Tips and Tricks to Banish Fruit Flies From Your Kitchen Permanently

An entomologist explains why fruit fly infestations happen and how you can stop them.

Nina Raemont Writer
A recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Nina started at CNET writing breaking news stories before shifting to covering Security Security and other government benefit programs. In her spare time, she's in her kitchen, trying a new baking recipe.
Nina Raemont
4 min read
Fruit flies on wrinkled peach

Rotten fruit, sugar and fermented foods are major attractors for fruit flies.

Getty Images

How can something so tiny be such a giant pain? Fruit flies are only a small fraction of an inch long, but once they infest your kitchen, it's almost impossible to avoid them.

We talked to Jody Green, an entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who said that in a fruit fly infestation, the flies will normally hitch onto any overripe fruit that you bring home from the grocery store, or any bruised fruit, which tends to ripen and rot more quickly.

Once the flies get in your house, she said, they'll lay eggs everywhere they can -- in rotten fruit or any fermented substances. And as it gets warmer, their life cycles quicken. That's how infestations happen.

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Thankfully, there are ways to kick fruit flies out of your kitchen and expel them from your home. Some steps can help prevent an infestation, while others can help eliminate one. So take a look below, and keep your place free of fruit flies. 

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What do fruit flies look like? 

Fruit flies are about an eighth of an inch long, have red eyes (though some species have darker eyes) and are light brown with dark rings around their abdomen. They also have two wings (many insects have four).

What sorts of foods and environments attract fruit flies? 

The common name that entomologists give fruit flies is "vinegar flies." That's because they're naturally attracted to fermented liquid, and when fruit rots, it also ferments. 

But fruit flies don't thrive only on rotten fruit or vinegar. They also love sugary substances like soda, wine and beer, and you can find them in the bottom of your trash bin or any wet place with a substantial food source. 

"Substantial food source" may mean something different to you than to the small but mighty fruit fly, Green said. "It may not be the food you are wanting to eat, but fruit flies are so tiny it only takes a tiny microhabitat" -- like the residual soda in a can in your recycling bin or leftover bits and crumbs in a takeout container in your garbage, Green explained. Those are prime spots for fruit flies to breed. Once the weather warms, it takes less time for fruit fly eggs to turn into babies. 

How can I stop a fruit fly infestation? 

To prevent fruit flies from taking over your kitchen, it all comes down to cleaning. Keeping your place as dry and free of food as possible prevents pests from continuing their life cycle. 

Throw away garbage and take out recycling frequently. Clean out the bottom of bins when liquid accumulates, wipe down counters after you're finished cooking, and keep your sink and garbage disposal free of old food, empty of dishes, and as dry as possible. 

Storing fruits and vegetables in the fridge instead of on the counter will also make it harder for the fruit flies to find them. And since they're attracted to rotting fruit, you should carefully pick your produce at the store to make sure you aren't bringing any rotten or bruised pieces home, Green said. She also added that you should recycle or compost cardboard boxes that hold produce as soon as possible, because fruit flies could be breeding in them. Any place that catches water or is moist, like a wet kitchen rag or the rug next to the sink, could become a breeding ground for fruit flies. 

These fruit fly hacks don't work 

If you have a fruit fly problem, you've probably searched for some outlandish "miracle" tips to eradicate them. When I asked Green about the tips and tricks I've seen online, she debunked plenty of them. Pouring hot water down your drain? That doesn't work. Neither does pouring Borax or diatomaceous earth powder down the drain, keeping your environment extra cool, or washing your fruit right as you get home, since running fruit under water can cause it to ripen quicker. 

These fruit fly hacks actually do work

Keeping your kitchen clean and dry, throwing out garbage frequently, picking produce carefully and storing it in the fridge are your best bets for preventing fruit flies from reproducing. 

When you're dealing with an infestation, put vinegar and a couple drops of dish soap in a bowl, cover the bowl with cling wrap and poke holes into it. (Green likes to use dollar store salt and pepper shakers, because the holes are the perfect size for flies, and you can get some wonderfully decorative shakers -- much more glamorous than a cling-wrapped glass or bowl.) That'll kill the adults. Sticky paper works at trapping them, too.