By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source of for growing tomatoes in the home garden.
“Fruit flies invaded the fresh tomatoes sitting on my counter overnight. Now they’re everywhere. How do I get rid of them?”
These pesky insects are attracted to ripening or fermenting fruit, such as bananas, melons, peaches … and tomatoes. You might even spot an infestation in your compost bucket, in the garbage disposal, or in beer or sugared soda cans.
They have an average lifespan of just 10-18 days. It won’t take long to eliminate them. Take some simple steps to escort this unwanted guest out of your kitchen and your home.
1. Remove their food source
Put food away. Ripening tomatoes sitting on your counter for any length of time will attract fruit flies.
Don't allow the flies that pleasure. Instead, eat the tomatoes. Give them away. Can or freeze them. Make a batch of salsa or tomato sauce. While you’re at it, remove other food sources from counters, too, such as ripening produce, and dirty dishes. Even unwrung dishrags, mops, and sponges attract flies.
Clean your counter tops and appliances. Remove sticky residue that flies love to feed on. Disinfect your garbage disposal. Put away dishes and leftovers after meals so as not to entice the tiny pests. Take the trash out.
If you don’t give fruit flies anything to eat, you encourage them to go elsewhere. (As an added bonus, you’ll have a clean kitchen.)
2. Trap them
Why use heavy sprays or applications in your very own kitchen just because fruit fly squatters decided to take up residence? Trapping is a wonderful alternative to poisoning these nasty creatures and can be just as (if not more) thorough – especially when you remove food sources (step #1 above).
Fruit fly traps can take many forms. (Buy fruit fly traps to have on hand when you need them.)
Select any bottle with a narrow neck (like a milk jug, soda bottle or a vase). Insert a small amount of fresh fruit in the bottom of the bottle – something sweet, like a slice of fresh tomato, part of a banana peel or cantaloupe rind, peach skins – even sugared soft drinks, beer, apple cider vinegar, fruit juice, or wine. Roll a regular piece of paper to make a funnel. Tape funnel to secure its shape and insert its narrow end to the bottle opening. Seal the bottle/funnel seam with tape so flies can’t escape. They will fly in … but they won’t fly out.
Bottle/funnel trap alternate version
Use a 1- or 2-liter soda bottle as your trap. Cut the bottle width-wise, about 1/3 from the top. Place fruit bait in the bottom of the bottle. Invert the cut top portion and place it on the remaining top of the bottle. You can even secure the seam with tape, if you like. Flies will enter the trap through the bottle neck but won’t be able to escape.
Use a small jar as your trap. Place a small amount of fruit bait in the bottom of the jar. Punch holes in the top of the jar. Twist top back onto the jar trap and watch in delight as fruit flies fly into your trap.
Dish/plastic wrap trap
A shallow dish becomes your trap when you place fruit bait in the bottom (liquids work particularly well), secure the dish tightly with clear plastic wrap, and gently punch a hole in the plastic.
Place fruit bait in a Ziploc bag. Secure the seal on the bag, leaving just an inch open. Check the bag periodically. As flies gather, clasp the open seal and escort the little creeps outside. Repeat until you’re not collecting flies anymore in the bag.
More on ripening and harvesting tomatoes
Harvesting tomatoes: when to pick them ...
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