Flies can be a pesky pest, especially indoors. Although they may occur year-round, the usual abundance of ripening produce this season in many homes tend to attract more fruit flies. Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, so don’t let fruit flies deter you from eating right. Here are a few steps to help remedy a fruit fly infestation.

Fruit flies are identified by their erratic flying patterns, usually in the vicinity of ripening produce in the kitchen. They are small, between one-eighth and one-fifth of an inch long. They usually have red eyes and can vary in color from black to tan. Fruit flies aren’t a health risk, but they can be extremely annoying.

Fruit flies are commonly found in restaurants, markets, homes, and anywhere food is allowed to decay and ferment. They may be brought in on previously infested fruit. They can also easily find their way into your home through broken window screens and doors that have been left open.

Female fruit flies deposit their eggs on the surface of fermenting foods, such as vegetables and fruits. The larvae then develop and feed on the surface. The females have incredible reproductive capabilities, and, if left alone, may deposit up to 500 eggs! Fruit flies can transform from egg to adult in about one week.

Fruit flies’ favorite foods include over-ripe apples, bananas, melons, peaches, and squash, all items that tend to be left out exposed on countertops. They can also breed in sinks, garbage disposals, trash bins, and empty cans. All they need is a thin film of water to hatch their eggs.

To remedy a fruit fly infestation, the main method of control is to find and eliminate breeding sources. Discard any decaying fruits or vegetables that are not properly stored. Remove any trash bags that have been in use more than a few days. Even after throwing out infested fruit, flies may remain in the trash can. Mops and brooms may have fruit particles stuck in them after heavy use, make sure to clean these items. A few small drops of spilled fruit juice behind the refrigerator can be the source of thousands of fruit flies.

If you have removed all outside breeding sources and are still experiencing fruit fly problems, you need to check your drains. Fruit flies can breed in the thin films of water often found in drain pipes, and larvae feed on the residue on the sides of the pipes. Keep sink drains covered to prevent flies from getting to the water in the sink trap. Consider using a pipe brush to remove residue from the sides of your drain pipe. After the breeding sources have been removed, remaining fruit flies can be controlled with traps. Homemade or commercially available fruit fly traps are very effective in reducing their numbers. Many trap designs are available on the Internet.

The take-home message is simple. Remember that ripe fruits and vegetables, plus even a short period of time, will often equal fruit flies.  However, proper storage and sanitation can help eliminate the nuisance and keep you from saying, “shoo fly, don’t bother me!”  For more information, contact the Madison County Extension office at 706-795-2281 or clh@uga.edu.