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What are Fruit Flies and Where do They Come from?

Fruit flies.
Dirty dishes may attract fruit flies.
Some people use fly paper to help control fruit fly infestations.
Non-food items like wet mops can hold particles of decaying material that may harbor fruit flies.
Fruit flies live on and eat ripe and fermenting fruits.
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Fruit flies are small insects that, as their name implies, often are found in and feed on fruits, although they like other foods, too. Falling into two main categories, they prefer to eat matter that is decaying or fermenting, and most varieties are fairly tiny. They are found around the globe and reproduce extremely quickly, which has given them a significant role in research despite their reputation as a nuisance. Many varieties get into buildings simply by finding small cracks and holes to slip through, but they also get transported from place to place in less-than-ideal produce. People typically can get them under control by keeping homes free of rotting items and by using homemade or purchased traps.

Groups

There are two major groups of fruit flies: Drosophilidae and Tephritidae. The first family is thought to have around 1,500 individual species, while experts estimate the number for the second at roughly 5,000. The actual number is likely much higher, because researchers have yet to identify them all.

Physical Description

The vast majority of fruit fly species are quite small, with adult flies usually measuring somewhere between 0.08 to 0.2 inches (2 to 5 millimeters) long. Certain types, however, can be extremely large by comparison, looking more like regular house flies. Most varieties in the Drosophilidae family are reddish to reddish brown in color with clear wings. Ones classed as Tephritidae typically have more colorful wings, with some people referring to them as "peacock flies" as a result.

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Where They're Found

These bugs can be found all over the world, and they live in many different climates. Warm, tropical climates host more kinds, however, because they tend to promote a sufficient supply of vegetation while also making it easy for organic matter to decay. They usually can spread very quickly from area to area, because most species are excellent fliers that are capable of traveling several miles in a single day.

Diet

Although some species of fruit flies have preferences for particular foods, in general, they usually feed on any decaying matter, especially rotting fruits and vegetables. More specifically, they like the yeast that breaks down the sugar in these items during the fermentation process. As this decomposition occurs, the yeast produces the byproduct of alcohol, which many species also enjoy — incidentally, the preference for alcohol is also why they tend to congregate around wine and beer bottles, and why they are sometimes a problem in bars and restaurants. Some researchers, such as biologist Dr. Todd Todd Schlenke of Emory University, believe that consuming the alcohol helps ward off parasites, affecting the development of enemy eggs and making the flies less attractive to attack.

Even though these insects typically prefer fruits and veggies, they often can be found in other rotting material, including meats and even the scum that forms in drains. Some have adapted, becoming predators or parasites, and many kinds also eat sap and flower nectar. Their ability to eat such a wide range of foods is largely what makes them so difficult to get rid of, and why most people see them as a nuisance. In some cases, they have an extremely negative effect on agriculture, ruining entire crops, but only a few hundred of the thousands of species are considered a serious threat — some varieties actually have been used as a biological tool to control other insects.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

In general, fruit flies lay their eggs in whatever foods they're eating. Depending on the species, a single female can be capable of laying up to 500 eggs, and she can mate more than once during her life cycle. These eggs usually hatch in less than a day, sometimes within just a few hours. After this point, they progress through the larval stage, which usually lasts around four days, and which can be further divided into three separate phrases that include molting. They then enter the pupal stage, where they grow their wings and legs. Finally, they emerge as fully-grown adults, and the process, which typically takes 14 – 30 days, starts all over again.

Where They Come From

Some individuals believe that, because these bugs eat decaying matter and some of the byproducts of the fermentation process, their presence indicates a dirty home or building. This isn't always the case. With their great sense of smell and tiny bodies, they easily can maneuver into a kitchen from outside through window screens, door jams or any other crack. They sometimes catch a ride in grocery bags or hatch from eggs laid in less-than-fresh food brought home from a grocery store.

Control

Getting rid of any old, rotting foods is a good start to eliminating fruit flies, as is keeping fresh fruits, vegetables and meats in the refrigerator instead of out in the open. Some non-food items, such as wet mops, dirty dishes and old sponges, hold small particles of decaying material, too, however, so they generally need to be cleared from a home, as well. Consistently wiping down counters often helps.

