How to get rid of fruit flies


With a passion for growing installed at an early age, I have always been happiest outdoors in nature. After training as a professional gardener and horticultural therapist, I currently run horticultural therapy and community kitchen gardens in the UK, helping others access the many physical and mental health benefits of growing vegetables, fruit and plants.

Favourite fruit: apples and pears
Favourite vegetable: asparagus

Fruit flies in the home can be a real nuisance, particularly during the warmer months. Learn more about fruit flies and how to prevent and control them.

Fruit flies covering an apple
Fruit flies are especially attracted to ripe or rotting fruit [Photo: Anne Webber/]

Despite being small, fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) can become a serious irritation, especially in the kitchen. Also called lesser fruit flies or vinegar flies, fruit flies are attracted to ripe or decaying produce, which is why you will often find them around your compost caddy or fruit bowl. Thankfully, these kitchen pests are relatively easy to deal with. Read on to find out how to prevent and get rid of fruit flies.

Where do fruit flies come from?

If you’ve ever noticed the instantly recognisable small flies in and around your fruit bowl, you may well wonder where fruit flies come from. The answer is either from previously infected produce being brought into the home or from fruit flies being tempted and drawn indoors from outside.

Measuring around 3mm in length, fruit flies are similar in size to fungus gnats (Sciaridae). They have a black and brown body and two wings and can live for around 40 to 50 days. However, fruit flies can reproduce rapidly and lay hundreds of eggs a week around the home, leading to quite an infestation in only a short space of time. We know they are annoying, but are fruit flies harmful? Whilst, thankfully, fruit flies do not bite or sting, they can spoil fresh fruit and vegetables and spread bacteria and other germs.

Close-up of a fruit fly
Fruit flies can reproduce rapidly, leading to large numbers in only a short time [Photo: Arif_Vector/]

How to prevent fruit flies

If fruit flies are infesting your home, there are several ways to get rid of them. However, it is far better to prevent them from coming into your home in the first place. Here are some easy ways to prevent fruit flies:

  • Inspect fruit after shopping: while unpacking your shopping, inspect the fruit and vegetables for any bruised areas where fruit flies may already be living and consume these items first.
  • Correct storage: store your fruit and vegetables in sealed containers or in the fridge.
  • Empty the rubbish and recycling bins often: fruit and vegetable peelings and empty beer cans or wine bottles attract fruit flies and can become a breeding ground.
  • Wash out the compost caddy: fruit flies love the rotting organic matter in a compost caddy. Keep the lid closed and disinfect after emptying.
  • Clean the drains: attracted to the rotting organic matter, fruit flies can infest kitchen sink drains, so make sure to clean them regularly.
  • Shut the dishwasher: dirty plates in the dishwasher can be tempting for fruit flies. Keep the dishwasher door closed unless you are loading or unloading the dishes.
  • Clean spills: wipe up kitchen messes and spills straight away, especially after preparing food.
Person fitting lid to fruit bowl
Covering produce, especially ripe fruit, can help prevent fruit flies [Photo: Space_Cat/]

How to get rid of fruit flies: traps and sprays

If it is too late for prevention, there’s no need to panic! If fruit flies have already started colonising your home, there are various repellent sprays and traps available to help.

Fruit fly traps

There are a number of different types of fruit fly traps available. However, the two most common types include funnel-type traps and sticky traps, both of which you simply place near the source of the infestation and wait for them to work.

Funnel-type traps contain a tempting liquid or substance, which is typically vinegar based, that lures the fruit flies into the trap. Once enticed into the trap, the fruit flies are unable to escape and are disposed of once the trap is full.

Sticky trap catching flies
Also used to catch other flies, yellow sticky traps can prove effective in controlling fruit flies [Photo: ixelbender36/]

Sticky traps are available for a variety of species of pests. Sticky traps for fruit flies are brightly coloured to attract the small black flies to the traps, which are coated in an adhesive substance. The flies then stick to this and ultimately meet their demise. Our Plantura Yellow Sticky Traps are ideal for catching fruit flies as they last for up to 6 months and are odourless and non-toxic. When used alongside the preventative measures previously mentioned, sticky traps can prove remarkably effective in controlling fruit flies.

Yellow Sticky Traps 20-pack
Yellow Sticky Traps 20-pack
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  • For detecting infestations early on and monitoring pest populations
  • 20 double-sided yellow sticky traps (or 40 smaller traps) to hang from plants or stick straight into soil
  • Odourless & insecticide-free

Fruit fly sprays and repellents

Along with traps, fruit fly repellents and sprays are also available. Repellents are generally non-toxic and can be effective when combined with preventative measures. You can purchase organic repellents that contain the active ingredients citronella or lemon grass. Insecticidal sprays kill the flies on contact, but should be used with caution inside the home and especially where children and pets are present.

Home remedies: DIY fruit fly traps

Home remedies for fruit flies can prove surprisingly effective and can be enough to control fruit flies in the home. Not only that, but homemade fly traps are cheap and easy to make and only require some basic kitchen items that you probably already have. Apple cider vinegar is often a key ingredient as the fruit flies are drawn to its sweet fermenting smell. Mixing a little bit of washing-up liquid into the apple cider vinegar makes it harder for the flies to escape. Simply pour the baited liquid into a trapping vessel such as a wine bottle or jar with a paper funnel.

Fruit flies in a wine glass
Fermented drinks are a favourite of fruit flies and can be used as a trap [Photo: josephcreamer/]

Instructions for DIY fruit fly trap
To make a homemade fly trap, just follow the steps below:

  • Half-fill a glass or jar with apple cider vinegar
  • Add a few drops of washing-up liquid to the solution
  • Make a funnel out of paper and insert the narrow end into the glass or jar
  • Seal the funnel to the vessel with sticky tape
  • Wait for the fruit flies to enter the funnel and empty once full

If you do not have any vinegar to hand, you can make a fruit fly trap using the dregs at the end of a bottle of wine or beer can or a mixture of honey and lemon. Live traps can also be made using an overly-ripe piece of fruit.

For immediate results, you can also hoover up an infestation of fruit flies as they are relatively slow-moving and easy to catch. Once you have vacuumed up the fruit flies, leave the hoover outdoors for several days before emptying it to prevent them from returning inside.

Does bleach kill fruit flies? Yes. However, due to its low viscosity, bleach does not cling to the inside of the pipes and can be ineffective in getting rid of every fruit fly. Removing any food waste from the sink pipe work and keeping it clear can prove just as effective and reduce the need for any harmful chemicals.

A homemade fruit fly trap
Homemade fruit fly traps can prove surprisingly effective [Photo: nkula/]

Although a comparable size to fruit flies, fungus gnats are attracted to plants and their soil, rather than fresh produce. You can learn more about how to get rid of fungus gnats in our separate article.