Gardening: Battling the mighty fruit fly

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

 Harvest time in the garden often results in unwanted guests. For me, this is the year of the fruit fly. It began a couple of weeks ago when I started ripening tomatoes on a plate in the kitchen. First there were just few. Refrigerating tomatoes ruins their flavor, so I covered the tamats with a glass dome.

Tomatoes attract fruit flies. What to do? (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

 But overnight a few tiny fliers turned into a dozen or more and there was no exposed fruit or veg. And some moved into my bathroom — what?

I found out that fruit flies can live in your drains and are especially attracted to those with garbage disposals. And they can live for 10-18 days.

I ran my garbage disposal, using cold water to clear out any food particles, and then switched to hot. Next I filled the sink with hot water, vinegar and soap and pulled the plug. Then I put in the drain closure and filled the sink with water, sealing the drain from accesses from any of the pests inside or out. 

I also made a homemade fruit fly trap by filling a glass pie plate with a quarter-inch of apple cider vinegar and a couple of slices of peaches and covering it with plastic wrap. Then I poked holes in the wrap so the fruit flies could dive in. Some folks swear by this method — I trapped four fruit flies in three days. Meantime, the flying army was growing in my kitchen.

Fruit flies are fast so fly swatters and snapping dishtowels don’t work. At one point I resorted to a bug bomb when a friend was expected, but they evaded the direct spray and I was not willing to fumigate an entire room.

My visitor was tolerant of my uninvited air force and recommended a solution: Windex glass cleaner — it works like a charm.

The method of delivery is part of the solution. Aerosol sprays cause an abrupt movement of air, which alerts the insect of danger. And because the chemicals only work on contact, the fruit flies most often evade attack. The Windex hand sprayer delivers the product with much less pressure, so the bug is not alerted and doesn’t fly off before contact is made. Also, Windex contains a wetting agent that renders the fruit flies immobile and they eventually die. 

The good news is when fruit fly hunting, I carry my Windex spray in one hand and a damp micro fiber cloth in the other to wipe up the dead bodies and clean at the same time.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at