If any insects remain after a thorough cleaning and even with proper food storage — this sometimes can happen if they are living in a drain, for example — a person easily can trap them. Commercial traps are available, but homemade traps are often cheaper and can be just as effective. People who want to make one at home just need to put a paper funnel in the mouth of a jar or bottle that has some wine, beer, decaying fruit or vegetables or yeast and sugar in it. The bugs will enter the funnel to reach their feast and will not be able to find their way out.

Use in Science

Despite annoying many people, these tiny insects have made a gigantic name for themselves in the field of science. In particular, the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has been invaluable to the field of genetics. Its short, ten-day life cycle, avid ability to reproduce and large chromosomes make it an ideal choice for laboratory experiments in heredity.

Debate

Fruit flies have been a source of fuel for the creation versus evolution debate. Creationists, who generally oppose the widely accepted theory of evolution, claim that the use of these insects in the laboratory, specifically the attempt to create new species through the mutation of chromosomes, has yielded no surviving results. Evolutionists rebuke the claim with the fact that fruit flies have too few chromosomes to provide an evolutionary advantage when manipulated. Basically, evolutionists hold that the bugs are successful just as they are and have no reason to change.

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Discuss this Article

anon341178
Post 80

Nothing helps if you live with a disgusting slob who drops food all the time, or whatever, and doesn't clean up. I found a ton of the huge ones this morning, mostly on the little rug in front of the kitchen sink. They were on the counters, flying around at 5 a.m.! He left for work at 4:30 a.m. and will (lie and) swear he saw nothing. He has a bad habit of rinsing fruit in a strainer and then walking around with it. Nothing I say to this idiot gets through his thick skull.

anon306579
Post 79

Do fruit flies breathe?

anon296206
Post 78

Just to add some additional information, the fruit fly life cycle (where they come from) is as follows:

Eggs (hundreds dropped in a suitable place); Larvae (maggot appearance, often in rotten fruit); Pupae (metamorphosis stage, kind of like cocoons); Fruit fly (you already know what this looks like).

anon292124
Post 77

Flypaper isn't half bad, either. Be sure to clean the gaskets around the fridge and the drip pan under it! Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher right away.

anon290312
Post 76

I work at a liquor store and somehow these little buggers have gotten into cans of Summer Shandy. I know it sounds crazy but I have seen it with my own eyes.

anon269511
Post 75

Fruit flies are a pain. I have to do an experiment to see which liquids they like best. Any ideas?

anon252921
Post 74

@anon44826: I have also found them in tobacco, more so in a fresh pouch. I found turning the heating off for a few days decreased the numbers dramatically.

After that, it was easy enough to capture the rest in a 2L bottle with some beer in the bottom, and a hole punched in the cap with a screwdriver.

anon245019
Post 72

Those little monsters are all up in my yogurt! What don't those suckers eat?! Seems like they're attracted to everything! I just want to be fruit fly free, if only for a moment.

anon240828
Post 71

Awesome, going to try this right away. Found this after doing a quick google search. --Luke

anon236515
Post 70

Why do they try to fly in your eye balls? Best way to kill them is a can of Aquanet and a lighter. You can watch their evil eyeball flying smoke trails fall to the floor!

anon227865
Post 69

I've had fruit flies flying around my head all damn day. I turned off all lights in my house except for the one in the bathroom. My bathroom is right off my kitchen, by the way. Anyway, the light attracts them, I think. When it's dark outside and the only light is in my bathroom they swarm in there like a Kardashian to a press release.

