12 Ways to Get Rid of Fruit Flies Naturally

bowl of fruit in kitchen with wooden tools

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

If you see tiny little gnat-like insects buzzing around your kitchen, it's a good chance they're fruit flies. These pesky bugs can be a problem all year long, but they're most common in summer and into the fall. That's because they love ripened fruits and vegetables.

When you bring in tomatoes, squash or other goodies from the garden, an infestation can easily start indoors. They're also quickly enamored with those overripe bananas, potatoes, onion or any other unrefrigerated produce left on your counter or in your pantry. Although overripe fruits and vegetables are their breeding ground of choice, they'll also will breed in anything moist that has some fermenting material on it, such as drains, garbage disposals, garbage cans and cleaning rags. They're also drawn to anything with alcohol or vinegar.

According to Washington State University, adults are only about one-eighth of an inch long, but a female fly can lay 500 eggs in her very short life cycle — which is why they can multiply so quickly. One minute your kitchen is fine and the next, it is overrun with fruit flies.

Here are several ways that you can combat fruit flies once they've decided to invade your home.

Trap Fruit Flies in Vinegar

In a bowl or cup, place a small amount of vinegar at the bottom. (Don't use white vinegar, but a cider variety, such as red wine, balsamic or apple cider vinegar.) If you haven't gone completely zero-waste in your kitchen yet (if you have, cheers!), cover the top tightly with plastic wrap. It may also help to place a rubber band around it to make sure the plastic wrap stays in place. Poke some small holes in the wrap. The flies will crawl in, but they won't be able to crawl out.

You can avoid plastic by rolling a funnel out of a piece of paper and then putting it into a jar filled with a little bit of cider vinegar. Put the trap wherever you've seen fruit flies. You can release them outside once you catch them.

Use a Banana As a Trap

Create the same trap as above with the funnel and the jar, except use a bit of ripened banana or other fruit with or without the vinegar.

Make a Liquid Soap Trap

In a small bowl or cup, mix together water with a couple drops of dish soap and a tablespoon or two of cider vinegar. The vinegar will attract the fruit flies, while the dish soap will break the surface tension on the liquid so they will fall in and drown in the water. You can also use the funnel and jar method to keep everything contained.

Use a Carnivorous Plant

Consider getting a carnivorous sundew plant. Popular with gardeners, these plants trap fruit flies on their sticky leaves and then eat them. In this way, the plants provide an ongoing solution for your fruit fly dilemma.

Remove Damp Towels

wet rag in kitchen sink
Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Don't keep damp kitchen towels or dish rags lying around after they've been used. Try to wash them every day as they can be a breeding ground for fruit flies.

Don't Keep Ripe Fruit on the Counter

person puts old banana in fridge
Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

As fruit ripens and starts to ferment, fruit flies seem to appear out of thin air. Put ripe fruit in the refrigerator and put ripening fruits in paper bags on the counter. The cold slows down the ripening of the fruit and the development of the flies. "As fruit ripens, it degrades, releasing ethanol, which hatches or attracts the flies," Ron Harrison, Orkin Pest Control’s technical director, says. "Washing facilitates degradation, as does a warm room."

Wash the Dishes

dirty dishes in the sink
Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Washing dishes as you use them can help tremendously in cutting down fruit fly breeding grounds. Then they're not tempted to lay their eggs in the gunk that accumulates on the plates in your sink. Don't leave out any cups of water or other liquids either. You want to remove any potential breeding areas, and that can include dirty dishes.

Clean Out the Drain

Cleaning out the drain in your kitchen sink with ice or apple cider vinegar can help as well since fruit flies like to breed in the drain where bits of rotting fruit and vegetables often linger. Running a kitchen fan if you have one may also help keep fruit flies away.

Check for Rotten Produce

It's easy to remember to toss or eat the ripe produce on your counter, but what about those rotting potatoes or onions in the pantry? University of Kentucky Entomology suggests that cracked or damaged parts of fruits and vegetables should be cut off and thrown away in case fruit fly eggs are present in those wounded areas. "A single rotting potato or onion forgotten at the back of a closet, or fruit juice spillage under a refrigerator can breed thousands of fruit flies. So can a recycling bin stored in the basement which is never emptied or cleaned."

Freeze Your Compost

If you compost, you may want to consider changing your habits. Some bugs are great for the compost pile, but fruit flies can wreak havoc as they zip from your pile to your garden, laying eggs in your growing produce. Freezing vegetables and fruits before they become compost kills the flies and their eggs. Churn compost often, and consider hanging fruit fly traps near your compost pile. It's especially important to freeze produce scraps before you take them outside during the in-between months where the contents don’t freeze or decompose quickly outside.

Use Essential Oils

hands place basil pot next to fruit
Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Research has shown that basil can decrease fruit fly attack. Raw basil plants may have a repellent compound; consider placing a basil plant near your fruit bowl or sprinkling basil leaves directly on fruit. Fruit flies don't like strong smells, so try soaking a sponge in lavender oil or placing cedar balls on your counter where you keep fruit.

Wash Incoming Produce

You can unwittingly bring fruit flies home with you from the grocery store on your produce in the form of eggs, so one way to make sure they don't end up in your kitchen is by washing fruits and vegetables as soon as you get home. Most people don't think to wash bananas, for example. But they can be covered in sticky substances from other produce and that can be very attractive to fruit flies. To be really careful, you can even set up a clean bucket outside your house to wash produce before bringing anything into the house.

View Article Sources
  1. Fruit flies.” Washington State University.

  2. Singh, Shalendra Pratap, et al. “Management of fruit flies in mango, guava and vegetables by using basil plants (Ocimum sanctum L.) as attractant.” Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, 2020, pp. 311-314.