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Fruit flies: bothersome and unattractive

On hot and humid summer days, fruit flies are a real plague. They're attracted to ripe fruit, sweet juices, vinegar, beer and wine. This doesn't pose a health risk, but it's certainly not very appetizing. In addition, fruit flies can spread fungal infections, mould and bacteria.

Usually the fruit flies are members of the genus Drosophila, also called vinegar flies or wine flies. They are two to three millimetres long, dark-coloured with red eyes. They'll get into your kitchen in two different ways. One is simply to fly in through an open window following the scent of ripe, or rotting, fruit. Or it can be that there are fruit fly eggs on fruit that you've bought or on fruit growing in your garden.

How can you avoid an invasion?

Female fruit flies are always on the lookout for a suitable place to lay their eggs. They'll choose rotten spots on fruit or the site where the stalk joins the fruit. Within a few days, one female can lay up to 400 eggs. The larvae hatch and immediately find they're right on top of a food source. They reproduce very quickly, so that within a few weeks you can find you've been invaded by millions of fruit flies.  

One way of preventing such an invasion is to make a fruit fly 'trap' by mixing fruit juice, vinegar and water with a squeeze of washing-up detergent. The flies are attracted by the smell, the detergent reduces the surface tension of the liquid and the fruit flies drown. Critics of this method maintain that all you do by leaving this mixture standing around is to attract more fruit flies. You could, of course, start growing carnivorous plants, like sundew, in your kitchen. Or there are several scents that are said to deter the pesky flies – oil of cloves, basil, sandalwood and santolina are among them. If you air your kitchen frequently, you'll prevent a build-up of the smell of fermentation.

Prevention is better than cure

"There are several practical preventive measures you can take", says Harald Seitz from aid infodienst. "For example, buy only small quantities of fruit at a time and don't let ripe fruit or sweet fruit juice stand around uncovered. Cover your fruit bowl with a protective net or even simply a light cotton cloth like a tea towel. Alternatively store berries, ripe apples and pears in the vegetable drawer of your fridge," Seitz points out.

General hygiene in the kitchen is especially important in summer. Wash wine and juice glasses right after use, clean work surfaces thoroughly after use. Keep your compost bin covered and empty it and your household rubbish daily.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de