Driving off a Swarm
June 20, 2008 8:45 AM   Subscribe

[InsectFilter] Please help me drive pestilence out of my kitchen.

Okay, here's the situation. I live near a lake that has a very robust insect population this time of year. Up until this point, I've countered this by leaving the spider colony on my back porch alone - their network of webs did a smashing job of keeping my apartment pest-free.

But, a week or so ago, my neighbor left a passive-aggressive note on my door asking that I remove these webs. She's a sweet old lady for the most part, so rather than make an issue of it, I went ahead and stripped away my first line of insect defense. To be fair, there were rather a lot of webs and it wasn't the most attractive sight.

A couple days ago, distressing numbers of tiny flying insects began appearing indoors, favoring the sink area of my kitchen. Their population has done naught but increase, even though I've been removing all standing water from the area, taking the garbage out promptly and generally keeping the area tidy.

I'm not sure where they're coming from - they're small enough that there's any number of ways that they could slip inside, but there's so many that I wonder if there's been an egg-laying in my apartment somewhere. My spider-shield hasn't recovered and I'm not sure that it will.

So how can I rid myself of these invaders? My budget is severely limited, so the obvious hiring of an exterminator is right out. Shit, a can of Raid would be a major investment at this point. The spider webs at my windows used to grow quite thick with tiny bugs, but it looks like they're my problem now. Have any MeFites dealt successfully with such an issue? If so, how'd you win your kitchen back?
posted by EatTheWeek to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
sounds like fruit flies. Make sure you don't have any decaying fruit or vegetables in the kitchen, and clean your garbage dispoasl really well. Also consider putting some bleach and hot water in the drain to try to kill them. They're probably laying their eggs in the slime on the inside of your drain.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:48 AM on June 20, 2008

I wonder if your neighbor has bugs? You should ask her what she does, because if she's been sweeping away her own webs and yet doesn't have any flying critters in her kitchen, she knows something you don't.

Are these bugs fruit flies? If so, the vinegar in the bottle trick will get rid of them, and bleach will kill whatever's in your sink.
posted by iconomy at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2008

Definitely get rid of any possible food source for them. I get fruit flies even when I have very fresh fruit/vegetables in my home, and I've found that sealing the produce that shouldn't be refrigerated (some fruit turns brown in the fridge) into an airtight container keeps the flies out. Empty your trash and clean your trash bin. Sometimes little bits of decaying food will get stuck inside the can but outside the bag.

When you can afford it, you might consider getting a carnivorous plant or two to prevent these problems in the future. I keep a pitcher plant in my window sill. It's only a baby but it's already handling my gnat problem, and it'll stick around longer than a can of raid.
posted by katillathehun at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2008

nthing the above comments, and in addition to that: Wipe your counters, floors, sink, garbage can, and as many exposed surfaces as you can tolerate with a surface cleanser, as often as you can stand to. It need not be a harsh cleaner; the Method ones will work fine, or hot water and a clean sponge if you're really on a budget. The idea is that by cleaning regularly, you remove/kill any eggs that the bugs are laying, preventing them from hatching. Otherwise, even if you kill the ones you see, the new generation is getting ready to emerge. Show no mercy: starve them out, kill the adults, destroy their unborn children.

And be patient. I had a plague of tiny moths in my kitchen when I first moved in. It took a month or two of keeping everything sealed, wiping down the counters and cabinets, and killing any moths I saw, before the problem went away. But now I'm moth-free [knocks on wood]. I know, you didn't say moths, but you're probably right that some egg-laying has occurred, so the principle is the same.
posted by Ms. Informed at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2008

Fruit flies are freakin relentless. You have to leave the traps out for longer than you think, until they are all gone for a few days.

Fill plastic cups with either wine, vinegar or OJ. You can put a few pieces of cut banana in there for extra oomph. Then cover with plastic wrap but poke some holes in it. The idea is that they go in but can't get out.

I've heard that lemongrass oil is helpful for fruit flies. I used it the last time I had a problem, I did this in conjunction with the traps and I got rid of them faster. I bought some at Whole Foods and put a few drops in a squirt bottle with water.
posted by radioamy at 10:36 AM on June 20, 2008

I use flypaper -- you can get a few packs at Walmart for pretty cheap, and they are kind of like spider webs in that they are very very sticky. (I haven't really seen them anywhere but Walmart, so they might be considered kind of tacky or something).
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2008

I suspect the vinegar trick will work best with cider vinegar, less well with wine vinegars, and poorly if at all with distilled. Can anyone confirm or refute?
posted by eritain at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2008

Actually, if they are coming from outside and you live near a lake it sounds like gnats (we used to call them "no-see-ems." These little guys usually hang out above the mud at the edge of the lake, but if it's really hot out, they will make a journey inside. One thing about these guys is that you will never see them flying in a breeze - they only like it when it's still. I would put a fan blowing over your kitchen sink (or out the window by your sink) and see if that does the trick.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:54 AM on June 20, 2008

If they are fruit flies, try a beer bottle (or a clear one if you want to see the carnage) with about an inch of balsamic or apple cider vinegar (or mix them!), a (small) piece of banana or lemon shoved in it, and one drop of dish soap. Then, clean off the lip of the bottle really well, so the only yummy fly juice is all the way in the bottom of the thing (so they'll fly all the way in and not just hang out on the top). Fruit flies are idiots, and will fly down and not know how to fly back up before their little feet get stuck in the soaped water. My roommate and I got rid of all five billion of our fruit flies last year (that happened after we tossed half a grapefruit in the garbage and forgot about it for 2 days). You'll be amazed at how well it works.

I like the pitcher plant idea, too, for backup. Mine ate a lot of wayward gnats at my old house.
posted by phunniemee at 2:59 PM on June 20, 2008

For fruit flies, I've even had pretty good luck with just a custard cup with some apple cider vinegar in it and a couple of drops of dish soap. Don't know how it would work on gnats or whatever from the outside.

(For little sugar ants, spraying everything with plain old white vinegar a couple of times a week works well, but I doubt it would have much effect on flying things.)
posted by leahwrenn at 4:09 PM on June 20, 2008

If they are hanging around the sink, they do sound like fruit flies. Putting boiling water down the drain several times a day is very helpful in getting rid of fruit flies, for sure - they do breed down there. I like that solution better than bleach, myself. And seconding having to seal everything up - keep fruit in the fridge for a few days, or in something secure.
posted by ysabella at 4:45 PM on June 20, 2008

I just had a fruit fly problem and made a trap of cider vinegar and a little sugar topped off with water and a couple of drops of dish soap in a shallow glass jar. Watching the daily carnage collect has been very satisfying indeed.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:04 AM on June 21, 2008

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