So I run in there and shut the door real quick. I then have a field day because such a small area with all those little twerps flying around is an easy way to kill them. I squish their littleness against the mirror. I get a wet washcloth and knock them down mid flight. I turn on the shower and swat them down the drain. Easy breezy solution.

anon211228
Post 68

I used the hose to suck them up by the dozen. Cider vinegar with some soap and water, uncovered, captured dozens overnight. How long will these things be around in large numbers? I am on day four!

anon191337
Post 66

put your fruit scraps in the oven, wait a couple hours and slam the oven door shut and broil! So satisfying.

anon178525
Post 65

Hand sanitizer is a great way to catch and kill fruit flies. Buy a small one and open the lid. They are attracted by it and they go in through the hole and drown.

anon176063
Post 64

I tried drying all the areas in my kitchen because eggs seem to grow in there. well, they are not gone, but many of them are.

anon174938
Post 63

vinegar works. it is just like wine.

anon172794
Post 62

Everywhere, people are trying hard to kill fruit flies but here in Asean, we are trying to produce enough fruit flies to feed swiftlets that produce bird nests. Imagine if we do have your fruit flies.

anon171958
Post 61

I just want to add: don't use air fresheners! They think it's food and it attracts them.

anon169139
Post 59

I can not believe the amount of these little pests in my house( fruit flies). There must be an epidemic in our state because they're everywhere. Everyone you talk to has the same problem.

anon160060
Post 58

Hilarious comments here! I like the one who said "Drown in hell!" LOL. I got some great advice here, so will hopefully eliminate the ones in my house tonight!

anon156363
Post 57

My exterminator told me they do come from drains and to pour bleach down each drain in my house. I did and it has really made a difference.

anon149269
Post 56

Don't bother with any sprays. They don't work. The ones flying around will die but more will come.You have to get the source. I gave my bathroom and kitchen (where I noticed most of them) a good cleaning and bleached everything making sure there was no trace of old food anywhere. Then I put Drano down every drain in my house every day for about three days. That knocked them out.

I think they were festering on food buildup in the drains. Also if you had a leak anywhere make sure it is fixed and completely dried up. If necessary, you might have to replace anything that is molded.

anon125932
Post 54

I put out a bowl of wine with a few drops of dish soap in it. I caught about 30 within two hours.

The soap eliminates surface tension so when they land to drink they sink immediately. Perfect solution!

I had a surprise infestation from a bowl of apples I left out to ripen.

anon124644
Post 53

In an earlier post (post 27), someone said that a banana peel would not attract fruit flies. This is not correct. A banana peel will definitely attract fruit flies. I have seen it in my own home!

anon123098
Post 52

@anon112583 #46: Those are not fruit flies. they are mosquitoes that have blood in them. That's probably your blood which they sucked out of you!

anon120008
Post 51

spraying windex at them worked real well as long as you don't mind wiping up the mess after. they drop and die.

anon119172
Post 49

Bingo. I let my kitchen get a bit messy and knew the fruit flies came from that, but I had NO idea why there were bajillions in my bathroom! Wet mop!

I've had a mop in a bucket in my bathroom for a few weeks and they took it up as their home- the twirps.

I covered the bucket with a garbage back and swiftly chucked it onto the porch. Drown in hell!

Thanks for the info!

PS- I've been using Hot Shot Natural Ant and Roach Killer (which kills more than just those bugs) to shoot them out of the air and drown them. It's natural so it can be used around animals (cause I have a cat.) It has lemongrass oil in it. Gross bugs.

anon112583
Post 46

why do we have fruit flies in our upstairs bathroom? Help, it's creeping me out!

I think they are fruit flies they are tiny little gnat like things that look like they have blood inside when you squish them? Is that what they are or could I have something else on my hands?

anon111762
Post 45

The bit about evolution/creationism at the end is silly. Why even mention creationism?

anon108726
Post 44

Two more tricks that help.

1) Get a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol in it. Spray the fly, esp. if it is flying in the air. Spray it more than once, quickly. It will fall to the floor. Then quickly squish it while it is briefly immobilized (I slap down my hand and fingers).

2) Another trick is to wait until close to sunrise or just after sunset while it is still light out. Turn off the lights in your house and kitchen. Look at your windows in the kitchen. They will be on your window panes trying to get outside, attracted by the light in the sky. Swat them with a thin-meshed flyswatter while they are on your window pane.

anon108725
Post 43

I had a lot more when I kept the window to my kitchen opened. It has a fly screen on it, but now I realize the screen is useless, they are small enough to come right through the holes in the screen.

