One of the most common household pests, especially in the late summer and early fall, is the fruit fly. These tiny, pesky insects seem to appear out of nowhere and quickly become a nuisance in our homes. They are attracted to ripened fruits, vegetables, and fermented liquids, making our kitchens their favorite hangout spot. While harmless to humans, their rapid reproduction and ability to invade various food sources can make them a frustrating and persistent problem.
This insect may seem basic enough, but here are eight things you didn’t know about fruit flies that can help you understand their habits. After all, the better you understand fruit flies, the more you can improve your pest control for the home against these tiny insects.
Fruit fly facts:
- They are tiny, with distinct, bright red eyes
Adult fruit flies are about 1/8-inch (3-4 millimeters) in length, making them relatively tiny. They have a compact body with three segments: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Their body is usually tan or light brown, and they typically have bright red eyes, which give them a characteristic appearance. These red eyes help them detect light and movement, making them responsive to their environment.
Overall, fruit flies have a simple and unassuming appearance, but their tiny size and distinctive red eyes make them easily recognizable.
- They are also called “vinegar flies”
Fruit flies are often referred to as “vinegar flies” due to their strong attraction to vinegar and other acidic substances. These tiny insects have a keen sense of smell and are highly attracted to the aroma of fermenting fruits and vegetables. Vinegar, being a by-product of fermentation, emits a similar odor, making it equally appealing to fruit flies.
When fruits and vegetables become overripe and ferment, they release ethyl alcohol and acetic acid, which are volatile compounds with a distinctive smell. Fruit flies can detect these compounds from a distance and are naturally drawn to the scent. As a result, they are commonly found near decaying or overripe fruits and vegetables, as well as substances like vinegar and alcoholic beverages.
Their strong preference for vinegar and fermented substances has earned them the nickname “vinegar flies.” This name highlights their specific attraction to acidic and fermenting environments, making them common inhabitants of kitchens, garbage disposals, and compost bins where such substances are present.
- Fruit fly populations usually increase in the summer
Fruit fly populations thrive in the summer due to favorable conditions like an abundance of ripened fruits and increased temperature. Warm and humid weather allows for faster reproduction and multiple generations, leading to rapid population growth. Fruit flies are attracted to outdoor spaces and find breeding sites in organic waste, creating potential pest infestations.
Proper sanitation and hygiene are crucial to manage fruit fly populations during the summer. Removing overripe fruits, clearing out garbage and compost bins, and sealing entry points can help prevent fruit flies from entering indoor spaces. Effective pest control measures can curb their proliferation and help you control your environment throughout the warm season.
- They are stronger fliers that can travel long distances
Despite their small size, fruit flies are strong fliers with impressive flight capabilities. They possess two large, transparent wings with intricate veins that allow them to maneuver through the air with agility and speed. Despite their tiny bodies, fruit flies can travel long distances, often covering several miles in search of suitable food sources and breeding sites.
Their ability to fly over considerable distances significantly affects their population dispersal and colonization of new areas. During the warmer months, when food sources are abundant and environmental conditions are favorable, fruit flies take advantage of their flight prowess to explore and exploit various habitats.
One of the factors contributing to their efficient flight is their small body mass, which allows them to take advantage of air currents or even gentle breezes. This means that wind currents can easily transport fruit flies over vast distances, making them highly mobile insects.
The capability to travel long distances is especially relevant for agricultural settings, as fruit flies can move between different orchards and crops, potentially spreading pests and diseases. In urban environments, fruit flies can be carried over long distances by vehicles, people, and even on fruits and vegetables transported for sale or consumption.
The strong flight capabilities of fruit flies underscore the importance of proactive pest control measures. Because they can quickly infest new areas, early detection and effective management are essential to prevent fruit fly populations from becoming established and causing significant problems. Understanding their flight behavior and implementing appropriate control strategies makes it possible to manage fruit fly populations and minimize their impact on agricultural and urban environments.
- They don’t actually eat fruit
Contrary to their name, fruit flies do not actually consume fruit as their primary source of nutrition. While fruit flies are indeed attracted to ripe and fermenting fruits, they do not eat the fruit itself. Instead, fruit flies primarily feed on the microorganisms present on the surface of overripe fruits and other decaying organic matter.
