Meet Drosophila Melanogaster, your common fruit fly (not to be mistaken with another tiny nuisance, the gnat).
Though small in size, the fruit fly is a mighty force to be reckoned with—once inside your home. This miniscule sesame-seed-sized little beast is only one to four millimeters in length, (which is the same as the width of half-of-a-nickel to one-penny-and-two-dimes laid one its side). While it may have a tiny brain, its highly-evolved visual system, compact body, powerful wings, incredible flying capability, small antennae and keen smelling ability make up for it.
Let’s talk about the details for a moment, shall we?
Why are fruit flies so hard to get rid of?
A fruit fly’s visual system allows them to process optical information at lightning speed, meaning that they are able to perceive and respond to changes in their environment with incredible accuracy. They can detect and respond to movements that are too fast for the human eye to see.
In fact, a fruit fly has 270-degree vision that puts even the most advanced technology to shame. It can see you coming from almost any angle: front, back or side-to-side and will calculate the angle of your attack, planning their escape accordingly in as little as 100 milliseconds.
Scientists figured this out by observing how a resting fruit fly will reposition its legs when it senses an attack. If your hand's coming from the front, for example, fruit flies move their middle legs forward, lean back and raise their legs, allowing for a fast backwards takeoff.
BodyA fruit fly’s compact and lightweight body makes it highly maneuverable in flight. A fruit fly can make very quick, unexpected turns and sudden, unanticipated movements to evade predators, and find food and shelter. Its small size also allows it to exploit small spaces and crevices in search of food and breeding sites.
A fruit fly’s powerful wings beat at a rapid pace of over 200 times per second. This allows it to hover, fly backwards and make tight turns with unbelievable ease.
A fruit fly's incredible flying capabilities make this insect a marvel in nature. This tiny creature can fly at a speed of up to 3.4 miles per hour. While this may not sound very fast, it is quite impressive considering its size. To put it into perspective, a fruit fly's top speed is more than 90 times its body length per second, which is equivalent to a human running at over 1,200 miles per hour.
A fruit fly’s antennae is seemingly insignificant, but this is far from the truth. These small appendages play a vital role in the fruit fly's ability to navigate and interact with its environment.
- The antennae contain receptors that can detect changes in temperature, humidity and air pressure, which help the fly navigate and maintain its position in the air.
- The antennae can detect vibrations and sound waves, allowing the fruit fly to communicate with others and avoid potential threats.
- The antennae give a fruit fly the ability to move and sense its surroundings in three dimensions. Being equipped with small hairs that can detect changes in the direction and intensity of air currents, the antennae allows the fly to sense the location and movement of nearby objects. This gives the fruit fly an incredible level of spatial awareness, which is essential for its ability to fly and maneuver through complex environments.
Sense of smell
A fruit fly’s sense of smell allows it to get a whiff of dietary pleasures from more than a kilometer away. Its antennae, containing thousands of tiny receptors that can detect a wide range of different chemical compounds, are highly sensitive to odors. In fact, a fruit fly can detect certain odors at concentrations as low as a few parts per trillion, which is an incredible level of sensitivity.
Its highly sensitive olfactory receptors are what propels a fruit fly (and all of its friends) to the fermenting fruit on your countertop.
This persistent minute nuisance will follow an odor gradient until it reaches its source. Once it latches onto a scent, there’s no turning back.
A fruit fly’s life cycle allows it to replicate (and cause an infestation) at a fantastic rate. A simple female, being the prolific egg-layer that she is, can lay as many as 100 eggs per day in batches of 5 to 15 (and 500 throughout her entire life). These eggs hatch into tiny white maggots (or larvae) within 24-30 hours that become fully fledged sexually mature adults within 8 to 10 days that are ready to take on the world (or your kitchen). A typical lifespan is 50 days.
Now that you’re thoroughly awed by this minute flying wizard, let's discuss how to truly get rid of them.
How do I get rid of fruit flies?
First and foremost, you must clean your house. Cleanliness is key, as these rotting-fruit sniffers, fungi-whiffers and-microorganism-scenters will continue to come back for more if more is to be had. Fruit flies, after all, aren’t that picky. These upset-stomach-producers love decaying fruit, yes, but also the tasty fungi growing on mushrooms, mold, and mildew, the microbes feeding on decomposing tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes (and various other fruits and vegetables)—which can even be found in the sludge in the bottom of your trash can or slime in your garbage disposal—and the sugary delights of fruit juice, soda, and alcohol. Beware of a fruit fly’s presence on many common garden and ornamental aphid-attracting plants, as aphids secrete a sweet, sticky, sugary substance called honeydew, which is highly attractive to fruit flies. It’s important to note that some of these plants could be in your home (such as African violets and poinsettias) and the ultimate cause of your fruit fly infestation.
Pocket Fact: Fruit flies are attracted to the smell of yeast and are sometimes used as a tool in the process of making beer and wine, as they can help to ferment the liquid by consuming the yeast that is added to the mixture.
After a very thorough cleaning, all experts would encourage the use of traps. The best fruit fly trap (and my personal favorite) is our very own Sweet Surrender, a superb scientifically formulated fruit fly lure and killer that was developed and tested in my very own kitchen. (I’m going to spare you the details on the plethora of fermenting fruit and horde of minute fruit flies present.) Sweet Surrender is completely safe and wholly non-toxic for you, your family and your pets, but is truly noxious for fruit flies. One dose will have them sleeping with the fishes.
Simply pour 2 ounces into a container, place near the location of the infestation, remembering that fruit flies are also attracted to light (and heat to a lesser degree), and let the doctor do the work for you.
Cleaning is key! I missed a spot where wine had accidentally spilled and dried. My mistake. Sweet Surrender made it easy to solve my fruit fly issue.
I had no idea that fruit flies are actually interesting and even help with making beer. That being said, I will continue to remove them from my home with enthusiasm.