Have you ever tossed your banana peels in the trash or your kitchen towel hasn’t washed too long and that pesky cloud of flies seems to be coming from nowhere? Or are you all looking forward to your fall raspberry harvest, only to find the once-perfect ruby is damaged and sour on the cane? If you’ve ever had a problem with fruit flies, you know how frustrating it can be.
Fortunately, there are ways to control fruit files that pop up in your home or yard. Everything you need to know about these little dots is below! Here’s what we’ll cover:
What Does Fruit Flies Mean?
We’ll cover two main species in this article: the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), the culprit in your home better described as the vinegar fly, and the spotted-winged dry fly (D. suzukii), an important of invasive farm and garden pests.
There are many other species, including those that attack citrus trees, gooseberries and currants, and western cherries, but the two we’ll discuss in this article are very common.
At home, fruit flies are a year-round nuisance, lingering on ripe produce and rotting litter, peaking in late summer and fall. They can contaminate food with bacteria and other types of pathogens.
In the garden, the spotted-winged dry fly (SWD) lays eggs in berries, introducing and promoting disease, accelerating decay, and making maggot-infested berries ugly, inedible, and rancid.
Whether on the counter or in the garden, prefer ambient, mature or mature perishables.
D. melanogaster requires only a film of moist material to breed, such as B. melanogaster in gutters or litter, in mops, rags, fermented foods and other types of moist organics, and is therefore attracted to overripe or rotting produce .
However, SWD targets healthy fruits that are usually still on the stem, such as blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, plums, raspberries, and strawberries, and it does well against damaged thick-skinned fruits, such as apples, pears, and cherry tomatoes.
Once infected, decay accelerates.
Adult D. melanogaster are tiny, round, tan flies measuring an eighth of aninch long. They have red eyes, and the males have black stripes and a black abdomen tip, while females only have stripes.
Adult SWD are round, tawny flies with red eyes, dark stripes on the abdomen, and a thickened black rear end.
Females have clear, unmarked wings, while males have clear wings with a prominent black spot on the first vein near the wingtip.
The pupae of both species are light to dark brown and pointed, with hard shells.
The larvae are white, cylindrical, legless maggots, one-eighth of an inch long, with pointed ends and prominent heads.
The eggs are small, half a millimeter long, white to pale yellow, and shaped like rice.
Biology And Life Cycle
The life cycle of these pests can be completed quickly, in as little as 7 days under ideal conditions, and several generations per year can be completed.
Females of both species can lay up to 500 eggs.
As mentioned above, D. melanogaster lays its eggs on or near the surface of fermented fruit and other moist areas, while SWD lays its eggs in healthy, soft-skinned or slightly damaged thick-skinned fruit.
D. melanogaster can breed indoors year-round, but SWD populations peak in August and September and adults overwinter outdoors.
The eggs hatch in about 30 hours in their respective homes, where the larvae forage, reach third instar in just four days, and then drop to the ground to pupate. D. melanogaster can pupate inside the fruit or where the larvae feed.
Generally, it takes less than a month for each generation to go from egg to adult.
See more: How to Use Trap Crops
The Best Ways Control Fruit Flies
You’ll know if you have a fruit fly problem in your home. Similar to fungal gnats, their presence is annoying.
SWDs are harder to notice because they can affect outdoor plants.
Symptoms of SWD damage include mildew, wrinkling, soft spots and disruption of berry structure, the presence of small stomata in larvae, oozing berry juice from egg-laying holes, and tissue scarring.
However, by the time you notice these symptoms, it’s usually too late to save the fruit.
To monitor SWD before it becomes an obvious problem, you can use homemade traps to catch adults.
Using a jar or bottle with a small entry hole (3/16 inch diameter), drill it about halfway through the side of the container, making sure to leave a few inches at the bottom of the lid to hold the liquid.
Add apple cider vinegar and cover. The flies are attracted by the smell of vinegar and try to get in, but can’t get out. They’ll end up drowning in vinegar, but you can also hang a card inside to catch them.
Hang traps on trees or vines close to fruit, change sticky cards and vinegar baits at least once a week, and record the number of adults caught.
You can also purchase SWD specific traps, such as these traps and baits from Arbico Organics.
