Why Do I Have Fruit Flies With no Fruit?

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This week’s random pest question comes from Twitter:

Calling @HeatherSolos and her @HomeEc101 knowledge: How do you get rid of fruit flies? Note: There’s no fruit in the house.

Twitter

If I had suspected my friend had fruit flies, I would have suggested the following advice for getting rid of fruit flies. (I didn’t) Generally, when you find tiny flying bugs in your home, there are three suspects: fruit flies, fungus gnats, and drain flies.

How to get rid of Fruit Flies in the House

The most common pest was the one suggested in the tweet, the common fruit fly. This small, delicate-bodied insect usually hitches a ride home on some produce and then they reproduce like crazy. This quick reproductive cycle is why fruit flies get used for science experiments. It’s easy to watch them over many generations for genetic damage.

To make sure you are dealing with fruit flies in your home, look for reddish eyes, transparent wings, and light-colored bodies. To trap the adults you can set out a bowl of cider vinegar, with a squirt of dish soap, covered with plastic wrap. Don’t forget to poke some holes in the plastic wrap so they can reach the liquid.

More important than the trap itself, is a thorough kitchen cleaning. The fruit flies are attracted to anything sticky and sweet. Check the little gap behind your sink, anywhere you store fruit, behind your trashcan, under your fridge. ANYWHERE a child has been or could have been. Clean these areas thoroughly and they will get under control quickly. Along with that fast reproductive cycle is a short life cycle. If you get rid of the fruit fly factory, you’ll soon run out of fruit flies.

They can spread germs, but they are usually not more than a major annoyance.

What I actually expected my friend to be dealing with was:

Fungus Gnats

How do you know if you have fungus gnats?

These pesky little bugs have thin legs and long bodies. They don’t have the reddish eyes of the fruit flies. These annoying little bugs feed on—wait for it—the fungus that grows in potting soil.

How do you get rid of fungus gnats? You let your potting soil dry out between watering so the fungus cannot grow in the top 2 – 3 inches where the gnats like to hang out. You can also order some handy plant stakes which have an attractant for the fungus gnats and are very sticky. This is often simpler than trying to walk the tightrope of watering a plant enough to keep it happy and not so much that you create the environment that the fungus gnats prefer.

I’m not great at keeping houseplants alive without that added challenge. So I’ll take some fungus plant stakes, please and thank you.

Sewer Gnats or Drain Flies

Sewer gnats are fairly easy to tell apart from both fruit flies and fungus gnats. While all three insects are about the same size, these little guys have dark wings, unlike their light-winged counterparts.

Like fungus gnats and fruit flies, drain flies don’t bite. They can spread germs as they travel from one surface to another. (Especially when you think about the surface that they like to hang out on.) Drain flies tend to reproduce in the slime that can develop in the sludge that accumulates in drains. This sludge can really build up in ypically unused guest bathrooms or floor drains in basements.

Your first inclination might be to reach for a jug of Draino or to pour boiling water down the drain, but neither of these is actually the best option. Why? Neither will remove the sludge quite as well as a good old-fashioned scrubbing. Use a tool like a plumbers snake to really clean out that mess, and you’ll be drain fly free in no time.

When you’ve got little flying pests bugging you, usually it’ll be one of these three. Follow the advice above to get rid of the tiny flying pests and you’ll be just fine.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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