Fruit flies are small insects often found in homes, restaurants, and supermarkets near rotting or fermenting foods. These tiny pests, approximately 1/8 inch long, typically have red eyes and are tan in the front and black in the rear. Female fruit flies lay their eggs on the surface of food or fermenting liquids, which can result in various problems for humans in terms of sanitation and fruit storage.
The life cycle of a fruit fly is quite short, taking around 8 to 10 days to grow from an egg to an adult. During this time, the larvae feed for about 5 to 6 days and then move to drier areas to pupate. This short life cycle enables fruit flies to reproduce faster and in higher numbers, which can lead to large infestations if not managed properly.
Managing fruit flies primarily involves maintaining cleanliness and proper food storage. For example, keeping fruit stored in the refrigerator and cleaning up any spills or rotting food can help prevent the growth of fruit fly populations. Additionally, it’s important to eliminate any larval food and development sites, as these can contribute to the rapid reproduction of fruit flies.
Understanding Fruit Flies
Life Cycle and Lifespan
Fruit flies, also known as Drosophila, have a short generation time, completing their life cycle in about 10 to 12 days (source). The female fruit fly lays eggs on the surface of the food or fermenting liquid. After 5 to 6 days, the larvae crawl to drier areas to pupate (source).
- Size: Fruit flies are small, ranging from 1/10 to 1/5 inch long (source).
- Color: Adults may be dull yellowish, brownish-yellow, or brownish-black.
- Eyes: Most species have red eyes.
Entomologists often study fruit flies due to their simplicity and convenient size (source).
Habitat and Attraction to Ripe Fruits
Fruit flies are commonly found near:
- Rotting and fermenting fruits
- Other moist organic material
These insects are attracted to ripe fruits because of their scent, using their wings to maneuver toward the ideal laying site for their eggs (source). Consequently, proper storage of fruits and other food sources can help prevent fruit fly infestations.
Fruit Fly Reproduction
Egg Laying Process
Female fruit flies lay their eggs on the surface of food or fermenting liquid. This ensures that the developing larvae have easy access to food once they hatch. The female fruit fly can lay hundreds of eggs in a matter of days.
- Eggs provide nourishment for the developing larvae.
- Female fruit flies are the ones responsible for laying eggs.
Development of Larvae
Once the eggs hatch, fruit fly larvae (also called maggots) emerge and begin to feed for 5 to 6 days on the food in their environment. After this feeding period, the larvae move to drier areas to start the process of becoming adults. The entire life cycle takes 8 to 10 days.
- The larva stage is crucial for feeding and growth.
- Larvae, or maggots, are the immature stage of the fruit fly.
Development of Adults
The fruit fly larvae transform into pupae before developing into adults. The adult fruit flies effectively reproduce within 10-12 days, continuing the cycle of fruit fly reproduction.
- Adult bees emerge from the pupae.
- The short life cycle enables rapid breeding and study.
|A few days
|Laid by females on food source
|5 to 6 days
|Feeding and growth
|A few days
|Transformation to adult
|10 to 12 days
|Reproduction and breeding
How Fruit Flies Infest Homes
Entry Points and Sources
Fruit flies are small insects that easily enter homes through windows and doors. They are often drawn to late summer fruits available at grocery stores or other food sources.
- Windows: Fruit flies can enter through poorly sealed or unscreened areas.
- Doors: Gaps or loose screens can allow fruit flies inside.
- Grocery store: Bringing infested fruits from stores can introduce fruit flies.
- Garbage disposal: Unclean garbage disposals attract fruit flies.
For example, a fruit fly infestation might start when you bring home a bag of ripe bananas from the store with fruit fly eggs unnoticed on the surface.
Ideal Breeding Grounds
A fruit fly infestation tends to occur in areas with plenty of warmth, moisture, and food sources. Two main sites include:
- Kitchen: Fruit flies gravitate towards food left out or stored improperly.
- Refrigerator: Spoiled or overripe fruits and vegetables offer a perfect environment for breeding.
- Garbage disposal: Food remnants or unclean disposals invite fruit flies.
- Bathroom: Moist, warm conditions are ideal for fruit flies
- Drains: Unclean drains and buildup provide a breeding ground.
To minimize the chances of infestation, take preventive measures such as sealing windows and doors with screens, cleaning your refrigerator and garbage disposal regularly, and storing ripe or overripe fruits in sealed containers.
|Attraction for Fruit Flies
|Windows & Doors
|Easy entry points
|Use screens, seal gaps
|Carrying infested fruits
|Inspect fruits before purchasing
|Food sources and moisture
|Clean refrigerator and dispose of fruits and vegetables promptly
|Moisture and warmth
|Clean drains and minimize standing water
Preventing and Controlling Fruit Fly Infestations
Food Storage and Hygiene
Proper food storage is essential for preventing fruit fly infestations. Store ripe and overripe fruits in the refrigerator to avoid attracting fruit flies. Keep produce, including vegetables and fruits, covered and sealed. Clean drains and trash cans regularly to eliminate breeding grounds for fruit flies.