Scentsy SWD Trap
Some sources suggest using a paper funnel on the top of the jar with some apple cider vinegar on the bottom, which is fine for catching flies indoors, but any precipitation will hinder the idea, breaking the cone and/or filling the cup.
Organic Control Methods
There are several ways to mitigate and control fruit fly infestations, including indoor and outdoor use strategies.
Unfortunately, once infestation becomes a problem, SWD can be a difficult pest to control because the larvae are difficult to reach with pesticides.
Once they start eating, the fruit quickly spoils and becomes unmarketable. Therefore, surveillance and prevention strategies are important.
Cultural and Physical Control
Hygiene is a key element of control, both at home and in the garden.
Keeping your kitchen clean, regularly sorting ripe fruit, and refrigerating produce when possible can help minimize areas where these flies breed.
Cooling also slows or stops larval development, giving you time to remove damaged areas from the crop and deal with the rest.
Harvest ripe produce often and don’t let old or damaged fruit hang on stems or fall to the ground and attract flies. SWD overwinter in and around old fruit, so be sure to do a good job cleaning up at the end of the season.
Any overripe produce should be disposed of quickly, and rotten produce should be discarded in sealed bags or left out in the sun.
Do not compost or bury suspected SWD damage, as pests can survive immature developmental stages if buried 18 inches deep.
These flies are not fussy, and alternative hosts for SWD include honeysuckle, dogwood, and various other wild plants, such as wild blackberries.
These plants can provide food and overwintering ground for pests, especially early or late in the season, so consider keeping the area around your garden free of possible alternative hosts.
SWD populations tend to be lower in the spring, especially in cooler regions. So by choosing June strawberries and early blueberries and raspberries, you can get into the season early.
Agfabric Insect Netting
Exclusion techniques are also effective, such as protecting crops with 80 gram insect barriers like these Agfabric Insect Barrier Bug Nets.
In general, supplemental biological control—or, in other words, the application of predators, parasitoids, or pathogens—has not been well-established for SWD, leaving culture and insecticide methods as the only highly effective methods approved for integrated pest management strategies . IPM) are known.
Efforts to biologically control SWD have primarily been accomplished by protecting the good bugs already found in nature.
These beneficial insects include predators such as ants, scarabs, centipedes, pirate bugs and spiders. Certain parasitic wasps also attack these flies.
If you want to try adding beneficial insects, several are known to attack fruit flies. Remember, these alone don’t provide full control, but they can help your business!
The flock (Dalotia coriaria), which can be ordered from Arbico Organics, is a ground-dwelling predatory insect that attacks fruit fly larvae and pupae.
They exist in the wild, but can be targeted to ensure their presence.
NemAttack Beneficial Nematodes
Beneficial nematodes such as Steinernema feeliae and S. carpocapsae also infest pupae.
Spinosyn products are effective, such as B. Monterey Garden Insect Spray.
Monterey Garden Insecticide
This product is toxic to bees, so use it at night or early in the morning before bees fly out during the day.
Kaolin or potassium silicate products can provide some control.
Arbico Organics comes with Surround WP, which can be used to protect plants susceptible to egg-laying insects.
agricultural insecticidal oil
Another option is Agro-Pest, which is a combination of repellent and insecticidal oil that is safe against beneficial insects and effective against SWD.
Chemical Pesticide Control
The use of chemical pesticides in the home is not recommended, especially good hygiene practices are very effective against common fruit flies.
Cyanraniliprole, malathion, and cypermethrin are just a few of the available insecticides that are effective against SWD.
Keep in mind that many of the plants you may want to protect or treat with harsh chemicals also require pollination to set fruit. So if you need to apply something, always spray outside the bees’ foraging windows.
Combating Fruitarian Insects
I can’t blame these flies for enjoying the same sweet and colorful fun we love to breed and buy.
A delicious treat waiting to be eaten on your counter or weighing plant stems is a tempting treat for everyone.
Problems arise, however, when we opt for berry snacks and find that they are being destroyed by hungry maggots.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent infection and deal with those pesky bugs.
We’ve all mysteriously seen fruit flies in our kitchens. Tell Answer The Question what you did to get rid of them in the comments below. If you’ve ever noticed a broken SWD, please share your photos and stories!