How to get rid of fruit flies

Want to know how to get rid of fruit flies quickly? They're everywhere at the moment – but it's super easy to be rid of them, and can be done with ingredients from your kitchen

how to get rid of fruit flies
(Image credit: Getty/Drbouz)

Need to know how to get rid of fruit flies? These tiny pests can be a real nuisance, circling round your dining table, getting stuck in kitchen lights, and just generally creating a mess. The trouble is also that like all other species of flies they breed fast, so once a couple are in, you're guaranteed to have more, for a good while. Luckily, fruit flies are easy to get rid of – everything you need for the job is already in your kitchen. 

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Are they fruit flies?

Are fruit flies harmful?

They can potentially make you ill, even though they're small. Just like other flies, fruit flies transfer bacteria from one surface to another. So, if you've got fruit flies on your fruit bowl, it's likely you've got their bacteria on your tea cups, wine glass and dinner plates, too.

The first thing to determine, though, is whether your problem is actually fruit flies, or whether you have a different type of fly in your house. Are they congregating mainly around your sink? They're drain flies. Around your house plants? These aren't fruit flies either. Fruit flies stay true to their name, although you'll also see them devouring drink spills and, sometimes, even circling around your desserts.

Getting rid of fruit flies: the expert way

We caught Rentokil's David Cross talking on Radio 4 recently and he came up with the best formula for getting rid of fruit flies for good: exclude; restrict; destruct; monitor. Let's break that down:

Exclude: keep doors and windows shut where possible. There are tons of these flies living outside and they can detect food that's on the turn.

Restrict: keep food in the fridge where possible or covered if not.

Destruct: use insecticides to kill adults; that will limit the spread.

Monitor: a bowl of apple cider left out will attract fruit flies – and help you see how effective your efforts at getting rid of them can be.

How to get rid of fruit flies: the liquid method

There are two main ways to get rid of fruit flies. One is to try and trap them in a container of liquid, in which they'll eventually drown. The trick is to make sure that once you've lured them in, they can't get out. You will need a tall jar with a funnel made from a sheet of paper, or a bottle with a narrow mouth, such as a wine bottle. Fruit flies like the smell of vinegar and wine (it is the smell of fermenting foods they go for afterall), so fill your vessel about one-fifths with either liquid. The vinegar you'll need to use is apple cider vinegar, not white vinegar. Vinegar may work better than wine because the smell is stronger. 

How to get rid of fruit flies: the sticky method

The sticky method is our personal favourite for effectiveness, although it is a bit smelly, so be prepared. No funnels or bottle needed: just fill your preferred container with a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and overripe fruit (we're talking fruit that's starting to get mushy and smell boozy). 

The more viscous the consistency, the better the trap, so keep adding the sugar until everything is really thick and sticky. Another great option is stale beer – use it on its own or add to the mixture. It won't smell pleasant, but the flies will be drawn to the stuff like to a magnet.

How to get rid of fruit flies: the dos 

  • Prevention is better than cure: chuck any fruit that's beginning to decompose, and take out all bins regularly, especially during the summer;
  • Clean all surfaces regularly;
  • Flies like dark and damp spaces, so ensure the kitchen is well lit and ventilated.

How to get rid of fruit flies: the don'ts

  • Don't use ripe fruit in a jar on its own, as the flies will most likely get back out – having gorged on the fruit;
  • Don't bother with candles and other lights – while you will attract some of the flies, they're much more interested in food smells than light;
  • Don't use mouldy fruit or gone off food that's not fruit as traps; the flies won't like it (nor will you).

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