Trash bugs - halp
October 14, 2022 10:24 PM   Subscribe

I moved into a new apartment a couple months ago and though I keep the kitchen in a pristine state by never cooking anything and throwing out my takeout containers immediately after eating, my trash is infested with these bugs.

There aren't any dirty dishes in the sink and I take the trash out every couple days but these bugs are swarming in the kitchen every day. My work desk is in the "dining nook" next to the kitchen and they fly around me every day. I swat bugs while I'm in Zoom meetings. I'm swatting them right now.

How do I get rid of them?
posted by bendy to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They look like fruit flies to me. Their eggs are already on fruit when you buy it at the store - you can cut down on this by washing fruit with a brush and maybe fruit soap as soon as you bring it home. There are fruit fly traps as well. They're way more common in warm weather though so if it's cooling down where you are they'll probably start chilling out.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:49 PM on October 14, 2022

Response by poster: Fruit has not entered my home.
posted by bendy at 10:54 PM on October 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: DIY traps, and also check the drains.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:56 PM on October 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Rinse all food residue off your takeout containers with hot water before tossing them. Vinegar flies are attracted by the scent of acetic acid that forms on food scraps as they begin to break down, which two days is plenty of time to let them start doing.

Basically, if sticking your face into your trash container and taking a good deep sniff is an idea that makes you go ewwwww, then your trash container is being operated in a way that's going to attract insects.
posted by flabdablet at 11:04 PM on October 14, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I've been plagued by fruit flies for the past few weeks. What's really worked for me is a concoction of beer -- just a little in a shallow bowl, preferably light coloured -- with a squirt of dish soap and some apple cider vinegar. Cover the bowl tightly with cling wrap, and then poke some narrow slits in it with the tip of a knife. My flies are booze hounds. After the first go 'round I tried replacing the beer with orange juice, and it didn't fly (heh). The current experiment is with white wine. It's much better than the OJ, but not as effective as the beer. Good luck, I hope this helps.
posted by kate4914 at 11:50 PM on October 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: These are fruit flies. Fruit flies do not require fruit--they love a potato or an onion as well as the next fly. Make a trap using cider vinegar, disinfect your trash can, and clean your dishwasher and garbage disposal.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 2:02 AM on October 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I got this tiny dishwasher just a week ago and I don't have a garbage disposal.

I appreciate the chemistry answers and will stop thread-sitting now.
posted by bendy at 2:31 AM on October 15, 2022

Best answer: Those things once you get them do survive on almost anything that resembles food. They (like drain moths) will live and lay eggs in the scum in your drain. The best way to get rid of them is to boil a big pot of water and pour it down the sink fast enough so that there is very hot water draining out of the sink for a while, cook the eggs. Just a full sink of hot water and bleach also works. Need to kill the eggs in the sink if they are there.

Catching is as above, beer, apple cider vinegar works well. The dash of dish soap is is a surfactant, which reduces the surface tension of the liquid and makes it much easier for the little nasties to touch the liquid and drown instead of being able to climb out. The plastic on the surface with slits or holes is just a common trap type for little dumb critters. They get inside by smelling out the way to get to the good stuff inside, but once in, are too stupid to find the way back outside. Another common trap is a jar with some ACV in the bottom and a funnel in the mouth. Many find the way inside, few find the way back outside. (I used to catch birds like this as a kid....) It's also the way Japanese Beetle traps work.

If you have little trash, you might want to get some really small bags (like vegetable bags or tiny bathroom/bedroom trash can bags) for any sort of foodstuff that you can twist up and close like a bag of bread and toss every couple of days. Leave the bigger can for the rest of the fully not food like trash.

I feel your pain, get them myself once in a while, also pretty much have no fruit in the house. They make their way in through the door or the like. Just sorta like a random infestation thing.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:05 AM on October 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I use my kitchen intensively and it is almost never pristine. I have occasionally had a problem with fruit flies, but not since I got some nice kitchen spiders.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:36 AM on October 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

Start routine maintenance for drain flies (and to start with you should do every non-toilet drain in your house including bathroom sink and bath/shower) with a long run of your hottest water. You want the drain sludge to heat up and then be moved away, so if your hot tap water isn't blazing hot just run it for 5 minutes and then follow with a drizzle of Dawn onto the sink/shower surface and washed down with the pot of boiling water.

