In William Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies, a boy named Simon discovers the severed head of a pig swarmed by ravenous and dangerous flies. He is chased by these flies as he returns to his home tribe, believing that he has discovered the “beast” that haunts the island. Nothing as dramatic would probably happen in real life, but when your home is infested with fruit flies, you may have a serious pest problem.
You don’t have to do something extreme, like burn an entire island and shed off all that remains of your humanity, to get rid of fruit flies. Fruit flies may seem harmless, but they can carry many disease-causing microorganisms wherever they land, feed, and breed. When fruit flies get into your food, you can risk getting your friends and family sick. Getting rid of fruit flies requires patience and the right extermination techniques.
What are Fruit Flies?
Fruit flies, or Drosophila melanogaster, are common insects that infect many homes in warmer climates. Fruit flies are a hardy species, and can survive extreme weather conditions. Female fruit flies are larger than male fruit flies, although both species can cause food to spoil. The body of a fruit fly can harbor and pick up many harmful microorganisms, like mold and bacteria. Fruit flies can spread many diseases and illnesses like indigestion, and gastrointestinal infections like amoebiasis.
Uses of Fruit Flies
Fruit flies are used by many scientists, particularly geneticists and biologists, as a model organism. Fruit flies are very important tools in high school and university biology classes. Many physicians also use fruit flies as a human analogue, because 75% of human diseases have a similar genetic coding sequence in the genome of fruit flies. The fly is used by many researchers to study the origins and explore possible cures for Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Flies used for scientific experiments are often bred and grown in controlled environments.
Fruit Fly Breeding Grounds
A single fruit fly buzzing around your kitchen may be annoying, but a whole group of flies in your home can spell disaster for lunch or dinner. Fruit flies breed and multiply in many places, including the following:
- Uncovered fresh foods. Any source of sugar is a heaven for fruit flies. Fruit bowls, desserts, and sweet entreés can all be sources for food for fruit flies. Not only do you have to deal with spoiled food, but you also have a fruit fly infestation waiting to happen.
- Stagnant water and damp places. Like mosquitoes, flies like damp, cool places where they can lay eggs. Female fruit flies can lay up to 500 eggs at a time anywhere, from wet dishrags and mopheads, to dank corners of your kitchen counter. Warm and cozy kitchens are perfect for hatching eggs; eggs from Drosophila melanogaster only take seven days to develop from eggs to full-grown adult insects.
- Trash. If you keep your rubbish bin uncovered, or if you don’t throw your trash properly, you may risk having a fruit fly infestation in your kitchen. Vegetable and fruit peelings are excellent food sources and breeding grounds for fruit flies.
For people who live in warm climates, a fly swatter is essential to keep flies from swarming all over your kitchen. A single fly is annoying by itself, but you can only imagine what would happen if dozens or even hundreds of flies hover and buzz around your dirty kitchen. Fly swatters are useful because you can repel the flies, or even kill them if they get particularly annoying. Here are some tools that you can use to swat flies away:
- Fly whisks are usually made from long threads or strips of plastic film, and are waved around to discourage flies from landing or breeding on food. You can make a fly whisk out of a long stick or skewer, and knot some shredded plastic bags on one end.
- Fly swatters are an old reliable way to kill pesky fruit flies and other insects. It’s still a hit-and-miss prospect, and when you do hit the fly dead-on, you end up squishing it. Make sure to clean and disinfect the fly swatter, and the surface where you made the fly go splat, with disinfectant soap and rubbing alcohol.
- Bug zappers take the old fashioned fly swatters to the 21st century. Bug zappers are battery-operated machines that look like tennis rackets. You simply wave the bug zapper to the direction of the fly, and the conductive mesh will electrocute the insects in an instant.
Insecticide is a common way to get rid of fruit flies, but should only be used in extreme circumstances. Insecticides use many petroleum-based toxins to paralyze, disable, or kill fruit flies. A small amount of insecticide is usually enough to get rid of the fruit flies hanging around your kitchen.
The problem with insecticide is that it contains many toxic ingredients that can harm human beings. Toxic compounds that make their way into food or dishes can cause many serious health complications. Inhaling the vapors of pesticide can cause respiratory tract infections and asphyxiation. Even insect sprays that claim to be safe for human beings and pets can cause health problems.
If you do need to spray insecticide, follow these reminders:
- Do not use more insecticide than necessary.
- Cover food, utensils, and cutlery before spraying insecticide.
- Do not spray insecticide when there are children or pets present in the kitchen.
If you’re not keen on using insecticide, then you may want to use fly traps. Traps can be used to collect the flies for disposal, or kill them altogether. Compared to insecticide, fly traps are less expensive and non-toxic. They are also ingenious ways to get rid of fruit flies in your kitchen.
The old reliable sticky strips your grandma used in her kitchen are still very useful for getting rid of fruit flies. Many strips of fly paper come with sweet scents that attract fruit flies. The flies then stick to the adhesive, and you can dispose of them properly. Sometimes the adhesive in fly paper is mixed with a toxic substance like arsenic. Fly paper is reliable, although it can be a chore to roll up and throw in the trash bin.
Bowl and Glass Traps
To make a fly trap out of a kitchen bowl or a glass, follow these instructions:
- Place some fruit (like bananas or apple wedges) in a bowl or a glass.
- Stretch a piece of cling wrap or Saran wrap over the bowl.
- Pierce a few holes on the plastic with a toothpick or a fork.
- Leave the bowl or glass on your kitchen counter overnight.
The bowl or glass trap works by luring insects into making their way inside the container. While it’s easy for them to get in, it’s impossible for them to get out. You can then dispose of the flies and the fruit bait properly by throwing it in the trash bin.
Hair Dryer Traps
A fun way to get rid of fruit flies is to use a hair dryer. The hot air that blows out of the hair dryer won’t kill the flies outright, but the air sucked into the machine from the back fans of the dryer would. Here’s how you can kill fruit flies with a hair dryer:
- Set the dryer on “Hot.”
- Look for the places in your kitchen where the fruit flies breed.
- Point the back of the hair dryer towards the fruit flies, and watch them get sucked in and fried by the heating element. It’s a fun way to get rid of fruit flies, although you may want to use an inexpensive hair dryer for this purpose.
When your fruit fly problems get out of control, the best way to get rid of the vermin is to kill them all in one fell swoop. All you need is a piece of fruit, an oven, and 12 hours:
- Cover your plates, food, and appliances with plastic sheeting.
- Place the fruit (like a banana) on the middle rack of the oven.
- Leave the oven door overnight. The flies will then swarm towards the fruit.
- The next day, quietly close the oven door and set it to 300 degrees.
- After all the flies have roasted to their death, clean out the oven.
Fruit fly problems are not as dramatic as the events in Lord of the Flies, and you probably won’t engage in moral dilemmas or questions. With these tips to get rid of fruit flies in your kitchen, you’ll never have to worry about a single fly turning into a ravenous, monstrous swarm of epic proportions.
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