By Jim Walker
Signal Staff Writer
The current invasive fruit fly infestation of 79-square miles in Santa Clarita means you may or may not have had to deal with fruit flies outside or inside your home.
If you live in the produce quarantine area — bordered on the north by Castaic Junction, on the south by Oat Mountain, on the west by Del Valle and on the east by Honby Avenue — you are not allowed to move fruit from your home.
The fruit can be used but if you want to dispose of it, they need to be double bagged in plastic bags and thrown out.
If you’re in the quarantine area, you most likely have had fly traps placed around your property. But what can you do if they get inside? Or, if you just want to make sure you don’t get an infestation?
First Things First
The experts note that fruit flies do their best reproduction at temperatures from 75 to 80 degrees F, which just happens to be the typical temperature inside an energy-conscious SCV home when the outside weather is warm.
Under ideal conditions, fruit flies can complete an entire reproductive cycle in 10 days. And a female fruit fly can lay hundreds of eggs in a cycle.
Fruit flies can enter your home in many ways, but one of the most common is aboard fruit you bring in and then set up nicely in an attractive fruit bowl. Ripe bananas are a favorite. And you’d think this would be easy enough to track and control, but fruit flies are attracted to any fruit, sugary substances, anything fermenting and even alcoholic beverages.
What to do?
You should know that there are other little annoying flies, such as drain flies (which hatch in drains) and fungus gnats (which hatch in potting soil), that you might confuse with fruit flies. Fruit flies pretty-much look like tiny house flies, while fungus gnats look more like tiny mosquitoes, and drain flies appear more like tiny moths.
If you suspect you have a fruit fly problem, your first course of action is to try and eliminate their food source. Definitely check out your fruit bowl and any other uncovered sugary items, especially those in dark corners/cupboards. However, in many cases, your problem will be in that kitchen trash, or other trash cans.
Dump that trash every few days, and you’ll stay ahead of the fruit fly reproductive cycle. But, also, scour the trash can, including crevices. Fruit fly pupae crawl away from the wet garbage and adhere to the can, itself, especially the underside of the lid. If you just stuff a new trash bag in a can full of pupae, you’re not fixing anything.
And then there are the adults. You don’t want them hanging around, waiting to reproduce in your new trash bag. Besides, the adult stage is the annoying one. They like your breath and your computer screen glow. That’s why the space between your cell phone screen and your nose is a fruit fly buzzing zone.
But here is the fun part. If your pesky guests are fruit flies, you have easy access to their kryptonite. And that is vinegar! Fruit flies are attracted to vinegar. They simply can’t resist it. And so, it provides a powerful bait or lure for fruit fly traps, either homemade or store-bought.
Such traps should be placed close to the concentration of adult fruit flies, be it the trash can or fruit bowl, or any other location where they hover. And a TV or computer screen on continuous screensaver glow is another great trap location.
As noted, the trap bait is vinegar. This goes in the bottom of your trap. Some experts recommend only apple cider vinegar, others also like white vinegar. And if you add a touch of sweet, via a pinch of brown sugar or some red fruit juice, that is just frosting on the flies’ end-cake.
Now the vinegar doesn’t kill the flies, drowning does. Especially if you add a drop of dish soap to reduce the vinegar’s surface tension, the flies crawl to the liquid or land in it and get stuck, eventually sinking to the bottom.
With a store-bought trap, such as a Terro trap, little holes in the top allow the flies in, but make it harder for them to fly out of the confined space above the vinegar. With a homemade trap (vinegar in a bowl), you can cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and poke holes in the wrap to accomplish the same thing.
Both homemade traps and Terro traps work, though the Terros are definitely more attractive. However, your only cost with a homemade trap is the vinegar.
Oh, and one last point: Know that fermenting Jack-o’-lanterns provide great fruit fly food.
A homemade trap requires vinegar, dish soap, plastic wrap and a bowl.
Pour the vinegar in a bowl. Add a drop of dish soap to trap the flies. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Add a few holes in the top for the flies to get to the vinegar.