It starts with a sticky beer bottle in the recycling bin, or a particularly mushy banana in the pantry. Before you know it, you're wading through a miasma of micro-sized menaces that are too small to swat and too numerous to outnumber. They're unsanitary, unsightly, and—being as small as they are—have the uncanny ability to sneak indoors, reproduce quickly, and remain undetected.
In fact, it only takes about a week for a new generation of fruit flies to spawn, and they're not at all picky about where they reproduce. The old adage about "life finding a way" has never been truer than when talking about swarms of hellish kitchen creatures.
But before you rush out to a hardware store to stock up on traps, consider a few of these do-it-yourself solutions that take advantage of items you probably already have in your house.
Apple Cider Vinegar
When it comes to eliminating fruit flies, appealing to the fly's taste for sweetness is the name of the game. Take a small bowl or ramekin of apple cider vinegar, cover it with plastic wrap, and use a fork to poke several holes through the top. Finally, place the bowl near the source of the infestation, or where the flies appear to be congregating.
Don't stop with one bowl, either—set up an armada of them around your sink, trash can, and pantry.
Here are two critical things to remember when crafting your apple cider traps: First, make sure the holes in the plastic wrap aren't too big. You're looking for basic, pinhead-sized holes that will allow the flies to enter but will ultimately be too small for them to grab onto and escape. Second, the plastic wrap needs to be as taut as possible around the side of the bowl, otherwise the flies will just crawl out the side.
The benefit of the vinegar-in-the-bowl technique is its visibility; you're able to check up on the carnage at the end of each day and determine how effective (or ineffective) your traps have been.
So you had one too many glasses of pinot and now you're paying for it in the light of day. Open wine bottles on the counter aren't just a reminder of why you're hungover—they're also a potentially popular hang-out spot for fruit flies. It's like wine bottles are the bar from Cheers, except instead of being the place where everybody knows your name, it's the place where fruit flies have violent, sickly sex. Romantic, huh?
But the wine bottle has a secret: Its narrow neck makes it incredibly difficult for these barflies to escape once they're inside. Basically, the wine bottle is the bar from Cheers if Sam Malone decided to lock Norm Peterson and Frasier Crane inside until they both died.
Both red and white wine can be used to make this trap, but red wine seems to work better due to its aromatic nature. As long as there's a finger or two of wine in the bottom of the bottle, you're good to go.
You can also substitute wine when making the aforementioned apple cider vinegar trap.
Ripe Fruit in a Jar
If the idea of emptying a bowl full of dead flies and stale liquid isn't your cup of tea, let me first congratulate you on being a normal, well-adjusted person. Next, let me point you in the direction of a dry trap that can be sealed and/or cleaned with relative ease.
Place a ripe piece of fruit—a tomato, strawberry, or banana slice works well—into a jar and fashion a cone out of a piece of paper. Next, stuff the cone into the opening of the jar. This paper cone is your funnel. There are many like it, but this one is yours. Your funnel is your best friend. The fruit will lure your enemy into the jar and your funnel will stop your enemy from escaping.
Once you've secured a satisfactory amount of these terrible things inside the jar, simply seal it up and find something to do with the flies. I recommend hurling the jar into the sun, but if you can't throw that far or if you just want to save a perfectly good mason jar, rinse it out and re-use it.
Staying on top of routine kitchen maintenance is a must, especially in the warmer months when fruit flies thrive. Here are a few basic strategies I've implemented into my routine that have served me well over the years. Trust me: I'm a seasoned veteran.
Thoroughly rinse out bottles, cans, and containers before adding them to a pile of recyclables.
Clean your sink often and pay particular attention to the drain; fruit flies can do pretty well for themselves even if all they have to work with is a slightly dirty drainpipe.
Keep a watchful eye on bananas, apples, tomatoes, and any fruits that you don't keep in the fridge. If the food is even remotely close to turning, store it in the fridge or scrap it.