- Store produce in the refrigerator: Prolongs freshness and deters fruit flies
- Clean drains and trash cans: Eliminates potential breeding sites
Using Traps and Insecticides
To control fruit flies, use traps, such as apple cider vinegar and dish soap mix or commercial fruit fly traps. Insecticides like FlyPunch can also help, but avoid applying them to produce.
- Apple cider vinegar + dish soap: Simple DIY trap
- Commercial fruit fly traps: Easy-to-use, store-bought solutions
|Apple cider vinegar + dish soap
|DIY, inexpensive, non-toxic
|Less effective than commercial traps
|Commercial fruit fly traps
|More effective, easy to set up
|Can be expensive
Natural Remedies and DIY Solutions
Natural remedies and DIY solutions can help manage fruit fly infestations. For instance, use a fruit fly trap made from vinegar and dish soap. Consider houseplants like basil or lavender, which can help repel fruit flies. Regularly clean moist areas, such as sink drains, to prevent buildup of organic materials.
- Vinegar and dish soap trap: Inexpensive and non-toxic
- Houseplants (e.g., basil, lavender): Natural repellents
- Cleaning moist areas: Prevents buildup of breeding materials
Example of DIY trap:
- Fill a small container with apple cider vinegar.
- Add a few drops of dish soap.
- Place the container near the infested area.
Remember the importance of proper food storage, using traps and insecticides, and employing natural remedies for preventing and controlling fruit fly infestations. Keep your home clean and free of wet, organic materials that attract flies, and make fruit flies less likely to thrive.
Additional Concerns and Tips
Potential Harm to Produce and Health
Fruit flies can cause damage to ripe fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, tomatoes, squash, and melons. The female fruit fly lays eggs on the surface of the food or in fermenting liquid, which can contribute to bacteria growth and the potential spread of pathogens like Salmonella1. Furthermore, these tiny pests can be a nuisance in homes, restaurants, and farmers markets.
To help prevent fruit flies, follow these tips:
- Store ripe fruit in the refrigerator
- Dispose of overripe produce promptly
- Regularly clean kitchen surfaces and cleaning rags
- Use tightly sealed containers for food storage
Expert Advices and Resources
According to Jody Green, an entomologist at the University of Nebraska, one preventive measure to avoid attracting fruit flies is reducing their access to sugar and fermented substances2. Regularly emptying recycling bins and covering compost piles can also deter fruit flies.
For more expert advice and resources on dealing with fruit flies, consider the following:
Comparison Table: Fruit Flies vs. Fungus Gnats
|1/16 – 1/8 inch
|Tan and black with red eyes
|Dark-colored, mostly black
|Fermenting foods, ripe fruit
|Damp soil, potted plants
|8-10 days 3
Practical Solutions for Fruit Fly Problems
To effectively get rid of fruit flies in your living space, consider employing these methods:
- Use homemade traps with apple cider vinegar, sugar, and a few drops of soap
- Regularly inspect and clean damp areas that attract fruit flies, such as drains and sinks
- Utilize pest control methods, like cordless vacuums, to capture adult fruit flies
- Consider using meal kit delivery services that provide pre-packaged, refrigerated produce.
Keep these concerns, tips, and expert resources in mind to prevent and manage fruit fly infestations in your home, workspace, or food storage areas.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Signal Fly from Malaysia
What’s this fly?
December 27, 2009
Came across this handsome fella while staying at a chalet in the Taman Negara rainforest in Malaysia. It was hanging around some fruit I had on the table. Pix were shot yesterday. (Dec 27)
I’m pretty certain it is of genus Drosophila. Would you happen to know the species?
Chan Lee Meng
Dear Chan Lee Meng,
We disagree with your assessment that this handsome fly is in the genus Drosophila, but we do believe it is a Fruit Fly in the family Tephritidae. We do not feel qualified to take the identification any further than the family level, but perhaps one of our readers will be able to supply an answer.
Update: March 30, 2014
A comment has directed us to this link and the correction that this is a Signal Fly.