The process of fruit fermentation produces yeast, bacteria, and other microorganisms that break down the fruit’s sugars and produce alcohol. Fruit flies are strongly attracted to the aroma of these fermentation by-products, which is why they are commonly found hovering around overripe fruits, rotting vegetables, and other organic materials.
Fruit flies are attracted to fruit and sweet things, just as their name suggests, but they also like to breed in decaying meat, trash bins, damp “sour” mops, garbage disposals, and sink drains. Any sugary or greasy organic material — including overripe fruits and vegetables — provides a breeding ground for fruit flies.
Once fruit flies locate these sources, they lay their eggs on the decaying surface. When the eggs hatch, the larvae, also known as maggots, feed on the microbial-rich environment, helping to break down the decaying matter. The consumption of microorganisms and decaying organic material sustains the larvae’s growth and development.
It’s important to note that fruit flies are not harmful to humans; they do not bite or sting. However, their attraction to overripe fruits and their ability to multiply quickly can make them a nuisance in homes and commercial settings.
- These insects live for up to 45–50 days
Fruit flies have a relatively short lifespan, living for about 45 to 50 days under optimal conditions. Factors such as temperature and food availability can influence the duration of their life cycle. Warmer temperatures and abundant food sources can lead to faster development and shorter lifespans. As they age, their reproductive capabilities decline, and they become less active.
Additionally, fruit flies face risks from predators, parasites, and environmental factors, which can impact their survival and potentially shorten their lifespan. During their brief lives, these insects reproduce rapidly, which may be one of the things you didn’t know about fruit flies (or didn’t like to hear). This quality makes them formidable pests.
Only 24 to 30 hours after a female fruit fly lays eggs, they hatch and begin feeding. It takes about 8–10 days to grow from egg to an adult. A female fruit fly will lay an average of 500 eggs in her lifetime.
- You can prevent fruit fly infestation with a number of efforts
Preventing fruit fly infestations requires a combination of proactive efforts to eliminate attractive breeding and feeding sites.
Inspect doors, windows, and screens for gaps or openings allowing fruit flies to enter your home. Seal these entry points to keep fruit flies from gaining access. Store fruits and vegetables in the fridge, and readily dispose of any overripe produce you won’t be eating right away.
Wipe the counters of spills immediately and empty the trash can regularly. You can also rinse cans and bottles before tossing them into recycle bins. Consider placing fruit fly traps near areas prone to infestations. Commercial traps or DIY traps with apple cider vinegar and dish soap can help capture adult fruit flies and reduce their population.
- If you already have a fruit fly infestation, there are some things you can do to get rid of them.
If you find yourself dealing with a fruit fly infestation, there’s no need to panic — there are effective steps you can take to get rid of them.
First, identify the breeding sites by checking for overripe fruits, vegetables, decaying organic matter in your kitchen, garbage disposal, and compost bins. Once identified, promptly dispose of any infested items by sealing them in a plastic bag and discarding them in an outdoor trash bin to prevent further breeding.
Next, thoroughly clean your kitchen and dining areas, paying close attention to countertops, sinks, and garbage cans to eliminate any food residue or spills that may attract fruit flies. The kitchen drain might be a hidden breeding ground for fruit flies, but bacterial digesters poured down the drain should destroy any eggs or fruits there.
You can also set up fruit fly traps to capture the adults by filling the bottom of a jar with apple cider vinegar or an overripe piece of fruit. Place a paper funnel in the jar, so the insects can easily enter it but cannot get back out again. Commercial fruit fly traps are also available for purchase. Additionally, regularly flush your garbage disposal with water to remove decaying matter that might serve as a breeding ground.
By taking these steps, you can successfully eliminate the fruit fly infestation and restore a pest-free environment in your home.
These are only 8 things you didn’t know about fruit flies. For more information about preventing fruit fly infestations or other late summer pests, please visit our website, or call one of our professionals at 855-855-4873. We also invite you to join us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for additional home pest control tips.