The tiny fruit fly is one of the most common flies in homes. These flies are often brought indoors on fresh fruits and vegetables, but they tend to hang around when there are easy food sources available to them.
Learn how to identify, remove, and prevent a fruit fly infestation from taking over your home.
What Causes a Fruit Fly Infestation in the House?
Overripe fruit, rotting food, and fermentation can all cause a fruit fly infestation. Things like kitchen compost bins, overripe fruit on the counter, food scraps in the sink, drain scum, or an uncapped bottle of apple cider vinegar could all create favorable circumstances that draw fruit flies in and keeps them around.
While fruit flies are especially prevalent during the late summer and fall, as they are attracted to ripened or fermenting fruits, they can become a problem in kitchens year-round if food sources are available to them. Even kitchen drain scum can provide them with sustenance, so don't rule anything out.
Signs You Have a Fruit Fly Infestation
It's perfectly normal to find an occasional insect inside, but finding larger-than-usual numbers of tiny, dark-colored flying insects in your kitchen could indicate a fruit fly infestation.
How to Identify Fruit Flies
Fruit flies are small, with yellowish-tan bodies, transparent greyish wings, dark grey rings around their abdomen, and bright red eyes. Under ideal conditions, they can live up to 50 days.
Aside from their physical appearance, observe their habits. If the flies are drawn to vinegar-based condiments or ripened fruit, they're likely fruit flies. If they aren't behaving like fruit flies, then you might be dealing with drain flies or fungus gnats instead.
Visible Signs of a Fruit Fly Infestation
The most common sign of a fruit fly infestation will be insects congregating near food items like:
- ripe fruit
- open containers of salad dressing
- unsealed containers of soy sauce
- glasses of fermented drinks like wine or kombucha
- fruity beverages like juice or tea
- fruit in the compost pile
- bottles of vinegar, especially fruit and wine vinegars
- rotting food in the garbage, sink or drain
You may also see little clumps of small, moving larvae or "maggots." They are likely to show up on food scraps that have been left out for fruit flies to lay their eggs on. These maggots will soon be adult flies.
Where Do You Usually Find Fruit Flies in the House?
Fruit flies are most likely to be found in kitchens where there are rotting food scraps and ripe fruit to get into. They especially love sweet, juicy produce, whether it's from the store, or fresh from the garden. They can live off of scraps from the garbage or compost, as well as scum in the kitchen drain. Since fruit flies like fermentation, you might also find them getting into alcoholic drinks, vinegars and dressings, and items that contain yeast, like bread.
In cases where fruit flies are found outside of the kitchen, that indicates one of three things:
- The issue in the kitchen has become severe and the fruit flies are more prevalent
- There is another source of fermentation nearby, like an old cup of tea or an unfinished smoothie
- The small flies you're seeing aren't fruit flies
Because fruit flies prefer the kitchen, investigate fly issues that appear elsewhere. Drain flies are a common fly that shows up in bathrooms, and fungus gnats are a common flying pest in homes with houseplants.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies For Good
If you find fruit flies in your home, the first thing you should do is determine where they're coming from, what's attracting them, and remove these sources so the issue doesn't spread. By identifying fruit fly sources and removing them, you're not just taking away the fruit flies' ability to eat, but also to lay eggs—which means fewer future fruit flies.
To get rid of fruit flies and prevent future fruit fly infestations:
- Take care of produce: Wash fruits and veggies, chop them, and keep them in the fridge instead of leaving them on the counter. If you have fruit or vegetables that are starting to rot, get rid of them quickly so they don't create a full-blown infestation.
- Deep clean your kitchen sink and drains: Since fruit flies can live off of kitchen drain scum and food scraps, it's important to keep your kitchen clean and free of food debris. Scrub your drains out regularly, and keep your sink and drains clear from blockages.
- Seal up your compost: If you have a kitchen compost bin, make sure it seals well and you empty it frequently.
- Keep condiments and sauces in the right containers: Make sure that anything with vinegar in it (ketchup, mustard, salad dressings), as well as fermented sauces (like soy sauce), are placed in bottles that have a lid or seal of some kind.
- Recycle alcohol bottles and cans: Fruit flies are attracted to the smell of fermentation, meaning alcohol is going to be very enticing for them. Make sure empty alcohol bottles are rinsed and recycled and don't leave drinks unattended for too long.
- Tidy up food messes: Fruit scraps and spilled juice are an open invitation for fruit flies, so make sure to tidy as you go while you spend time in the kitchen.
- Create a fruit fly trap: A fruit fly trap alone will not solve a fruit fly problem, but once the fruit fly sources have been addressed, a trap can help reduce the number of fruit flies still present.
- Clean your garbage and recycle bins: From time to time, it's a good idea to hose out or scrub down our kitchen garbage and recycle cans. They can end up with residues that become fruit fly sources.
- Make sure your window screens are in good repair: Sometimes fruit flies come in through the windows, so make sure to keep windows closed when possible, but if you like to keep the windows open and the flies out, good quality window screens that are free of holes are a must.
How to Prevent Fruit Flies From Coming Back
As with most flying insects, control of a fruit fly infestation is best achieved by limiting the flies' ability to feed and breed. This involves:
- Refrigerating fruits and vegetables that can tolerate refrigeration
- Discarding overly ripe, damaged, or decaying fruits and vegetables
- Cleaning any spilled juices, sodas, wines, or other liquids
- Washing beverage containers before recycling them
- Regularly emptying and cleaning trash and recycling containers and the areas around them
- Deep cleaning your kitchen drain and garbage disposal
- Covering fruits and vegetable (those not stored in the fridge) with mesh covers
Once you have sanitation under control, often the best approach is to wait for the fruit fly population to diminish. Fly issues will naturally die down when the weather gets colder, but fruit flies can become a year-round nuisance inside, so you'll need to stay on top of fly control efforts even in the winter.
While many sites will claim essential oils and herbs will keep flies away, the scents of these products do little to keep them away. Venus fly traps are carnivorous plants that will eat fruit flies here and there, but are not enough of them to mitigate a problem. The best method of attack against fruit flies is making sure your home stays unattractive to them from the get go.
Can fruit flies fit through window screens?
Fruit flies typically cannot fit through mesh on standard window screens, which have a size of 18 x 16 openings per inch. The minimum mesh size to keep out the flies is 16 openings per inch.
How long will it take for fruit flies to go away?
This all depends on how bad the infestation is and whether all the fruit fly sources have been cleaned up. As long as all the sources are addressed and you're diligent about cleaning, it should take too long for the flies to go away. But, a homemade fruit fly trap can help reduce the visible population in the meantime. Just keep in mind that a trap won't do its job if a food source is still present.
Do I have to throw out food that has attracted fruit flies?
You can eat fruits and vegetables that flies are hanging around, but first cut away any damaged, bruised, or rotted portions (that's where the flies are most likely to lay eggs), and wash the items well before eating them.
Will fruit flies go away on their own?
Fruit flies are not a pest that will go away all on their own. They're going to need to be forced out, by limiting their food and breeding sources and making life in your home unenjoyable for them.