Fruit flies are a fact of life — especially come summer, when fresh produce is abundant and also spoils faster on your countertop. It's almost inevitable that you'll find a few buzzing around your kitchen. They'll eat anything that's remotely spoiled, can sneak in through open doors or the tiny holes in your window screens, and multiply swiftly.
"Fruit flies have a quick gestation period," says Scot Hodges, director of professional development for technical services at Arrow Exterminators. "It only takes them 12 to 15 hours to lay eggs, then just a week for those eggs to turn into adults, so you can develop a problem really quickly." Great.
Don't panic just yet. Here's what you need to do.
While the flies themselves are mostly a nuisance — there is technically a risk of them carrying bacteria from one decaying food to another, but it's fairly low — you don't exactly want them around. "If you have flies that aren't going away, the problem isn't the flies, it's what they're feeding on," says Hodges. "Fruit flies are usually the symptom of the problem. If you can clean and remove the decomposing material, you'll eliminate them," agrees Chellie Hartzer, an entomologist for Orkin. That could be the banana peel your kid dropped between the cabinets and the fridge, or the potatoes liquefying in your pantry.
Fortunately, if you can eliminate the source of their food, the flies will disappear pretty quickly. "In addition to the short gestation cycle, they have a short life cycle, only about seven days, so if you get rid of the food source, the flies will be totally gone within a week," says Hodges.
The best line of defense: Good sanitation practices. And your fridge.
If you have produce that's getting a little soft, toss it or move it into the fridge. If your garbage can's attracting fruit flies, take it to the curb. "If you can smell your garbage, it's a breeding site," says Hodges. Once you've eliminated the fruit flies' food source, you can set a trap (find a few reader favorites here) to catch the stragglers. Just make sure your windows are closed, as the trap can attract new flies — that may then find breeding ground in your produce instead of the trap itself. Then make sure you're regularly wiping down your countertops and cleaning your dishes, so you can eliminate any food source the fruit flies would be attracted to. While you still have fruit flies, put any new produce in the fridge to avoid giving them new breeding ground, says Hartzer.
If you still have an infestation and can't figure out the source, that's when to call a pro. "They can inspect your kitchen and identify a source you're overlooking," says Hodges. Like that banana peel that's been rotting for a month.