Fruit-Fly Apocalypse: Summer Advice

This is the first summer the biomass of fruit flies in our kitchen and bathrooms seemed to outweigh the human family in our house. After my ultra-clean sister-in-law said she just waits until winter and they all go away, I took to Web to find out how to collect and kill them, right now.

Using mostly vinegar-and-fruit-based recipes, along with some physical trickery, I’ve figured out the more effective ways to undo summer’s reputation as the season of the never-leaving guests.

Probably the easiest trap-and-kill method is to mix some apple-cider vinegar with three drops of dish soap in a wide-mouthed jar. The idea is that the soap breaks the surface tension in the vinegar. The beer bugs land on the irresistible vinegar, sink and drown. Yay!

Another Internet-favorite is to combine vinegar with very ripe fruit — the stuff that seemed to birth the fruit flies in the first place — in a jar and put an inverted cone of paper in the top of a taller jar. Sort of like a minnow trap, the irritating scourges of humanity fly down the cone, through a dime-sized hole in the end, to the delectable mixture at the bottom — and can’t find their way out. My problem with this method is that it doesn’t kill them. OK, I added some dish soap as well, so any hapless horrors that miss the fruit and land in the vinegar, sink and meet their maker. That made me feel better.

A variation on that method is to tightly rubber-band plastic wrap to the top of the jar, poke a small hole in it and hope for the same results. I tried this version initially as I couldn’t easily figure how to secure a wrapped cone of paper, either to itself or the jar. And I like the idea of tossing the wrapped jar in the trash with flies inside, dead or alive.
Simplest is often best. Besides, who wants to lose to something slightly larger than a flea, trying to outsmart it? The fruit and vinegar, with hole-punched plastic wrap, trapped and killed one fly. The paper cone (I finally used one of the leftover shaved-ice cones from a birthday party, and snipped the tip off) netted a dozen or so, some drowned and some still trying to figure a way out.

But the four horsemen of the fruit-fly apocalypse are three drops of dish soap and some apple-cider vinegar, about an inch in a short, wide jelly jar. In 45 minutes one jar reaped destruction on about three dozen souls. (This method is not for Buddhists — they should use the paper cone, without the soap, and release them into the wild.) I now have these stationed in critical flight zones in the kitchen, and one in each bathroom. Soon, I will be rid of the pests, and eventually the vinegar traps.

Why did I write this article instead of letting you Google it yourself? I’ve been living with these beasts for over two weeks now and didn’t look it up until today — after attacking them, mano a mano, with a fly-swatter, and even spraying dog-tick and flea spray in places that were not the dog, to little effect. I thought I’d save you the wait. Enjoy summer.

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