Letter 2 – Signal Flies from Seychelles
Subject: Fly identification
Location: Grand Police, Mahe, Seychelles
December 3, 2015 12:23 am
Hello! We are currently trying to identify present species within the wetlands on Mahe (Seychelles) and we found these flies on a palm leaf in the forest. Any idea what it could be? Your help will be greatly appreciated 🙂
We are having a bit of a problem identifying your Fruit Flies beyond that we can state they are in the family Tephritidae. Islands often present identification challenges because there is the possibility of endemic species that are not well documented, and there is also the strong possibility of introducing non-native species from distant locations. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide insight into the actual species represented in your image.
thank you for your reply! Even having the family helps us a lot. i am aware that islands to pose certain difficulties identifying species and especially here on Mahe there are a lot of introduced species some of which are morpholocilally quite similar to endemic ones.
Correction: December 15, 2015
Thanks to a comment directing us to one of our own postings, we now agree that this is a Signal Fly in the family Platystomatidae, that is classified along with the Fruit Flies in the family Tephritidae in the superfamily Tephritoidea. We stand corrected.
Letter 3 – Picture Winged Fly
Location: Garrison NY
July 25, 2010 8:30 am
Hello Daniel and staff!
I have been checking your informative site for months now, as I continue to educate myself about the creatures around me. I love your site so much, I am recommending you in my monthly eNews Update! Although I’m in entertainment, which is the focus of my Update, I think it’s important for me to share about respecting the world in which we live.
I moved from New York City to Garrison over a year and a half ago, and am loving being surrounded by nature again!
I’m enclosing a photo for identification.
Thank you for being a steward of the natural world.
(also FYI…you have a typo in your form: ”GeoRgraphic” location of the bug)
Thanks for the nice letter. We can’t think of a better place to profile our site but the entertainment section as we try our best to be bright, witty and charming, and since we have no official science background but for several semesters of college level biology more than thirty years ago. Your insect is a Fruit Fly in the family Tephritidae, and judging by the pointed abdomen, she is female. We searched through the images on BugGuide, and though there were many similar looking species, the patterns on the wings of your specimen don’t seem to exactly match any of BugGuide’s images, though it is entirely possible we missed something. Perhaps one of our readers can provide additional genus or species information. We have forwarded your mention of the typographical error to our webmaster and it should be corrected soon.
Thanks Daniel! 😉 Sometimes the best teachers are the ones with passion…not traditional education! lol
Correction thanks to Karl
July 26, 2010
The wing pattern didn’t quite match because it isn’t a Fruit fly (Tephritidae), but rather a species of the closely related Picture-winged Flies (Tephritoidea: Ulidiidae), probably Idana marginata. Regards. Karl
Letter 4 – Vinegar Fly Relocation
Subject: Thank you
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
August 15, 2012 3:46 pm
Hi to everyone at WTB,
I found out about your site recently, and I was deeply impressed by the kind and tolerant attitude you promote towards the beings we share the planet with! It’s heartening that in spite of the flak you probably get for the sentiment, you stick by it with such resolve.
Anyway, I thought I’d share a little (literally) bug rescue story that happened here around the end of July. We (my parents and I) are happy to have insects and spiders in our home, the latter having become of special interest since I started learning about spiders with the help of BugGuide. My grandparents feel the same way for the most part, but there are still a few things that irk them! We’d been getting complaints about swarms of tiny flying insects in their kitchen and one of their bathrooms. My mom even reported some tried to boldly go where few flies had gone before: up the noses of her and her co-workers as they ate during a meeting being held there! Needless to say, I got pretty curious after that.
It turned out that food was often left out longer than it should have been, which provided a fine environment for the 2.5mm fruit flies. There were lots, maybe more than a hundred, especially in the kitchen! I was saddened when I learned my grandparents had been killing them, so I offered to transport the bunch to our compost, where fruit flies thrive and are in turn valuable food for wasps, spiders, and other visitors.
I setup some containers which I baited with cherries and grapes, and I also put some fruit on the counter. I wanted to photograph the flies to show my grandparents what amazing creatures they are up close. I then left, and returned an hour later to find dozens of flies taking the bait. I quickly covered the containers, brought them to our compost, and released everyone. Within just a few such trips, most of the flies were gone, and I’m sure much happier in their new home.
The included photograph is of one of the flies feeding on a grape I left on the counter. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to shoot any of them from multiple angles. They came and went too fast. I believe they’re in the family Drosophilidae, but beyond that I don’t know. I’ve also posted a shot of a different individual to BugGuide here:
In closing, I should say that while I hope you enjoy the photograph and the story behind it, I’m not asking for an ID on the fly. I know you folks are very busy and don’t want to put any more on your plate. But it’s not everyday that one finds people that genuinely care about ”bugs”, so I wanted to make contact and thank you for running this site the way you do!