Now if I need to open a window, it is a window that is not near the kitchen, and a window where there is always a breeze. Flies seem to congregate in no-wind spots around my house and elsewhere.

anon108391
Post 42

Last night, I put out a bowl with 50-50 water and vinegar and a couple drops of Dawn dish soap, uncovered. Next to it, I put a bud vase with a funnel and about a tablespoon of Mogen David wine. This morning the vinegar had three flies and the wine had seven.

anon101714
Post 40

.2 inch is a monster of a fruit fly are there different varieties? I've never seen one that big.

Side note: maybe if there was a way to harness the power of the fruit flies we could solve the world's energy problems!

anon101707
Post 39

I used orange juice, vinegar, and dish soap, no cover needed, in a glass. Many of the fruit flies were swimming in the concoction in a matter of hours. It will be next to impossible to completely eliminate all of the fruit flies, but I find this recipe seems to get rid of the majority of them.

anon100164
Post 38

does regular vinegar work? I don't have cider vinegar (will buy some tomorrow). I have fruit flies in my bathroom, and after reading this, I understand why now! I did have some fruit that wasn't bad, but still attracted the fruit flies. I have no fruit in my house at the moment, but I still have fruit flies!

I did 1/4c white vinegar, 1/4c water and dish soap in plastic wrap and poked holes. We'll see how it works! I'll report back with the results.

adamjoiner
Post 37

I tried the wine glass method for five days and it worked great, but my question is: Can you get sick from consuming them? I talked a drunk friend into drinking the wine. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Should he/I be worried?

anon95326
Post 36

Fruit flies can be eliminated also by using a mixture of water, vinegar and a few drops of dish soap. works fantastic.

anon93269
Post 35

Fruit flies aren't very intelligent insects. My house recently became infested with them, and we trapped them in two-liter bottles of pop with fruit in the bottom. Once they got in, they didn't know how to get out, even though it's obvious to just climb back out where you came from. It's very easy to eliminate a fruit fly problem.

anon88828
Post 34

A great trap for fruit flies is a little jar with an inch or so of diluted coffee creamer. Even a cup with cold coffee that has the creamer in it attracts them. They fly in and just drown.

anon81316
Post 33

in a shallow dish/bowl, pour red wine vinegar or actual red wine, and wrap with cellophane. Poke a few holes in the cellophane and set it on the table where the source was (i.e. fruit bowl, banana bunch etc). the fruit flies will be able to get in, but can't get out. it's a not exactly a PETA solution, but it really works!

anon78677
Post 32

This article made me realize that the cause of abundance of fruit flies in my apartment is all the empty liquor containers and other garbage.

anon77666
Post 31

Just leave a glass of red wine out. And it will collect them all for you.

anon74901
Post 30

I had more than a few fruit flies in my kitchen, and I decided to try the apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dish washing soap in a bowl filled to the top with water, and it works! They swim in there and never come back out! But you have to leave the bowl in the kitchen sink for a day or so! Good luck!

anon74564
Post 29

I tried a ton of things before realizing they were coming from a bag of soil that i had in my apartment. Just a thought for people who can't seem to get rid of them.

anon72254
Post 27

@24: It is definitely not the banana peel, so don't remove that.

anon68727
Post 25

I love the vacuum and what i do in when I bring fruit home I put it in a bowl and put a net over it; that seems to keep the little buggers out. But you just have to wonder when you bring a perfect piece of fruit home, cut it and it feels like minutes later fruit flies are buzzing.

anon56995
Post 24

i have an apple, a grape and a banana peel. each has been sitting for six days while i was on vacation. Which item is causing this abrupt mess of fruit flies and if so, which item should be removed first?

