that you can also use red wine or balsamic vinegar. 

Fruit Fly Traps and Treatments 

There are plenty of over-the-counter products available for controlling insects, including fruit flies. But like DIY traps, these methods only address part of the issue: killing present adult fruit flies, Baldwin says. Again, you also need to find and eliminate the food and breeding source to get rid of fruit flies entirely. That said, these products can help: 

Simply place this on the counter (it’s safe to use near food), flip open the top, and wait for fruit flies to find their way in. 

These specially formulated plastic strips slowly diffuse an odorless vapor that repels fruit flies in a room as large as 200 cubic feet for up to 120 days. 

If fruit flies have taken up residency in your drain, try this easy-to-use product. You simply pour the citronella-based formula down the drain to kill any fruit flies (or drain flies) and their eggs. 

This four-star product plugs into the wall and uses UV light to trap fruit flies, as well as a variety of other household insects like gnats and mosquitoes. 

This nontoxic, apple-shaped trap sits on the counter, where it attracts and traps fruit flies for up to 30 days.

How to Prevent Fruit Flies

“It is unlikely that one can ever prevent fruit flies from ever getting into their home,” says Baldwin. “There are just too many ways for them to get in.” It’s more about management. When unwanted guests do get in, Baldwin says to make sure they don’t have what they need to survive: food, standing water, and a place to live.