This is one of the best letters we have received in quite some time, not only for the sentiment, but also for the depth of the detail that you went into for your explanation. We also have Fruit Flies, or better Vinegar Flies in our kitchen. They flock to the overripe bananas and to the garden fresh tomatoes that begin to turn before we have a chance to eat them. They were tolerated until they discovered the vinegar culture we have been propagating, prompting us to cover the vinegar vat with a layer of thin cloth to keep the buggers out. We believe your fly is in the genus Drosophila as it seems to match this image on BugGuide. We don’t bother to relocate the Vinegar Flies. We just eliminate the food source and they soon disperse or become prey to the spiders and other predators that are welcome in our home and office. We do admit that there is a teeming population in our own compost pile and that the lizards are frequently found in the compost pile feeding on the flies that are attracted. Thank you again for your support and we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award. In closing, we want to compliment you on the excellent quality of your macro-photograph that is wonderfully detailed and puts our own attempts at macro-photography (we really need a better lens) to shame.
Great to hear from you, and thanks for finding the genus. The fly sure
looks like the one you linked to. I never knew they liked vinegar or
were called Vinegar Flies. Very interesting!
We used to have some of these (or related I guess) in our kitchen too,
and we also let them be since their numbers never got very high.
They’ve since disappeared, except for the odd few that occasionally
follow us back from the compost.
I’m very glad you liked the shot and appreciate the compliment. No
fancy equipment is needed though! I used the kit (not a macro) lens
that came with my camera, mounted in reverse, as I do for most of my
bug shots nowadays. One can get some high magnification with very
little expense by reversing lenses.
Letter 5 – Mating Fruit Flies: But What Species???
Daniel, Flies mating, but what kind?
Location: South Pasadena, CA
February 13, 2011 10:01 pm
Hello. I found this couple on one of my roses last week. They stayed there over twenty minutes, and then flew away still in their embrace. Probably annoyed by me. They were pretty small (perhaps 1/4 inch), and I’m not sure I’m seen this type of fly before.
We believe these are Fruit Flies in the family Tephritidae, which is represented on BugGuide. The closest match seems to be the genus Campiglossa, which is represented by several species on BugGuide which notes: “Adult females oviposit in flower heads of plant species in the family Asteraceae. The short, stout larva of Campiglossa live in the ovaries.“
Letter 6 – Mediterranean Fruit Fly in Mt Washington: but is it eating the Olives???
Location: Mt Washington, Los Angeles, California
February 9, 2011
This year I finally had my olive produce olives, however ever single olive was infested with maggots or worms. I saw a couple of these around, and I finally was able to catch one yesterday. I think this may be the same problem i have had w/ my Quince for years. I spray organic stuf, but it doesn’t seem to work, and I treally want to keep organic. I was wondering if this is the med fly or the med olive fly? So I scanned he hell out of it. Any suggestions Obi won?
We thought we might be able to post a photo of the Olive Fruit Fly thanks to your email, but alas, the images of the Olive Fruit Fly, Bactrocera oleae, that are posted on BugGuide do not match your particular Fruit Fly. According to BugGuide: “Introduced from the Mediterranean region to California; recorded first time in Los Angeles in October 1998. So far it is restricted to California, where it is considered a serious pest. It is hoped that a recent (2008) introduction of a hymenopteran parasitoid, Psyttalia cf. concolor will control this pest.” We would deduce that you probably do have an infestation of Olive Fruit Flies ruining your crop, however, the Fruit Fly in your photo might be feasting on another of the exotic and rare fruits you have growing in your Mt Washington garden. Your specimen appears to be a Mediterranean Fruit Fly or Med Fly (see BugGuide) and it is ironic that it has appeared at the start of Governor Jerry Brown’s third term in office since he was governor during the infamous Med Fly eradication of the 1980s. According to BugGuide: “larvae feed and develop on many deciduous, subtropical, and tropical fruits (citrus, peach, pear, apple) and some vegetables, sometimes tunneling through the pulp and eventually reducing it to a juicy inedible mass” and “One of the world’s most destructive fruit pests, and the most economically important fruit fly species. When it has been detected in Florida and California, especially in recent years, each infestation necessitated intensive and massive eradication and detection procedures so that the pest did not become established. [U. of Florida] In California, a state government program releases large numbers of sterile males, which are a not-uncommon sight in some places. A female (they have a visible ovipositor on the rear tip of the abdomen) would be a sign of an infestation, and should be reported immediately.” Given the variety of fruits that may be eaten by the Med Fly Maggots, we would not rule out that the Med Fly has been ruining your olives.
what a cool nice post,I’ll call the ag dept. again, thanks Daniel, and my spelling is sooooo bad. thanks-Rourk
Letter 7 – Mating Walnut Husk Flies in Mt Washington
June 25, 2012
Location: Mt Washington, Los Angeles, CA
We are indulging ourselves because we took some photos of insects while gardening over the weekend and on Monday, and though we have numerous letters provided by readers needing identifications, we decided to post some of our own sightings.
