Are fruit flies bugging you at home? Or maybe not at the moment, but you might be curious about how long do fruit flies live? Read further to find out!
The Fruit Fly Lifecycle
At one point or another in your life, you’ve probably dealt with those annoying fruit flies buzzing inside your house.
Relative to many other insects, fruit flies have a very short life cycle from egg to adult. On average, if given an environment with warm enough temperatures and food, after the eggs hatch it would take only about a week for the fly larvae to feed, reach maturity, and develop as pupae (pre-adults). Once the adults emerge, it would take about 1-2 more days before they can mate. Therefore, around 8-10 days are needed from the time the eggs hatch to the moment the adult flies can mate. Once the adults mate, each female fruit fly can live anywhere between 1-2 months, or 40 – 50 days, and lay hundreds of eggs throughout its lifespan if given the chance.
If about a week has passed by since you first saw some fruit flies hovering around your fruit bowl in the kitchen, and then all of a sudden you start seeing tons of them appear seemingly out of nowhere, do not be alarmed. Your house could have been invaded by a handful of mating adult flies from outside, which found your home with the perfect conditions for mating.
What then, are these conditions that fruit flies look for to mate and lay eggs?
• Any moist surface with fermenting, organic matter is what you should look out for!
These pesky flies live out their name to a T, since they are named fruit flies for a reason. Decaying, fermented fruit can be considered “heaven on earth” for fruit flies. Do not underestimate the size and simplicity of fruit flies, since they are extremely smart and can pinpoint rotting and decaying fruit from one corner of your house to the other. When we mention “fermented fruit,” we mean that a fruit has ripened to the point where yeast and bacteria are multiplying and actively breaking down certain compounds in the fruit. The byproducts that the microbes release after feasting on the fruit are what really attract fruit flies.
Apart from decaying fruits, fruit flies will go after just about any food that you may have sitting out on the table. If you also have any surface with some fruit juice or stain that is not properly cleaned up, then fruit flies will have no problem feeding off of that as well. Even having window screens may not completely deter fruit flies from entering your house; depending on what kind of screens you have, they may be able to fly through them, or find tiny cracks and crevices you wouldn’t notice in your house.
If you currently have fruit flies buzzing around your kitchen, living room, or an outdoor space, continue reading this article to find out some natural methods you can use to take care of them.
Okay, but why are there fruit flies in my house during the winter?
Since fruit flies are always around during the summer months, have you ever wondered where do they and all of the other bugs go during the wintertime? Unless you live in the southern part of the U.S where the weather is warm year-round, fruit flies and most other insects cannot survive outside in the northern areas of the U.S where temperatures dip below freezing during the winter months.
We know that many animals hibernate during the winter, and some are equipped with warm fur to survive outside. Yet, all insects that must endure the winter months also undergo their own form of hibernation called “diapause,” where they halt their growth by reducing their metabolism and utilize antifreeze molecules inside their bodies. During diapause, insects take shelter underground, inside trees, underwater, and especially inside your home (which offers nice, warm shelter for many bugs).
If you have fruit flies inside your house in the middle of winter (or even in the fall when temperatures begin to drop), rest assured that you are probably not dealing with mutant flies. Fruit flies in the form of un-hatched eggs could have taken a ride on the organic (and even conventional) fruits and vegetables that you bought at your grocery store, where the produce could have come from a warmer part of the world.
The fruit flies you may think you have during the winter may not even be fruit flies, but rather fungus gnats. Don’t confuse the two, since both are flies, but they are two completely distinct species with different lifestyles. You may be dealing with fungus gnats if you overwater your potted plants inside your home.
Why should I care about removing fruit flies from my home before an infestation occurs?
Even though fruit flies can be quite annoying, you may think that they are harmless and won’t cause you any major problems. Be careful though, because fruit flies have been shown to be capable of moving around the deadly pathogenic bacteria E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria from one surface to another. Thus, it is evident that fruit flies can carry harmful bacteria and germs that can make you or a family member sick if you do not carefully sanitize your environment and allow for a fruit fly infestation to take hold.
Thankfully, apart from the possible transfer of harmful microbes, fruit flies themselves have not been found to cause any illness if you happen to swallow them by accident. Of course, it can feel very icky to think that you’ve swallowed a fruit fly when all you wanted was to enjoy your fresh fruits and veggies. Apart from this ick factor, there is no reason to be concerned as long as your immediate environment where you would’ve swallowed a fruit fly is sanitary. However, if you have ever gotten food poisoning and think that maybe fruit flies carrying harmful bacteria could be to blame, consider seeing a medical physician to share your concerns with them, and take the appropriate measures that are described below to eliminate any fruit flies in your home.