anon52323
Post 22

I have this hand vac by Electrolux. It is like about 2 feet long. I read a book near the infestation and when I see one I just suck it up real fast. They get trapped in the canister and are alive, so I can just let them all out (like 40 of them all at the same time.) after there are no more :)

anon52251
Post 21

I brought fruit to the office and wrapped them tightly in a brown bag. however, within 2 hours a fruit fly appeared. so, my thinking is that the egg was buried in the fruit and hatched, but for the life of me i can't imagine how it got out of the paper bag. Any ideas?

anon51941
Post 20

i've recently tried the vacuum! and whoa, why did i not think of that. haha. the vinegar is a good idea but not guaranteed, so if anyone wants to get rid of the flies asap, try the vacuum!

anon51048
Post 19

Vacuum has to be the most unique suggestion yet!

anon47033
Post 17

I read this article and I was excited to try one of the methods. I used some apple vinegar, some water and added a drop or two of dish washing liquid soap. I did not cover it. I checked it overnight and there were nin dead fruit flies. When I checked today after work, I counted 36. Wow, that stuff really works. Thanks for the tip.

anon46041
Post 16

1/4 c water 1/4 c cider vinegar few drops of dishwashing liquid mix in a small bowl and they will come and die. The soap acts to break the surface tension of the vinegar/water mix. So they fall in and drown.

anon45815
Post 15

I have really learned a lot about fruit flies. i honestly thought they mutated from the fruit. lol

anon45789
Post 14

I simply take a glass with red wine and a few drops of insecticide and leave it on the counter near the fruit and they head for the wine and leave the fruit alone. We never have fruit long in the house, but within 3 hours for bringing in a giant bowl of freshly picked tomatoes saw fruit flies like I've never seen before. We quickly covered the bowl, trapping a great number of flies and inside of 2 hours the rest of them found the wine poison and we were fly-free!

anon45656
Post 13

This site has been somewhat helpful. I am going to try the sweet fruit juice/alcohol trick in both my kitchen and the bathroom. I run a childcare business out of my home along with three of my own, so the doors never seem to be shut and it always seems that something has been spilled, left out or forgotten. This however has been the *worst* infestation I have experienced.

anon45114
Post 12

I agree that the best method of ridding your home of fruit flies is - to pour apple cider vinegar in something, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, poke tiny holes in it, and watch em drown. They *love* dampness, I have found. They were breeding in the bottom of the bird cage because water had spilled onto the paper in the bottom of it. They can multiply exponentially within hours! It's not just fruit they love - they will check out *any* uncovered food if you leave it out. I have found that keeping the kitchen area and bird cages spotless and dry really helps. The vacuum cleaner trick is great too, as they like to hang out on ceilings and walls.

anon44826
Post 11

Can they live in tobacco? I roll my own cigarettes and the fruit flies seem to live in the loose tobacco.

anon44393
Post 10

I had a bad case of fruit flies from an old piece of fruit I forgot about. I got rid of them by pouring apple cider vinegar in a dish and covering it in plastic wrap. Use a pen to create little holes. The flies will crawl through the holes to get the vinegar, but won't be able to find the holes to leave so they'll drown in the dish. Leave it there for a few days to make sure you get all the flies!

That option has worked better than any other that I've heard about.

anon44029
Post 9

I find that just eliminating the fruit source such as a banana peel or apple peel does the trick. As soon as you get rid of them the fruit flies seem to fly away!

anon43038
Post 8

We have fruit flies in our bathroom - it's a brand new home so we don't know what could possibly be in there that's fostering a breeding ground? Any ideas?

anon42290
Post 7

Will a "pesticide bomb", set in your house, get rid of them? And does humidity and an old house - clean, but old - make them worse?

anon42123
Post 6

My grandma and I are trying the funnel in the jar with alcohol in the bottom of the jar experiment to see if that works.

anon39963
Post 5

vacuuming is a fast way of reducing their numbers. Any fly within 2" of the hose is sucked in, even in mid air.

anon37930
Post 4

Is it best to keep windows open or closed?

anon6599
Post 2

u can have fruit flies in your flowers they have nectar and can cause fruit flies to be in them!

anon1728
Post 1

Can I have fruit flies in my flowers and if so how do I get rid of them?

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