General06 Sep 2009 12:04 am

Many moons ago, when I was a young genetics scholar, I spent a lot of time counting, sexing, breeding (and killing) fruit flies. The labs were not the happiest of times all the time, but I can’t say that I minded the fruit flies. The smell of ether kind of got to me though. (I guess that’s why I’m a photo editor now, instead of a lab tech!)

A few weeks ago here at home, I had to wage war on fruit flies. Mike and I had been collecting some compost items in a bucket on our patio. Some hot weather and holes in the patio screen ended in a killer infestation of fruit flies inside the house. In fact, it was damn near embarrassing, and if this story did not have a happy ending I doubt I would be telling you about it now.

It was horrible. The flies were EVERYWHERE. The garbage in our condo and on the patio. They would swarm up when you walked past them congregating around the water cooler/sink drains.

I immediately removed all traces of garbage. Ripe fruit went in the fridge, I bleached the counter tops and engaged in open warfare. I knew getting rid of the garbage would help, but would not curb the breeding.

So what helped?

Simple. I trapped the buggers.

Although I am not against using pesticides (I know, I know, but years of living in tropical countries really made me believer in the power of roach sprays) I could not use them for fear of killing my pet tarantulas and scorpions. So I used a natural combination.

A shallow bowl filled with: a cup of warm water, splash of dish washing liquid and a quarter cup of cider vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap, pulled taut. Poke holes in the plastic with a fork tine, place. I made several traps, scattered near water in the kitchen and bathroom.

The next morning, the infestation was slowed, and I was happy. Another day later, the flies were gone, save for their corpses which were black dots at the bottom of bowls. I felt like a champion.

Kind of had to resist checking out the genetic characteristics of the preserved flies though. Old habits die harder than fruit flies, I guess.

3 Responses to “kitchen nightmares: fruit flies”

  1. on 06 Sep 2009 at 11:25 am tinge

    We recently started a compost bin, and I stupidly placed it beside the house, a few weeks in I started to notice that the ranks of the lowly fruit fly were swelling, having had the problem before, (two hippie vegans are bound to get fruit flies from time to time) I put together the tried-and-true funnel style traps. These are essentially the “big guns” of fruit fly warfare, same tasty, low-surface-tension liquid, but with a bit more capture capacity & smell diffusion. I went to bed confident that the several hundred flies would start to clear up by morning.

    How wrong I was! By morning the traps (three of them) had HUNDREDS of flies in them each (and hundreds more in the liquid), and the house population had probably tripled, I figured out that the composter was the problem and moved it to the back of the yard. Unfortunately, in doing so I unleashed a real beast of a swarm. A quick estimation (based on their density on the outside wall of my house & some serious guesswork) (11 fruit flies per square inch, 375 square feet of back wall, 144 square inches in a square foot = 594,000 on the wall, and I’d wager that less than 1/4 landed on that back wall). There were lots.

    A good number (perhaps 100K) of this swarm found their way indoors over the next few days, and we packed everything away, waiting for the traps to do their work. But even though their numbers dropped each day, our sanity was starting to dwindle – we packed everything away (every spice in a box, every oil in a bag, every piece of fruit in the fridge), and still their demise was too slow! In the us-or-them battle it seemed surely that they would be the victors.

    Then, at our darkest hour, I discovered the our most devoted ally – the vacuum. In around 5 minutes I could suck up about 200 of the blighters, and I could do that about 5 times a day. This along with the passive traps, and the removal of their hiding spots among the spices finally let us get back to living a life less frazzled, and I’m happy to say the spices came out of hiding again just this weekend.

  2. on 06 Sep 2009 at 11:26 am tinge

    and by that I simply mean to say: “I sympathize.”

  3. on 12 Sep 2009 at 3:19 pm kelly

    Hahah! The vacuum! I almost had to resort to that after trying the hairblow dryer first. Mine didn’t have enough torque to pull the suckers in as I was told it would do, however, so I gave up on the sucking methods.

    Love the story. 🙂