Fruit flies are a nuisance but it is good to know that it is easy to get rid of fruit flies in plants.
They appear in droves, seemingly out of nowhere.
According to the University of Kentucky, fruit flies can appear year-round but are most common during late summer and fall because ripened and fermented food and vegetables are what they are attracted by.
Fruit flies do no harm to houseplants, but they are unsightly and pesky.
Given where they live and eat, they are also a health hazard.
They will lay their eggs in a warm, damp environment such as the soil of your houseplants, close to a ready food source.
They are attracted by fungus buildup and debris in the plant soil that they also favor for the often damp conditions.
How to get rid of fruit flies in plants?
There are multiple proven methods to get rid of fruit flies in plants. Firstly, change the environment so it is no longer attractive for fruit fly feeding or breeding. Secondly set a trap, using their favorite food source as bait. Thirdly, strategically place a carnivorous plant near the affected area. Finally, use plants that repel insects. If you do not have space for another plant, a few leaves scattered on the surface will suffice.
Fruit Flies in the Home
‘Fruit flies’, otherwise known as ‘vinegar flies’, ‘wine flies’ or ‘yeast flies’, are prolific, polygamous breeders, and are found in most places where food is served.
Drosophila melanogaster, to give it its scientific name, is a fairly simple creature, having only four pairs of chromosomes and a rapid breeding cycle.
They are very popular with researchers, including six recipients of Nobel Prizes.
You might feel less enamored with them if they decide to invade your home.
The first action to take when you spot fruit flies is to look for the source of the infestation.
Their most common hangouts are the garbage bin and bowls of overripe fruit.
If you remove the garbage often and keep fruit under cover or refrigerated, this should eliminate a large part of the problem.
Regularly clean surfaces where food is prepared as well.
If you have a container in the kitchen for keeping scraps for the compost heap, it could also be a source of fascination for the pesky fruit flies.
Ensure that the container seals tightly and that you decant the contents to the exterior compost heap or bin frequently.
The inside of the refrigerator also requires frequent wipe downs. Fruit flies have no problem living in frigid conditions.
4 Proven Ways How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies in Plants
1. Disturb the soil
Fruit flies will be attracted to your plants for two reasons.
They will feed off the decaying matter in the soil and any fungus that is growing on the soil or in folds and crevices in the plant itself.
They will also lay their eggs just below the surface of the soil where the larvae will thrive on the micro-organisms living in the dark, damp soil.
The healthier your potting soil, the greater the chances are that fruit fly larvae will find what they require.
Disturbing the soil regularly will upset the breeding cycle.
This can be done by turning the surface of the soil over and exposing the eggs or larvae to the light and relatively dry air above ground.
You could also put a barrier between the soil and the open air, that is difficult for the larvae and fledgling fruit flies to penetrate. A thick layer of course gravel is a good remedy.
Another way to compromise the eggs and larvae is to allow the top layer of the soil to dry out completely.
Ensure that the plant can tolerate this temporary drought.
If the problem persists, it may be time to repot your plant.
Deprive the larvae of air by placing them in a sealed plastic bag.
Discard the infected soil far away from your home and garden. Sanitize the pot before reusing it.
2. Remove the food source
By removing any fungus buildup from your plants, you will remove one of the fruit flies’ favored food sources.
Control fungus by reducing the humidity in the environment.
Spray the plant with dishwashing liquid or wipe it down with rubbing alcohol to deter fungal growth and colonization by other harmful pests.
3. Set traps for the fruit flies
As their aliases imply, fruit flies are attracted to vinegar, wine, and yeast.
These can be used to set traps for them that they will find irresistible.
Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with dishwashing liquid and water is a successful combination.
The fruity vinegar draws them in.
The fruit flies expect to be able to walk on the surface of the liquid while they drink their fill.
Sadly for them, the dishwashing liquid breaks the surface tension of the liquid, they fall in, and drown.
Mix the liquid concoction in a dish and cover it with cling wrap.
Punch holes in the plastic, big enough for a fruit fly to fit through.
If they escape the liquid, they will find it difficult to penetrate the plastic to make their escape.
Place the trap close to the plant that has been infected. Remove the dead flies on a regular basis.
A trap of a completely different nature would be a carnivorous plant.
There are over 700 species of flesh-eating plants found around the world.
There are several to be found on every continent.
Thankfully, they also survive by way of photosynthesis so they will not die once they have consumed all the available fruit flies.
4. Plants that repel insects
Herbs such as basil, peppermint, lavender, and lemongrass are popular house plants that are known for their ability to repel insects.
Some are seasonal and have their own requirements for thriving so care needs to be taken when placing them.
If space is at a premium, the leaves of these herbs can also be placed around the base of an affected plant or in a muslin bag nearby.
Essential oils derived from any of the above-mentioned plants, as well as eucalyptus leaves and camphor trees, will also deter fruit flies.
They are put off by the smell and move away.
If these oils are burnt as incense, the smoke could kill the fruit flies.
Camphor and cedar chips can be used to cover the surface of your house plants and to act as a mulch.
The natural oils in the chips deter plant pests.
Note that the chips can be harmful if chewed by pet dogs and cats so caution is required if this is likely to happen.
5. Cover the topsoil of your houseplants to prevent fruit flies
Fruit flies live for 8 to 15 days and a female can lay up to 2000 eggs at once.
By covering the topsoil of your houseplants with gravel, pebbles, or sand you prevent fruit flies from laying eggs in the first place.
Fruit flies prefer the topsoil to lay their eggs and once it is covered they are out of a suitable breeding ground.
In addition and probably more importantly, the maggots that hatch from already laid eggs in the soil will not be able to get to the surface of the soil.
The breeding cycle will be interrupted meaning n more fruit flies within a matter of 2-3 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies in Plants
If I do not have apple cider vinegar, what can I use to trap fruit flies?
Any grape vinegar will serve as a replacement, or you can use wine. It need not be a vintage Merlot or Chardonnay as the fruit flies are not at all discerning. Any cooking wine will do. You could also use overripe or rotting fruit as bait. The flies won’t drown but they should remain inside the trap. Once you have caught enough fruit flies, you will need to dispose of the entire contents of the trap in a way that ensures that they do not return.
Is there a fruit fly season?
Fruit flies are capable of living in most weather conditions. It is usually the availability of a food source that determines when they will appear. The abundance of fruit ripening at harvest time, in late summer and into fall (autumn), will see an increase in numbers. In line with the law of supply and demand, fruit prices will drop and more households will purchase fruit. If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, you may inadvertently bring some of these pesky critters inside when you pick them for the table. It is best to wash the produce outside before bringing it indoors.
Fruit flies are pesky insects that you will come by almost certainly in your home and as part of your houseplant-keeping career.
Once you spot fruit flies it is important to identify why they came in the first place.
There almost always is a food source such as ripe and overripe fruit present or the soil of your plants is very wet and soggy attracting fruit flies.
If you act fast – as fruit flies are prolific breeders – and follow the tips outlined in this article you almost certainly will get rid of these pests sooner than later.