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Scenes from the fruit fly massacre

Dead fruit flies in vinegar

Whoever said you catch more flies with honey than vinegar never had a fruit fly infestation. I hate fruit flies. I hate how the little specks fly in front of my computer screen while I’m writing, distracting me from my train of thought. I hate how quickly they zoom away right as I’m about to squish them against the wall. I hate how I start clapping, like I’m happy and I know it, trying to murder the little demons. I hate fruit flies more than I hate Jennifer Westerfelt, the bully from 2nd grade who tried to steal my 25 cent plastic ring I’d gotten from the grocery store vending machines.

The tipping point came when I visited my brother in North Carolina. We sat down to dinner in their lovely new house, and who came to join us? The fruit flies! My first thought was that they’d traveled with us from Indiana, stowing away in the nectarines I’d packed for the trip. Then I realized North Carolina has fruit flies too, and these little pests were just native to this area and not interstate hitchhikers.

After complaining on Twitter, both wvclaylady and elvisngraceland advised me that I could trap the little beasties with a bowl of vinegar. I poured white vinegar into a bowl, placed saran wrap over the top, and poked a few holes in the plastic with a fork to help trap the flies inside. I placed it by the trash can, where they like to congregate, and four hours later there were no flies in my vinegar.

I gave up for a day, but every time a fruit fly buzzed in front of my screen, I became more annoyed and decided my mission in life was now to eradicate this species from the face of the Earth, or at least from my apartment. I Googled some more and tried an apple cider vinegar trap this time, placing the bowl next to some flowers my roommate had bought that had become the fruit fly equivalent of a happening night club.

An hour later I checked the trap, and behold, there were 8 dead fruit flies in the vinegar! One was still alive and swimming helplessly in the liquid, unable to fly out or crawl onto the side of the bowl because of the surface tension, until he eventually drowned. I started checking the trap every hour, gleefully, now so obsessed with murdering fruit flies that I could be considered the Ted Bundy of their species. As of today, I’ve caught and killed over 30 of the little buggers. Bwa ha ha!

Not only that, but Java Bean got a fascinating new toy out of the project. He sat there staring at the pests for almost 10 minutes! Perhaps I should get him an ant farm for Christmas.

Java Bean's new cat toy

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Just Kris • September 29, 2009 at 10:14 am

They have been buggin’ (pun intended) the crap out of me – I forgot about this little trick until now. Thanks for the reminder – off to set my traps!!


Diana • September 29, 2009 at 11:05 am

OMG! Me too! I HATE fruit flies with a passion. I want to be the Ted Bundy of the fruit fly world! LOL

I can’t wait to get home and try the apple cider vinegar trick. It will be so fun! :)

Yes, I’m demented, but I really hate them.


AbbieBabble • September 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

Gaaaah! I hate fruit flies. I have found that that trick works just as well with a banana, and then your house doesn’t smell like vinegar, which is nice. (Although I always felt that a little vinegar smell was well worth it to be rid of fruit flies!)


Margaret • September 29, 2009 at 11:50 am

That picture is soo cute. He’s sooo captivated, I love it. I share your hatred for fruit flies, and recently had a bad infestation this past summer. I looked up methods of killing them, and my favorite was to approach the little aholes with a hair dryer – but backwards. The dryer would ‘suck them in’ and electrocute them. It said this method was the most fun.


Debbi • September 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm

The banana trick has worked for me, so far. Also try Hot Shot Flying Insect spray if they linger. I gotta say, though, I’m kinda sorry they’re gone after reading about the hair dryer method. That sounds interesting!


PurpleGirl • September 29, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I’ve got a friend who has a slug infestation and is doing a similar thing …. but with beer. Seems to be working so far!


caroline • September 29, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I find that wine (especially white) and orange juice are very effective. I tried cider vinegar and it worked, but not as well. I trapped over 50 in a glass last year. It’s a great feeling.


Quix • September 29, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Ok, thanks for that tip. We get them pretty badly when we do because they love to live in the lizard’s cages and then they just won’t go away. I’d be ok if they (along with mosquitos) never existed…


Sarah Fowler • September 29, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I second Caroline – orange juice works *really* well (fresh better than bottled, but really either way) and wine does, too. You don’t even have to cover the bowl– they fly in and drink until they drown! These also have the advantage of smelling better than vinegar. :-)


Penny Broome • September 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I have done the same thing here in Michigan!! And I have found that a red bowl doesn’t work nearly as well as a clear bowl. Happy drowning! Its been the highlight of my weekend!


Donna • September 29, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Wow! You are a font of information as well as your readers. Love it!


Tiffany • September 29, 2009 at 6:19 pm

One drop of dishwashing soap in the apple cider vinegar will break the surface tension so the poor (annoying) little guys have a faster, um, departure from this world.


Cindy • September 29, 2009 at 8:58 pm

People! Try having a compost heap outside and the little buggers will stay outside where they belong! When I get fruit flies I take it as a sign that my kitchen is not as clean as it could be ~ get rid of the bait and you get rid of the fly problem… but the drier technique really does sound compelling…


Liz • September 29, 2009 at 9:46 pm

We have cat twins!


