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Invasive fruit flies plotting their attack

Homemade Fruit Fly Traps

They’re everywhere! Tiny, annoying fruit flies, that is. They’re trying to get into our tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, and plums. They’re even breeding in our compost bucket. What to do? Break out the big guns.

The lowly fruit fly has a very short reproductive cycle. The female Drosophila melanogaster (common fruit or vinegar fly) lays eggs about 5 at a time, which hatch and become adults in 4-19 days depending on the ambient temperature. Adults can live for up to 3 months in the right environment, but they typically live 30 days. As you can see, we have our work cut out for us.

Invasive fruit flies plotting their attack
Invasive fruit flies plotting their attack

We’ve assembled a line of defense that helps, but hasn’t yet eliminated the problem. Here’s what it looks like:

1) Mesh tents over the fruit

This keeps them out, mostly. A few still get in and start eating and breeding
This keeps them out, mostly. A few still get in and start eating and breeding

2) Store-bought fruit fly traps – they aren’t cheap, but they work…for awhile at least. They contain vinegar to attract the fly. Once they pass through the tiny hole, they can’t get out.

Fruit fly trap in a decorative case.
Fruit fly trap in a decorative case.

We had to keep trying, so we built a simple trap ourselves. Boy, did this work!

Homemade fruit fly traps are easy to make and effective.
Homemade fruit fly traps are easy to make and effective.

To make: get a half-pint glass jar. Drop a piece of fruit in the bottom. Add a small amount of water (not enough to cover) and a drop of dish soap. The dish soap breaks the surface tension so the fruit flies can’t sit on the water’s surface.

Next, get a cone-shaped coffee filter or make one with a piece of paper and tape. Cut a small hole in the bottom and set it in the jar. The tip should not touch the fruit or water.

Tape the filter/cone into place around the top edge of the jar, so they can’t get out. This part is key!

We tried different bait. Nectarines and peaches work great. Tomatoes, great. Wine, not so much.
We tried different bait. Nectarines and peaches work great. Tomatoes, great. Wine, not so much.

After just an hour or two, most of the fruit flies were in the jars. We refreshed the bait after a couple days and pulled any fruit from the counter that seemed to be attracting more attention than the bait.

Do try this at home, and post your results here. What bait works best for you? What other solutions have you found? Share with us, Gardenerds. We’d love to hear from you.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Karen Foster

    I deal with multiple disabilities. I love easy. I simply take a flimsy produce section bag,normally thrown out, add anything that starts to attract fruit flies, and just set it where whatever was attracting the fruit flies.I leave the top open and fiddle with it enough that the top of the bag won’t fall over and collapse. I leave it alone. Just before I go to bed, I grab the bag at the top as fast as I can and ” squash” the contents gently to mush the contents and kill the flies. Works great because their activity lessens at night, and can be startled- taken by surprise. I then open the bag- no mess on my hands because it’s all in the bag. I let it sit there, during the night, where any remaining fruit flies go into the bag. They seem unaffected by their dead buddies.The next morning, the fruit flies who escaped the first time are recaptured,and you are free of fruit flies Grab the top of the bag and mush it again. Repeat whenever you see a need. I think this would be great with the freezing tip, because all of the contents would easily be removed for compost. I made this up out of necessity- told a friend who two years later told me to do this if I ever got fruit flies! She forgot where she heard it. It works great and recycles a bag designed only to get your produce home.

    1. Christy

      That’s great, Karen. It’s certainly the easiest suggestion so far!

  2. RV

    If your source of the fruit flies is your compost bucket, then you can do what I did, and it quickly solved my fruit fly problem: freeze your small little pile until you can take it outside. I switched to storing my kitchen scraps to a zip-lock bag or an empty yogurt container with a top that will fit into my freezer. When I’m ready to take to the outside compost pile or tumbler, I empty the bags or containers onto the pile and re-use the containers.

    The freezing kills any fruit fly and their eggs, plus starts to break down the cellulose from the fruit and veggies making it quicker to decompose in your pile or to feed your woms. This tip was from a Burbank, CA compost class. It really works.

  3. Sue

    I take a very small container/bowl and fill it with cider vinegar with a drop of dish soap to break the surface tension. The fruit flies are very attracted to this mix and are drastically reduced in no time. I periodically have to replace the mixture because the bowl gets filled.

    1. Christy

      Wow, and no cone? That’s great! Thanks for sharing your solutions.

  4. Sherry

    We put a core of an apple in a small plastic container, stretch tight plastic wrap holding it on with a rubber band. Then we poke small holes in wrap This has worked for us for years.

    1. Christy

      Good to know that apples work too! Thanks for sharing.

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