This time of year is when languid, prolific fruit flies are at their peak.
But if you have noticed more fruit flies buzzing around your house this year, you are not alone.
The pesky flies are thriving this year, and the reasons range from an abundance of fruit crops to behavioral changes during the pandemic.
Wild apples have had a bumper crop this year (much like apple orchards have experienced), said Jim Dill, pest management specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
“They fall to the ground and give rise to a lot of fruit flies,” Dill said. “I think that’s given rise to a lot of fruit flies around homes.”
Another reason that fruit flies come out this time of year is because it is the end of the gardening season. As gardeners start winding down, unharvested produce can be left out to rot, which attracts fruit flies, Dill said.
With home gardening on the rise due to the pandemic, new gardeners might be noticing fruit flies around their house — particularly if they grew tomatoes.
“Fruit flies just love those,” Dill said. “Definitely I would say that contributes to the number of fruit flies that you see.”
Yet another reason for the bump in fruit flies that might be linked to pandemic-related behaviors is alcohol.
“In the pandemic, alcohol sales have come up,” Dill said. “If [cans and bottles] are not rinsed and you put them in a container in your garage, that yeasty beer gives rise to fruit flies. That’s another big contributing factor to where fruit flies will grow in and around the home.”
There are a couple of measures you can take to curtail fruit fly populations. Try and find out where the fruit flies are coming from. Check the obvious spots around your house, like the kitchen, but Dill said they can also breed in unexpected places.
“It doesn’t take much for them,” Dill said. “Anything fermented and sweet they’ll like. They can even breed in your sink.”
Then, clean up any vegetal debris that you have around your house, whether it is apples or rotting tomatoes in your garden. Store produce — even produce you purchase from the grocery store — in the refrigerator.
“That will deter the flies from maturing and laying more eggs because the temperature is cold enough that it will just stop them in their tracks,” Dill said. “You don’t want to leave it sitting around. There may be fruit fly pupae that might be right on the surface ”
Also, rinse out alcohol receptacles before you stash them for returnables, and make sure you return them frequently.
“This is the time of year where, if you can, keep the door and windows closed,” Dill added.
Or, you can set a simple fruit fly trap. Dill recommended baiting the bottom of an empty jar or soda bottle with apple cider vinegar or sliced banana, both of which are fruit fly magnets. Then create a funnel out of paper and put it in the mouth of the jar or bottle.
“Once they fall in, they can’t get out,” Dill said. “That’s one way to help keep down the numbers.”
The fruit flies will drown in the apple cider vinegar. If you use a banana, you can stick the receptacle in the freezer to kill the fruit flies.
Dill said that though fruit flies might seem like a minor inconvenience, you will want to address the problem sooner rather than later.
“They can live 30 to 60 days [and] they can lay up to 500 eggs, so it’s not like it’s a short life little critter that’s going to be around for a couple of days,” DIll said. “They’re mostly a nuisance but you’ve got to think where have they been crawling around. Now they land on your dinner as you start to eat it. Did they track some bacteria from the garbage disposal in your sink all over your mashed potatoes?”