Humane pest control, fly edition (don't laugh)
September 26, 2013 7:33 PM   Subscribe

I have tiny flies in my kitchen and I would like to get rid of them without killing them.

I keep my very small kitchen pretty clean but have a problem with some tiny red(?) fruit flies(?) (I think this is what they are) who are populating the area around and above my sink. I'm not sure what they are attracted to. I compost my fruit/veggie waste which is taken out immediately and most of what is in my trash is plastic and paper. I have a bunch of bananas on the kitchen table but the flies seem to hang around when bananas are not out too.

So, I can accept that most people in general find the following line of thinking silly and probably can't relate, but I don't like to kill sentient creatures including bugs and nasty types of creatures. I typically take cockroaches outside, etc. I want to get rid of the flies, but I don't really want to kill them. I had ants this summer (I live in an old apartment building) and I bought some Orange Guard and managed it that way which took longer but it worked. I think maybe the flies are actually attracted to it though (it's some sort of orange enzymes). Any suggestions for how to manage this? If you want to you can comment on it being ridiculous not to want to kill them but I am more looking to find out if it's possible to get rid of them without killing them. (The reason why is because I end up empathizing with the bugs as I am killing them and thinking that it must be unfun for them and maybe they should have a good life too. I probably can't be talked out of this but if you want to you are welcome to try.)
posted by mermily to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If it's fruit flies, what you do is you keep everything super clean and no food left out until they die, which is usually a few days.

They still die though because they only live a few days anyway.
posted by sweetkid at 7:42 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: If they are in fact fruit flies, then it is super easy to create a humane trap for them that can be taken outside and emptied. Just be ready to commit to emptying it and changing the bait every day, so the flies don't start breeding in there! (And if you are really serious about not killing the flies, do your best to catch them all before winter.)

Take a glass jar with a metal screwtop lid-- a used jelly jar, pasta sauce jar or similar-- and use an ice pick or something else you have handy to poke a single hole in the top of the jar, just big enough for the little flies to fly through. Put a slice of fruit in the jar as bait. I have found that apples, bananas and tomatoes all work well for bait. Make sure you clear away any and all rotten fruit that might otherwise attract them. The flies will fly into the jar to get the fruit. They are not that bright so they will not immediately find their way out again. When you see that several flies are in the jar, put your thumb over the hole and take the jar outside and open it. Compost the bait (in case there are eggs in it), rinse and repeat.

I do this all the time. What can I say; I have a soft spot for Drosophila ever since I bred a bunch of them on purpose in A.P. Bio.
posted by BlueJae at 7:44 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

A friend said he vacuums the air above his indoor for-the-compost pile and says it is effective enough fruit fly control. I wonder if the flies survive the vacuuming? You could try it and quickly empty your vacuum outside?

I think this is kooky, but nobly kooky, and it is certainly taken to greater extremes (search the page for 'insect').
posted by kmennie at 7:46 PM on September 26, 2013

Even easier to use a clear plastic deli container with some fruit scraps (they love tomatoes, bananas, pears, even wine) in the bottom. Cut a tiny 'x' or hole in the top, just big enough to insert a two or three inch section of plastic straw. The flies can crawl through the straw, where all the nice fruit smell is coming out, but can't find it again from the inside. Not that they want to.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:56 PM on September 26, 2013

They are probably laying eggs IN your sink drain. You could pour in some bleach, which should prevent future eggs from hatching, but obviously wouldn't kill the already-hatched flies flying around your kitchen.
posted by belladonna at 7:56 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this meets your definition of humane, but a longer-term solution is to cover the drain with a saucer or tupperware lid. They're hanging around your sink because the drain is a watering hole in the parched savannah of your kitchen.

If you're intent on trapping them, a teaspoon of vinegar or wine on ripe fruit makes an excellent lure. Don't use too much or they'll drown--this is how lethal fruit fly traps work.

A sheet of plastic wrap with a couple of holes punched it works well as a lid.
posted by pullayup at 8:40 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound too simple but it really works: Place a small oscillating fan on the counter and aim it in the general direction of where the flies congregate. They'll disappear. It's that easy. They thrive in still air and hate breezes. General sanitation is important but the fan will get rid of your fruit flies. I promise!
posted by Mr.Me at 8:48 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I really just want to give you a big hug right now. The above suggestions are much better than mine, but failing those, and taking into account possible future issues with other insects: I've found that the tiny ants (that are too small and numerous to make catch-and-release practical) don't seem to mind being vacuumed up with a Dustbuster that is then emptied outside. Certainly harder with something that flies, but if you have a vacuum with one of those long sucky wand things you could try to catch a couple and see if they make it okay. Also, how many flies are we talking about, and what happens if you just don't do anything? This may seem kind of gross, but if there's only, say, 3-4 flies, and they don't increase in number if you just leave them alone, then maybe that would be an option. For several years I tried evicting certain critters like house centipedes, then gave up, and now just shoo them out of the way, and they don't seem to be growing in numbers. My perspective is, what gives me the right to decide if they live or die? Why do I have more of a claim to this house than they do? It's their home too.
posted by storminator7 at 9:38 PM on September 26, 2013

I soak all of my fresh produce in a mild bath of citric acid or "sour salt" which you can find in powder form in the grocery store. Pour the residue down the drain to clear the sink. It eliminates the fly problem, strips the residue off your produce, and cleans the sink, so several advantages.
posted by effluvia at 7:18 AM on September 27, 2013

First off, bless your compassionate heart. Second, thank you for asking this question since I wouldn't feel comfortable directly killing them either and wondered the same thing myself. When fruit fly season struck this summer, I just kept the area as clean as possible, and washed my dishes immediately, and eventually they stopped regenerating. Also I kept the garbage tightly closed. I will use the screw jar idea next year though.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:38 AM on September 27, 2013

I second Mr.Me's recommendation of a fan. However, it will just push the flies somewhere else.

You might try a small butterfly net.
posted by KRS at 3:34 PM on September 27, 2013

Maybe a variation on the DIY "spider rifle", which sucks up the bug so it can be released elsewhere? You'd probably want to cover the holes in the capture chamber with mesh of some sort, since fruit flies are so small.
posted by Lexica at 3:39 PM on September 28, 2013

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