Almost every composter is familiar with the fruit fly. No matter how hard we try, it always seems like the fruit fly is a constant companion in the kitchen or the compost bin. The question constantly comes up: “If I keep my food waste in a sealed container, why do I have fruit flies?” Unfortunately even the smallest amounts of nitrogen-rich material can attract fruit flies. And unbeknownst to many people, we are usually the ones bringing the fruit flies into our home! Most frequently at farmers markets where the produce is out in the open and rarely refrigerated, fruit flies have easy access to the surfaces of food. And because fruit fly eggs are so tiny (about the size of the period at the end of this sentence), the eggs often go unnoticed as we bring our fruits and veggies home. So how do we get rid of them?
One of the first steps is to wash everything carefully once you bring it home. Then put fresh produce into the refrigerator as fruit flies don’t survive in cold temperatures. Next, scrub down your kitchen sink, especially the drain to make sure all food particles are washed away. If you’re not sure if your garbage disposal is at fault for the outbreak, tape a sandwich bag over the garbage disposal opening overnight and any breeding flies will be caught in it. To clear out the drain, pour a pot of boiling water down it to help wash away any leftovers. Then take your dish rag or sponge and give it a wash through the dishwasher or the laundry. You might also want to clean your trash can or the bowl where you set out your fruit; remember even the smallest particles can make a difference. Make sure to clean up any spill and scrub under appliances. If you notice fruit flies in your cupboards, check the lids on all jars to ensure that they are properly sealed. And most importantly, make sure your organics headed to the compost bin are sealed in a container with a secure lid and added to the bin as soon as possible. Some composters even keep their organics bin outside the back door.
Now what do you do about the fruit flies that you already have in your home? All you need for an easy trap is apple cider vinegar, a container, and a sandwich bag or plastic wrap. Place about half a cup of apple cider vinegar in the container, cover it with the sandwich bag or plastic wrap, and cut a small slit into the top of it (enough for the flies to crawl in but not big enough for them to easily get out). Place this trap out on the counter and refresh it as needed and voila! You’re on your way to a fruit fly free kitchen.
Author: Nancee Foglesong (Master Composter Volunteer)