By Katie Marks, Networx
Ugh, fruit flies. No one wants to see a little cloud of insects hovering around the kitchen, darting in and out of the garbage, or making merry in the compost. Yet, even in a clean house, fruit flies can start to multiply in the warmer months, coming out just around the time you're thinking about bringing out the sundresses and taking off the extra layer of blankets on the bed. You don't want to live with fruit flies, and we don't blame you; but there's a natural way to control them so you don't have to fill the house with chemicals in your battle against insect life.
If you've got a fruit fly problem, start by eliminating attractants in the house. If you have fruit sitting out, cover it in fine mesh so they can't get to it; a number of companies make very nice fruit baskets and dishes with fruit fly covers. Bread and other dry goods can be secured in a cupboard to keep temptation out of reach.
Make sure dishes are done as they're used so they don't sit around, and take out the recycling regularly so fruit flies aren't drawn to residue in bottles and cans. In addition, keep your counters wiped down, and always wash your compost bucket out after you empty it. Check your faucet for leaks, as these can attract fruit flies and you don't need to call a plumber to replace a washer and fix the problem.
Your houseplants could also be harboring water sources for fruit flies. When you water, don't water so much that spillage accumulates in the dishes under your plants (I like to water in the sink so excess water goes down the drain -- and that way I can wash my plants while I water them). It's possible you may not even have fruit flies, but instead gnats that hatch in damp soil. If you let your house plants dry out and the problem disappears, you know your visitors weren't fruit flies. When you resume your regular watering schedule, try to keep it light so your plants don't get too moist.
The classic fruit fly management trick is the vinegar or wine trap. (Beer works too.) You can make it with a shallow dish, bowl, or cup. Pour in a little bit of your liquid of choice (don't waste your good red wine, though!) and cover the lid with saran wrap poked with a few holes -- you can also create a paper funnel or simply use a jar and screw the lid on over the vinegar, adding some holes to it once it's secure. The fruit flies will enter through the holes, drawn to the sugars in the liquid, and then drown.
A variation on this trick uses a big soda bottle as the trap. Cut it in half, pour some vinegar into the bottom, and then upend the top so that the pouring spout forms a funnel. No matter which method you use, this quickie fruit fly trap should fill up quickly, so you can dispose of your unwanted visitors down the drain and set it up again to catch the next round.
This isn't the only way to get rid of fruit flies, though. Try diluting lemongrass essential oil in warm water, and spraying it around areas where they congregate. This solution also works on ants and other unwanted insects around the house, in addition to adding a nice aroma to the house! (Bonus.)
You can, of course, hang fly paper to trap fruit flies, but it can be unsightly. These natural pest control methods are less obtrusive and very effective, as well as free, in addition to being a cinch to implement! If you continue to have a significant fruit fly problem, it might be time to call in the big dogs and talk to your exterminators.