Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Fruit Flies
While we may think of fruit flies as normal household pests, they are a menace from homes to industries of all sizes. For food processing plants, wineries, and canneries, fruit flies cause more problems than any other insect. They have the highest contamination percentage of fruit and fruit products in the US. Fruit flies are frequently cited as the problem in food seizures made by the US Food and Drug Administration. What else might you not know about this small flying insect?
Visual Characteristics of Fruit Flies
The common fruit fly, scientifically known as the Drosophila melanogaster, ranges from 3-4 mm (⅛ inch) as an adult and the females are larger than the males. Fruit flies appear to be brown or tan, although they have a black abdomen on top with a gray underside. They have hairy bodies and sticky feet which transfer bacteria from place to place.
Fruit flies have red eyes that have 760 individual lenses, and they use up to two-thirds of their brain for visual processing. These tiny bugs can beat their wings about 220 times per second. Their great eyesight plus their ability to turn 90 degrees on the spot is what makes them so hard to catch!
Fruit Fly Behavior, Diet, and Habits
Fruit flies grow their populations during the summer and are the most prevalent during the fall season and harvest time. Depending on location and temperatures they can also live indoors year-round. Fruit flies have adapted to habitats all over the world. In fact, the only place you will never see a fruit fly is Antarctica!
Fruit flies typically eat overripe fruit and veggies, hence their name. If those types of foods are not available they will also eat fermenting products, decaying meat, trash bins, and sugary sodas or alcohol. Fruit fly infestations have even been found in unclean drains, dirty mops, and cleaning rags!
Whether we want to believe it or not, fruit flies share some common traits with humans. A study conducted at the University of California1 found that male fruit flies rejected by females during mating were far more likely to drown their sorrows in alcohol. Rejected males drank four times as much alcohol as the male fruit flies who had already mated. The scientists then discovered that the reward circuitry of the fruit flies brains received a pleasurable boost from drinking the alcohol. Any of that sound familiar?
Fruit Fly Reproduction and Life Cycle
While the rapid reproduction and life cycle of the fruit fly is useful in scientific research (used for genetic research), it’s not particularly helpful when trying to curb an infestation in your home. The fruit fly life cycle is 30 days; more if conditions are excellent. The females will lay eggs in rotten fruit and put feces on them to establish desirable conditions for the larvae to hatch (gross!)2
Fruit fly larva complete their development in about 7 days if temperature and conditions are ideal. During this process, they go through two stages before becoming adults; larval and pupal. After hatching, the larvae feed near the surface of the fruit their eggs were laid in. They develop best in moist areas with organic feeding material and standing water readily available. Yet another reason to wash and inspect fruit before eating!
Once the fruit flies have reached the adult stage, they start mating within a few hours and egg laying for females begins within one day. During the courtship process, the male fruit fly will “sing” to attract a mate. They do this by vibrating their wings and changing posture.
Females will choose more than one partner and collect the sperm inside their bodies, using it to lay eggs for the next few days. The fruit fly has one of the longest sperm cells of any organism on Earth. They are roughly 5.8 cm when fully uncoiled. For comparison, a human sperm is only 0.05 mm!
How to Prevent Fruit Flies
The easiest method of preventing fruit flies is to eliminate sources of attraction. Fruits and vegetables should be washed and put into the fridge, or covered and eaten quickly before they start to decay. Make sure that all areas are clean to ensure there are not any sources of food for the fruit fly.
Fruit flies can enter the home from outdoors, as well as from the grocery store or farmers market. Mesh screens on doors and windows are recommended, however, they may not fully prevent entry to the home. For those fruit flies that do make their way inside, we recommend a FlyFix Fruit Fly Trap. This will prevent those first few explorers from becoming a full-blown infestation.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
Once you have a fruit fly infestation, it can be hard to get rid of them. The first step is to locate and eliminate all potential breeding grounds. If you have not put away fruit or vegetables on your counter-tops, now is the time. Other areas that fruit flies breed may be harder to reach, such as the sink drain. You can tape a clear baggie over the drain at night to identify if that is the problem area. If so, in the morning you will have several fruit flies attempting to get out of the plastic baggie.
Once you have identified and removed the breeding ground of your fruit fly neighbors, it is time to catch the adults. You will want to choose a trap that has bait close to what your infestation was breeding in, as they will be attracted to a similar type of food. You will also want a trap that is natural and without chemicals, especially if you have pets or small children in your home.
The FlyFix Fruit Fly Trap is a great option if you are looking for a trap that allows you to choose your own natural, chemical-free bait. It locks easily, is spill proof, and reusable. As a bonus, it doesn’t look like a typical fly trap and can be displayed in any home without fear of judgment from guests. One of the best things about the FlyFix fruit fly trap is that it comes with a nifty little compost clip that is magnetic and attaches anywhere you need it. From sink to compost bin to fruit bowl, the FlyFix is adaptable to your home and effective at capturing those nasty little buggers known as fruit flies.