Fruit flies are attracted to ripened or fermenting fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, melons, squash, grapes, bananas, onions, and other perishable and/or unrefrigerated products. Fruit flies are also attracted to fermenting liquids such as beer, liquor, and wine.
Fruit flies can be found all over the world, except in Antarctica.
Adult fruit flies are small, oval insects that are 1/8 inches in length and are typically tan or yellowish in color. They have six legs, transparent wings, antennae, and usually have bright red eyes. They also have hairy bodies and sticky feet, facilitating the transmission of harmful bacteria. The larvae are white, ¼-inch maggots that feed on and in fruit.
- Fruit flies have four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
- They lay their eggs on decaying/fermenting foods or other moist, organic materials, including in drains and in the garbage. Upon hatching, the larvae feed near the surface of the decaying material.
- They then pupate and emerge as adults. The adults have a very short lifespan; the entire lifecycle from egg to adult can be completed in about a week.
- Fruit flies reproduce at a rapid pace, laying as many as 500 eggs in their short lifetime. Some species are monophagous (feeding on only one plant species) others are polyphagous (feeding on several, usually related plant species).
Damage and Detection
- Fruit flies are commonly found in homes, grocery stores, and restaurants – anywhere food may be rotting and fermenting.
- They are most noticeable in spring through fall but can operate year-round depending on the climate.
- Fruit flies enter homes on fruit or vegetables, as well as through open windows and doors.
- Because fruit fly larvae are so small, they are difficult to detect and are typically brought into homes inadvertently.
- Fruit flies are primarily nuisance pests. However, they also have the potential to contaminate food with bacteria and other disease-producing organisms.
Prevention and Control
- The best (really only) way to avoid problems with fruit flies is the elimination of their feeding and breeding grounds.
- Produce which has ripened should be eaten, discarded, or refrigerated.
To prevent and get rid of fruit flies:
- Check window and door seals to prevent fruit flies from entering the area/home. Windows and doors should be equipped with tight-fitting screens to help prevent adult fruit flies from entering.
- Maintain clean counters, trash cans, drains, sinks – any location where food waste accumulates. Do not leave almost-empty beer cans or wine bottles in an open recycling bin
- Inspect fruits and vegetables brought into the home for infestation
- Store produce in air-tight containers or refrigerate
- Damaged portions of fruits and vegetables should be cut away and discarded in the event that eggs or larvae are present in the wounded area – a single rotting potato or onion can breed thousands of fruit flies.
- Once an area is subject to an infestation, all potential breeding areas must be located and cleaned up, or the problem will persist.
- After the source of attraction is eliminated, a pyrethrum-based aerosol insecticide may be used to further control the infestation.
- Fruit fly traps can also be effective. Place a paper funnel (rolled from a sheet of paper) into a jar and pour enough cider vinegar to cover the bottom of the jar. Place the trap(s) in the offending areas, and any remaining flies will be drawn to it. Commercial fruit fly traps are also available for purchase.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.