Warmer weather means an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables. However, unfortunately, this may also lead to pesky fruit flies, since they are attracted to ripened produce indoors.
If you’re curious about how to kill fruit flies in your house, keep reading for an array of effective DIY solutions. But before you create a fruit fly trap, it helps to know what causes the infestation in the first place and how fruit flies multiply so fast. According to pest control company Orkin, female fruit flies lay hundreds of eggs in a very short time. You’ll find their eggs on top of your overripe fruits and vegetables before they hatch into larvae, or maggots, where they’ll feed on the food they were laid upon. This entire process can happen within 24 to 30 hours. The larvae then become sexually active within a week, where they’ll start the reproductive cycle all over again, leading to the bugs taking over your kitchen and dinner table.
Luckily, ridding your home of these sugar-loving pests can be as simple as using ingredients you may already have in the kitchen, like apple cider vinegar and dish soap. Some of the ideas such as using a paper cone and an old fruit trap work overnight, while others can kill them on the spot (spraying the pests with rubbing alcohol is just one example). We even share the best ways to prevent fruit flies from entering your home, including throwing out overripe produce and taking out the garbage regularly.
So, don’t worry if your fruit fly infestation has gotten a bit out of control. With these expert tips below, those critters will be gone for good.
What causes fruit fly infestations in the house?
Fruit flies are attracted to ripe, rotting or decayed fruit and produce, as well as fermented goods like beer, liquor and wine, say the pros at Orkin. They also like to buzz around trash cans and garbage disposals if enough food is present. And, unfortunately, considering their reproductive prowess, two tiny fruit flies will quickly multiply into an infestation that can feel almost impossible to control.
Are they really fruit flies?
If you see little black bugs flying around your kitchen, you first want to make sure you identify the critters correctly. Fruit flies usually appear light or dark brown in color with red eyes. Double-check that your pests in question aren’t drain flies, which lurk around drains or garbage disposals, or fungus gnats, which prefer overwatered houseplants. For those bugs, check out our guides on how to get rid of gnats and how to make a homemade fly trap.
How to Prevent Fruit Flies
Start by deep cleaning your kitchen and throwing out any rotten food. To cut off fruit flies from their food source and prevent them from entering your home, take these preventive measures to avoid a future fruit fly infestation:
- Throw out overripe produce
- Store fruits and veggies in the fridge
- Wash produce as soon as you get home to remove any potential eggs or larvae
- Take out the garbage regularly
- Clean up spills ASAP, especially fruit juice or alcohol
Then, you’ll want to find a way to trap the existing fruit flies in your kitchen, fast. Our experts have found that a DIY fruit fly trap is a quick and effective solution. What’s more, these homemade fruit fly traps can be fashioned from supplies you likely have on hand in your pantry. If you want to skip the DIY route, you can buy premade fruit fly traps, too. Here are the best ways to kill fruit flies, according to pest experts:
1. Apple cider vinegar and plastic wrap trap
For this DIY fruit fly trap, sweet apple cider vinegar (ACV) is more effective than white vinegar. They can’t resist the scent of vinegar, and they won’t be able to exit once they’re inside! For an even better chance at success, make several of these traps and place them around your kitchen. Here’s how to do it yourself:
- Pour a little ACV into a glass.
- Cover the opening with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band.
- Poke a few small holes for the fruit flies to enter.
2. Paper cone, vinegar and old fruit trap
The smell of rotting produce will help entice the fruit flies into the mixture, but the cone part of this fruit fly trap makes it difficult for them to get out. Here’s how to do it yourself:
- Place a little vinegar and a chunk of very ripe fruit in a jar.
- Roll some paper into a cone and stick it into the jar, placing the narrow opening down. You can recycle or compost the homemade funnel afterward.
- A similar idea: Cut open the top of a plastic bottle and use the bottle’s top as your narrow opening (cone) for the flies to go through. Place vinegar and ripe fruit at the bottom to trap them.
3. Vinegar and dish soap trap
If you find your fruit flies impervious to your plastic wrap or paper cone traps, try adding three drops of dish soap to a bowl of vinegar and leave it uncovered. The soap cuts the surface tension of the vinegar so the flies will sink and drown.
4. Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch
The experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute were excited to see this product cross their desks, especially senior chemist Sabina Wizemann, who found that it worked better in her home than other DIY remedies she’s tried. The premade mixture uses the active ingredients sodium lauryl sulfate (a surfactant used in soaps) and malic acid (found in fruit) and comes in a stand-up jar. All you have to do is open the top, set it on your counter and “watch the cycle of life unfold.”
5. Old wine or beer trap
Like vinegar, fruit flies love the smell of wine. Try leaving out an open bottle with a little leftover liquid — the skinny neck will keep the flies trapped. The Old Farmer’s Almanac also recommends using stale beer to attract fruit flies to a DIY trap. Add a couple drops of dish soap to either for greater success.
6. Alcohol spray
Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and spritz any of the insects you see in your home. Make sure to avoid spraying the alcohol on fruit, as it may cause them to spoil, which will lead to more fruit flies.
Can I use bleach to kill fruit flies?
If you notice fruit flies in your drain, you might be looking for an instant fix — like pouring bleach down the drain. But experts say this isn’t the most effective solution. Doing so might kill some larvae, but it will not kill enough of the eggs or larvae to eliminate the problem. That’s because bleach passes down the drain too quickly to do a thorough job.
If you have a garbage disposal, here’s how to keep it clean and free of fruit flies:
✔️ Always run cold water before turning on the disposal or grinding food, and for a few seconds after the grinding stops. The water flow will help food move all the way through the pipes after it leaves the disposal.
✔️ Every week or so, with the disposal and faucet both turned off, toss in a bunch of ice cubes, a tablespoon of baking soda, a few thin lemon slices and a teaspoon of bleach. Turn the disposal on without running water until you hear the grinding stop. Then, with the motor still running, flush the machine with cold water for about a minute.
How do I kill fruit flies outdoors?
If you notice fruit flies buzzing around your homegrown fruits and vegetables in the backyard, use Spinosad insecticide to kill them. Fill a garden sprayer with the solution and apply it around the base of your home. You can spray the liquid directly onto your fruits to kill any flies that landed on them for a meal. While Spinosad insecticide is safe to use around people and animals, limit your exposure, as it may cause eye irritation and allergic reactions. Make sure to rinse your fruits and veggies before eating them.
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Overseeing all things home for GoodHousekeeping.com and HouseBeautiful.com, Lauren swoons over midcentury design and employs tough-love approach to decluttering (just throw it away, ladies). She loves anything neon coral, puts bacon on her veggie burgers, and would follow Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to the end of the earth.
Mariah Thomas (she/her) is an assistant editor for Good Housekeeping, where she covers home and lifestyle content. Mariah has more than four years of editorial experience, having written for TLC, Apartment Therapy, Women’s Health and Avocado Magazine. She received her master’s degree in journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and published her first book, Heart and Soul: Poems of Thoughts and Emotions, in 2019. She’s also the founder of RTF Community a platform for creatives of color to connect, learn and showcase their work.