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Fruit flies: The head lice of summer

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

by Melanie Nicholas

It was bound to happen sooner or later. An infestation of such magnitude that we would be driven to near madness. My children retching, me hanging my head in mortification when guests stopped by.

No amount of bleach, boiling water or scouring of counters has helped. That’s right, y’all. We have fruit flies, the flying head lice of summer kitchens everywhere.

Even their scientific name is monstrous -- drosophila melanogaster. More like MelanieIsAghasHere. And like lice, fruit flies don’t discriminate. Rich, poor, cleanfreak or ‘let the dog get that,’ it only takes one measly little banana to wreak havoc. Now, let me preface. I clean my kitchen at least twice a day, because, kids. I get four or five bananas each week, and they are usually gone in two days. Because, also, kids. The ones that don’t get eaten, well, I let them turn to squish and then freeze them for smoothies or banana bread.

I guess I let one sit too long in the summer temps, though, because three weeks ago, I began to see a few little missiles flying through the air. You can imagine the string of expletives, because when there is one, there will soon be a plague of them. And according to the internet, my math is spot on!

Michael F. Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky, said the reproductive potential of fruit flies is enormous -- females will lay about 500 eggs in their week-long life span. I am on my THIRD week of fruit flies. I guess all my MelanieIsAghastHeres are fertile ladies!

I threw away every piece of produce in my house. You couldn’t eat an apple or bake a potato here if you wanted to. It’s a good thing I have six fermenting banana corpses in the freezer for emergencies! We removed everything from the counters and sanitized. We started taking out the trash twice a day and disinfected the trash can. I poured bleach down the drains.

And still, they thrived.

I began to research additional elimination methods and found YouTube tutorials for constructing fruit fly traps. One exterminator recommended filling a jar half full of red wine vinegar, covering the top with plastic wrap, and punching holes in the plastic so the flies could get in but would have a hard time getting out. Apparently, they are attracted to the fruit sugar in the red wine vinegar. Now, I also feel like plastic wrap is the devil and it never works correctly for me, but I was desperate.

So I made my death trap, and watched in fascinated repugnance as flies gathered on the cup and took the plunge. But my fruit flies were special, above-average intelligence fruit flies. They kept flying back out of the holes. I had to hover over the container in hopes of smashing them with my gloved fingers. So. Gross. And also, not effective. My fruit flies are above-average fliers, too!

After I posted my second death trap container to my Instagram page, I finally got some better tips.

One friend recommended using just red wine. But I don’t like to waste actual wine, so I decided to hold onto that as a last resort. Another friend recommended adding a touch of dish soap to the trap’s liquid. The soap alters the surface tension of the liquid. When the flies come down to drink, they break through the surface and drown. It takes about 30 minutes for those little suckers to get what’s coming to them!

I make two new death traps each day, because, gag, they are hard to look at when they are full of floaters. It’s been working so well, I have even stopped messing with the blasted plastic wrap. Now, I know what you’re thinking. It seems like things should be getting better. I have all but stopped buying or cooking any food for fear of feeding these monsters. Can you imagine how unstoppable they could become on a diet of grass-fed beef and organic veggies?

But they just keep coming. I have used all the red wine vinegar in the house and a half bottle of apple cider vinegar, too. My kitchen smells like a Greek salad!

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I am now eyeing my only bottle of red wine. Well, salad always goes better with wine, anyway. Yamas and pass the corkscrew!

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