Liz • September 29, 2009 at 9:47 pm

…meaning I too, have a black cat, and he is captivated by bugs that buzz between the window pane and the screen (which must have a hole in it to let the bugs in.)


Wendy • September 29, 2009 at 10:06 pm

The method I’ve used this summer that works pretty well is to put some vinegar in a small bowl with some dishwashing soap.


Merry • September 30, 2009 at 1:40 am

Dear PQ,

Ever since I read this post, I have been plagued with fruit flies. I did not have any fruit flies around before I read this post.

Please be so kind as to immediately or sooner write a post about winning the lottery and marrying Hugh Jackman. (Or Daniel Craig. I’m not proud.)


Tamakikat • September 30, 2009 at 2:50 am

Like your post. Made me laugh. Especially the ant-farm comment.


ToyLady • September 30, 2009 at 8:06 am

I use a small glass vase with about an inch of cider vinegar in the bottom. It nestles quite nicely between the bowl of tomatoes from the garden and the bowl of peaches/nectarines/bananas/pineapple/whatever fruit. It’s just wide enough, with little enough liquid, that, if it gets tipped over, I don’t end up with buggy vinegar all over the counter.

It’s almost (ALMOST!) enough to have me looking forward to a good frost. . .


shaunta • September 30, 2009 at 9:46 am

We don’t have fruit flies up here in the mountains. We do however have a county-wide infestation of Elm Beetles. Think ladybugs but yellow with a black stripe. Sounds cute right? Yeah right. Right up until they come to hibernate the winter IN YOUR HOUSE. 1000s of them. Clinging to windows, congregating in blobs in corners, crawling across your television and computer screens. ICK. ICK ICK ICK. Can I be the Ted Bundy of the Elm Beetle World? Sadly the only way to keep them out of my house would be to cut down the two 100 year old elm trees in my yard.


Naantje • September 30, 2009 at 10:54 am

@Naantje – Oh, if only I had known this over summer. We were infested with fruitflies! No matter what, they were allways there, irritating little bugs… I will remember this for next summer though.

Oh, what’s cool is: one of the textbooks I orderded that will be arriving with FedEx one of these days is being shipped straight from Indianapolis. I “know” just one person living in the United States, and my shipment leaves from where you live! What are the odds? (It feels so silly, having the book come all the way from over the Atlantic, but if I can get it for 65.67 dollars shipping included, I’d be a fool ordering it in Belgium, paying 69.72 euros, which is 101.44 dollars! I’m sorry for the carbon dioxide I’m causing, but I’m a student on a thight budget…)

Somehow, I can’t use dollar or euro signs, I get and error for UTF-8 corrupt data in my entry :(


michelle • September 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Wow, your cat is really cute.


Debor • September 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I have two fruit flies buzzing around my monitor as I write this! I can’t wait to commit death by vinegar! Now if I can just keep my fool cats from drinking it and then throwing it up on the carpet. ‘Cause I gotta tell ya – a little Saran Wrap is no obstacle to my two goofballs.


Deanna • September 30, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Java Bean looks like she/he is ready to pounce!!


elnoz • October 1, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Wow! Java Bean is getting BIG! How’s Officer Krupke doing? We haven’t heard about him in a while….or did I miss something?


Kelly • October 1, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I’m a lurker here on Pasta Queen (as well as a very fond book owner who can’t wait until your next book comes out) but I just had to tell you.

I just got the November 2009 issue of Runner’s world and you’re IN IT!!!!!!! That is so awesome!


origamifreak • October 2, 2009 at 9:20 am

I did my PhD research project on Drosophila species. And in the process learned some interesting things about them.

A little-known fact is that the proper common name for them IS “vinegar flies.” And I can imagine that the white wine with OJ trick would work well, because they are particularly attracted to fermenting things. It’s because they actually live on the yeast, not the fruit it’s growing on.

(No, those weren’t the specific things I learned in order to GET the PhD, but they were useful… hehe)


Mom Taxi Julie • October 2, 2009 at 10:51 am

Love Jellybean lol.


EG • October 2, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Origamifreak, I LOVE knowing that about “vinegar flies”.

I’ve had success with the apple cider vinegar, too. Very satisfying.

Wait, you’re in Runners World?!


Amy • October 4, 2009 at 8:33 am

Oh good, I’m glad it worked!


Redhead • October 5, 2009 at 2:12 pm

It’s been a bad “fruit fly” year for us, too, since we had a lot of rain early in the summer and fewer dragonflies than normal. They are still around, and they usually disappear in August.

A friend clued us in … they may be “drain flies,” laying eggs in a drain, air conditioner outflow, or other area with shallow standing water. They don’t bite, but just plague you to death flying in your face, nose, ears, getting in your food. Aagh!

We cleaned out our drains with bleach and then Liquid Plumber (apparently you need something that will stick to the sides of the pipes and remove the organic residue that the they eat). I was wondering why we had always a fresh supply in the bathroom, even after fumigating! Seems to have worked, their numbers are dwindling.


Wendy • December 1, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Thank you for the tip! I am now responsible for the deaths of dozens of fruit flies.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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