After more than a month, I think it’s finally safe to declare an end to the Great Fruit Fly Plague of 2012. My roommate and I both went out of town for a few days in September, and when we came back, our apartment was under siege. So began the battle to reclaim my living space. I thought I would share with the Internet what worked for me, in case anyone else runs into this issue.
Don’t leave empty beer/wine/pop bottles around. This is where our fruit flies came from in the first place—apparently they loooove breeding in sticky, sweet drinks. Get rid of anything like that in your house and DON’T leave any food out for a while, even/especially fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t normally put in the fridge.
Traps. You can make a basic fruit fly trap with a Solo cup (or some other disposable cup-like container), plastic wrap, a rubber band, and some bait. Put the bait in the cup, put plastic wrap over the top and secure it with the rubber band, and poke a small hole in the surface with a toothpick. Then set it in a well-lit area and wait. (The other thing fruit flies seem to love, aside from sweet stuff, is light.) The idea is that the smell of the bait will guide the flies through the hole into the cup, but they won’t be able to find their way back out.
I tried a few different things for bait. Sweet white wine worked okay, but the best thing seemed to be fruit juice. My roommate had some expired mixed-berry juice that worked well, and they LOVED the Bolthouse Farms Blue Goodness drink that I got at Wegmans. Overripe tomatoes and pears were also great for attracting them but didn’t work for drowning.
So the drawback of these traps is that the flies can actually get back out. Most of them don’t figure it out, but some of them do. I mitigated this problem by drowning them periodically once they flew into the cups. To do this, I held the cup in one hand, swirling the liquid in the bottom, and used the other hand to flick the sides of the cup, knocking the flies into the whirlpool of doom. Unfortunately, some of the flies survived this drowning attempt and climbed back up the sides of the cup, so you really do have to keep swirling for like two minutes. It’s a pain but it’s easier than trying to smack them all separately.
When I decided a trap was done (where there were a lot of dead flies floating in it, or with the fruit bait, if there were a bunch of flies in there still alive), I would wrap the whole thing in a plastic shopping bag and throw it out.
Smack them! First, it’s really hard to smack them in mid-air, so I waited until they had landed on a flat surface before going in for the kill. Then, you have to be FAST and smear your hand around after you smack because the flies are so tiny that you can miss them with the creases of your hand. It also helps to have wet hands. In my house they tended to land on the windows, white bathroom walls, and bathroom towels. Sometimes when I’ve missed them, I’ve been able to bat them around a little in mid-air with my hands, and then when I smack them again it’s easier because they’re disoriented.
So I guess the moral of the story is, make sure you return your bottles on a regular basis so you can avoid dealing with all this!