How you can solve your fruit fly problems
The key thing that you must do to prevent or get rid of any active fruit fly infestation is to remove all of their breeding sites!
You may think, “well, let’s just not leave out fruits on the counter anymore.” You can still keep your fruits in a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter as long as you make sure to maintain the space around it clean and sanitized to prevent fruit flies from mating and laying eggs in that area. Besides your fruit bowl, the major areas where fruit flies could potentially breed inside your home include the following:
• Trash bins (make sure you take out your trash regularly!)
• Dirty mops, sponges, and clothing
• Kitchen counters
• Sinks and drains
• Food storage areas
• Floors (if there are any food crumbs or juice stains left, fruit flies can come after them)
• Any overripe fruits or veggies that you may have forgotten about that are lying out in some part of your house; you may not see it, but the fruit flies can “sniff” it out
However, even with taking the steps to clean and remove fruit fly breeding environments, these flies may still end up inside your house at some point (especially if you went on vacation and left out some fruits on the kitchen table). Having to constantly clean and check every corner of your house to make sure that these flies cannot get in is a challenge that can drive you crazy if you are determined to make your home free of fruit flies.
Besides cleaning, one of the most popular DIY approaches to resolving a fruit fly infestation is to use a container with two key ingredients: one to attract and another to prevent the fruit flies from escaping. Although there are numerous variations to this trap, the main version often involves adding apple cider vinegar (the attractant), along with dish soap (this prevents the flies from escaping and effectively drowns them) to a container with a narrow opening at the top.
Try experimenting with adding some apple cider vinegar at the bottom of a glass mason jar with a few drops of dish soap. Then, add plastic wrap sealed with a rubber band at the top of the jar. You can poke tiny holes at the top that are small enough for the flies to enter, but be sure they are not too big or else the flies could escape before being trapped. You could also try making this trap with a paper funnel at the top instead of the plastic wrap.
Any time you make this DIY trap, it will be most effective if you place it near the source of the fruit fly infestation. Once you figure out what and where the source of infestation is, you will need to thoroughly clean around that area and all surrounding areas to ensure that no other food sources are available to the fruit flies. Your DIY trap will be useless if you set it up but other food sources are still present, since some fruit fly adults can continue to survive and reproduce.
An even more effective solution for your fruit fly problems
The above solutions can work to reduce the presence of fruit flies if you put in the time and effort to actively maintain the cleanliness of your home and replace any DIY traps that you use. Unfortunately, even common DIY traps like the one mentioned above do not guarantee a complete removal of a fruit fly infestation, since not all of the fruit flies plaguing your home will fly into your homemade trap. You also have to constantly replace and add more apple cider vinegar and soap to keep the trap working.
What would be a convenient solution to this problem then?
Consider Trappify’s yellow sticky traps. These traps are ecofriendly, nontoxic (no pesticides at all), rainproof, and are extremely convenient and effective in trapping the fruit flies in and around your home. These traps work by attracting the fruit flies by a bright yellow color, as many insects are attracted to bright colors, and trapping them with a nontoxic sticky substance that keeps them stuck. However, to make this trap work as effectively as possible, please make sure to combine it with a lure. You can place the sticky trap inside a small jar with apple cider vinegar at the bottom. The vinegar will attract the fruit flies, while the yellow sticky trap will catch all of the flies that try to gain access to the vinegar. Be sure to check out the FAQ if you have any questions or doubts about using this yellow sticky trap.
My personal experience of how I got swarmed with hundreds of fruit flies in the middle of winter, and what I did about it
I wanted to drive home some of the main points of this article through my own experience with fruit flies when I was an undergraduate at Cornell University. If I could go back in time, I wish I would’ve had a trap like that of Trappify’s yellow sticky trap to take care of my fruit fly problem quicker.
As a student, almost every morning I ate a banana for breakfast. Sometimes I would eat bananas in my dorm room and throw away the peels in an open trash bin, waiting to collect enough trash before closing the bag.
I didn’t realize I had major problems with fruit flies until one semester around the beginning of winter and final exam period. During that time, I would come back to my room and recall that I had some fruit flies flying around, but not so many that would cause alarm. However, when I wanted to take out my trash after about a week or so, in horror I was met with hundreds of fruit fly adults swarming right into my face as I lifted up the bag! In that moment I thought,
“where did all of these fruit flies come from if its so cold outside?”
Since fruit flies can develop exceptionally fast, the flies may have already laid eggs inside of the banana peels I was throwing away, and started to multiply while I was busy studying for exams and not taking out my trash frequently enough.
Lesson learned; never leave your trash bin open with rotting fruit for longer than a week; this will save you from getting hit with a big wave of fruit flies in your face!