What are Fruit Flies?

Fruit flies, also called ‘vinegar flies’ or ‘wine flies’, are of the genus Drosophila. ‘Drosophlia’ means ‘dew-loving’ which perfectly describes what attracts fruit flies - ripened or fermented fruit and vegetables and other sugary, organic materials. They are found all over the world, and here in North America, the most common families of fruit flies are Drosophilidae and Tephritidae.

Fruit flies are a sanitation issue and when populations get large, they can be difficult to get rid of.

It was once believed that fruit flies naturally formed on ripe or decaying produce. In actuality, adult fruit flies follow odours emitted by ripe produce in search of food and breeding grounds. They lay their eggs in over-ripe and decaying organic materials.

Fruit flies can be found any time of the year where exposed food is present. In addition to favouring dumpsters, recycling stations, and trash cans, they are very common in homes, restaurants, cafes, diners, bars, cafeterias, hotels, orchards, and farmers markets. Their populations are more pronounced and bothersome in late summer and fall months, which are harvest periods.


What do Fruit Flies Look Like?

Fruit flies are 3 to 4 mm long, with 6 legs, red eyes and yellowish to light brown colouring. They have sponging mouthparts and a single pair of wings. Some fruit flies have dark eyes.

a fruit fly sitting on a surface


The Lifecycle of a Fruit Fly

The average lifespan of a fruit fly is short, averaging 40 to 50 days, however they reproduces fast.

A fruit flies life cycle has 4 phases - egg, larva, pupa and adult. Given the right conditions (food, heat and humidity), a fruit fly can move from egg to adult in just 10 to 14 days.

The fruit fly life cycle begins when a female fruit fly lays her eggs (400-500 over her lifetime) under bruised or overripe fruit and vegetable skins. The larvae (which are white or cream coloured maggots) hatch often within a day. They burrow into and feed on the rotting food matter. After feeding for 4 to 6 days, the larvae leave the feeding site to find a dark, dry and secure place to pupate. Pupation is often 4 to 5 days (but can take longer), and is where the larvae develops its 6 legs and a pair wings. They emerge from this stage as adult fruit flies, and adult females are capable of mating within just 2 days.


What do Fruit Flies Eat?

Fruit flies favour ripe or rotten fruits and vegetables, however they will feed on decaying meat, pop, alcohol and decaying organic matter found in garbage disposals and unclean drains. They can and will also lay their eggs in any of these.

To eat, a fruit fly deposits it’s salvia on the food source and sucks it up. Because a fruit fly frequently feeds and breeds in unsanitary conditions (like dumpsters, food waste areas and recycling areas) it’s saliva can contain harmful bacteria and germs. These germs and bacteria, may be left on the surface of what it feeds on, therefore ruining and contaminating it.


Do Fruit Flies Bite?

No, fruit flies do not bite. They have sponging mouthparts and not the piercing and sucking mouthparts of common blood feeding flies.


Do Fruit Flies Cause Damage?

For homes, fruit flies are more of a nuisance pest. For the agricultural industry, foodservice industry and food processing, handling and storage facilities, fruit flies pose a serious health concern. Their salvia can contaminate food, which if consumed by humans, can result in illness. There are also large costs associated with disposing of contaminated food.


How Does a Fruit Fly Infestation Happen?

Fruit flies are found wherever there is exposed food. They are attracted to the odours admitted by ripened or decaying fruits and vegetables, and other decaying organic materials. They find their way indoors to feed and breed through open windows and doors. Fruit flies and their larvae (which are tiny and hard to spot) are also brought indoors on previously contaminated produce.

When unsanitary conditions are combined with large amounts of exposed ripe, fermented or decaying fruits, vegetables, meat or other organic materials, populations grow quickly as fruit flies reproduce quickly.


Signs of a Fruit Fly Infestation

Sighting a large volume of swarming adult fruit flies is a true sign of a fruit fly infestation.


How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Being a sanitation issue, fruit flies can almost always be fully eliminated through implementing proper, consistent sanitation practices.

You cannot get rid of a fruit fly infestation without eliminating their food and breeding sources. Common feeding and breeding areas include:  

  • Food preparation areas
  • Garbage cans
  • Dumpsters
  • Recycling bins
  • Dishwashing areas
  • Drains and garbage disposals
  • Broken tiles
  • Food storage areas, specifically fruits and vegetables
  • Bars, wine racks or liquor racks
  • Beverage stations
  • Under appliances or in-between counters and large appliances
  • Janitorial or cleaning closets, especially mop buckets

There are many things that you can do on a regular basis to prevent a fruit fly infestation and help you get rid of fruit flies:

  • Pay attention to what you buy to avoid unintentionally buying overripe, damaged or decaying produce.
  • Immediately wash fruits and vegetables you bring indoors.
  • Regularly inspect your produce and dispose of rotten items.
  • Store fruits and veggies in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t purchase excess quantities of fruits or vegetables unless you plan to use them quickly, or have adequate storage space in the fridge.
  • Immediately clean up food and sugary liquid spills from countertops, sinks, floors. Move appliances if needed to ensure the entire spill is cleaned up.
  • Wash kitchen washcloths, sponges, and towels often.
  • Sanitize your kitchen sinks, counters, and drains daily.
  • Use a bacterial digesters product in your drains.
  • Frequently empty and sanitize indoor and outdoor garbage, recycling and compost bins.
  • Clean food containers before putting them inside the recycling bin, especially if indoors.
  • Store garbage, recycling, and compost bins away from your home’s entry points.
  • If you have fruit trees in on your property, regularly collect and dispose of the overripe fruits that have fallen on the ground.

There are some cases where a fruit fly infestation can get out of control. In these cases, advice may be needed from a pest control professional to help you find and eliminate breeding areas and prevent future fruit fly infestations.

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