I have found that some areas tend to draw large outdoor concentrations of some kind of gnat-like bugs, so it might be worth checking carefully around all your outdoor-facing windows and doors to see if you've got enough of an air leak that bugs might come in. You'll want those sealed against leakage anyway.

Final layer of protection is a lidded trash can. I prefer a serious no-touch lidded step can, I personally swear by the SimpleHuman brand, who easily replaced a cracked lid on my 10+ year-old model for $20 and free shipping.

One last thing, though, since you say you just moved in a few months ago: get down with a flashlight and check the deepest recesses of your cabinets for the bag of potatoes or onions the previous owner left.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:10 AM on October 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Those are fruit flies.

I got rid of an infestation through a combo of Terro traps, a bug zapper, cleaning my garbage disposal with biocleaner, throwing out all trash on the regular, and leaving no dirty dishes out AT ALL. I also vacuumed up colonies whenever I found them (they tend to congregate on cabinets or on nice damp things like mop heads) which was oddly satisfying.

After a couple weeks: no more fruit flies.

As a bonus, before it died (being a cheap model from Amazon) the bug zapper also killed random mosquitoes that got into the house.

A friend of mine had a similar problem and decided to forgot the above tactics and just call an Orkin guy.

Good luck!
posted by Crystal Fox at 10:07 AM on October 15, 2022

Oh yeah, you can absolutely hang a bug zapper inside, and it does work - we had one for years in our last kitchen because it was by the dog door to the back yard and there was always something flying around in there. There are tiny mini battery/rechargeable ones, and I have one of those for putting in my tent when camping to clear out any adventurous mosquitoes, but they're not as effective with gnat-type flies as the bigger zappers.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:57 AM on October 15, 2022

Does your kitchen trash can have a lid that closes securely? My issues with fruit flies mostly went away after I switched to one that did (one of the kinds that has a lid opened by a foot pedal), and I haven't needed to bag food waste separately or anything. Admittedly, my issue was less severe, so ymmv.
posted by Aleyn at 12:31 PM on October 15, 2022

Some of the responses are talking about drain flies and gnats, however, your picture is very clearly of fruit flies (Drosophila).

I take old peanut butter jars, put about 1/2 of cheap white vinegar at the bottom, and then stuff them with banana peels, bits of pear, tomato, or whatever other fruit waste (The fruit is optional, really--the vinegar should be enough). Cover the mouth of the jar tightly with cling wrap, and poke 3 holes with a pencil. Set the jars near to where the fruit flies like to congregate. They'll find their way in by smell, but they're very unlikely to find their way out. This will greatly reduce the numbers of them that wander about the house. Every 5 days or so, dump out the jar (outside of the house) and reset the trap.

During pear/tomato season, they can get a bit thick in the house. If there's a spot where they congregate, I might take the attachment off the end of the vacuum cleaner wand and suck as many as I can out of the air. Very satisfying.

If a bug zapper relies on light to attract the victims, then it probably won't work on fruit flies. They're attracted to rotting food, not light.
posted by polecat at 1:03 PM on October 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

In general, do not put any food or food residue in the trash until right before you're ready to take it out. I have a food scrap bin in the freezer for this purpose. You could repurpose a big takeout container or two to use as a food scrap freezer bin.
posted by wondermouse at 1:21 PM on October 15, 2022

I had these when I moved into my current place. The thing that solved it was pouring boiling water down the drain. Vinegar traps helped narrow down where they were coming from (I put a couple traps in different rooms; at first I wasn't sure whether they were coming from the bathroom or the kitchen).
posted by panic at 5:39 PM on October 15, 2022

Response by poster: boil a big pot of water

TIL that my one of stove burners doesn't work.
posted by bendy at 8:48 PM on October 15, 2022

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