These Fruit Flies were putting on quite a show on the unripe peaches, and we suspected they might be up to no good. The three individuals in this series of photos were getting busy and they seemed oblivious to the camera. It appears that two males are vying for the females attention, and they formed quite a huddle for several minutes until their frenzied activity caused them to fall to the ground. There were at least five individuals in the immediate vicinity of the six or so peaches on our very young tree, but the main mating activity was confined to the three individuals in the photos. Upon doing the research today, we learned that these are Walnut Husk Flies, Rhagoletis completa, a species native to the eastern parts of North America that has become established in California. According to BugGuide, they feed upon: “Walnut husks primarily. It can attack other plants, such as peaches” and it “Damages walnuts, serious pest of walnut orchards.” In Mt Washington, one of our local endangered treasures is the California Black Walnut, Juglans californica, which is endangered due to habitat loss caused by development in the hillsides as well as a new threat, the 1000 Cankers Disease. We can’t help but to wonder if the Walnut Husk Fly might pose a new threat to the survival of the California Black Walnut. We are postdating this entry to go live during the few days we will be out of the office.
Letter 8 – Oriental Fruit Fly from Hawaii
Subject: What is this?
Geographic location of the bug: Hawaii
Time: 03:35 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Just need to know what this is so we can kill it and keep it out of our yard
How you want your letter signed: Thanks
Based on images posted to Wikimedia and Nucleus where it states “Host: Most fruits and fruiting vegetables” and “Highly significant economic damage”, we believe this is an Oriental Fruit Fly, Bactrocera dorsalis. According to Featured Creatures, the Oriental Fruit Fly has been introduced to Hawaii and “The oriental fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis (Hendel), is a very destructive pest of fruit in areas where it occurs. It is native to large parts of tropical Asia, has become established over much of sub-Saharan Africa, and is often intercepted in the United States, sometimes triggering eradication programs.”
Letter 9 – Unidentified Fruit Fly
Subject: what’s this
Location: Denver, Colorado
July 21, 2012 9:40 pm
I can’t identity this bug. Photos were taken in July, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. I’ve seen several of these tiny bugs on the leaves of our sunflowers.
Signature: Mark Silverstein
This is some species of Fruit Fly in the family Tephritidae, but we have not had any luck with a conclusive identification on Bugguide. It does not resemble the images of the Sunflower Maggot Fruit Fly posted to BugGuide, though that would seem to be an obvious choice based on the location where they were found.
thanks for the prompt reply, and for narrowing my search down to the Tephritidae.
Please let us know if you find an identification.
Letter 10 – Unknown Fruit Fly
unknown fruit fly??
In the photos attached are some sort of fly that attacks my artichoke plants. they wander around the artichoke heads and stick their ugly egg laying thing into the creases of the flower head that is trying to grow. then their maggots eat holes (i believe) and ultimately damage the crop. Please help me identify this pest. and any methods i can use to trap them. I want to rid my garden of pests without the use of chemicals. Thanks Bugman.
Fruit Flies in the family Tephritinae, as depicted on BugGuide, often have ovipositors like the specimen in your photo. They also tend to have banded wings which your specimen does not have. We couldn’t locate a convincing match, but we will contact Eric Eaton to see if he has any ideas.
Update: May 22, 2011
In preparing for a lecture at Theodore Payne Foundation, we are finding images that we need for our PowerPoint, and in so doing, we are finding many unidentified insects buried deep in the archive, including this introduced Fruit Fly that feeds on artichokes, most likely Terellia fuscicornis based on BugGuide. The jury is still out whether this is an Invasive Exotic species that will decimate the artichoke crop in California, or if it is a beneficial import that may help control the spread of cardoons in open spaces.
Letter 11 – Peacock Fly from Germany
Subject: Any help
Location: stuttgart, germany
July 28, 2012 11:48 am
any idea what kind of bug this is. its a fly, but it puts its wings upright and walks around…
We have not had any luck with an identification, however, we are filing this under Fruit Flies because that is where we believe it belongs.
Update: July 28, 2012
No sooner had we posted this than Jacob H. wrote in with a comment inquiring if it might be Callopistromyia annulipes, the Peacock Fly, one of the Picture Winged Flies. An image on BugGuide confirms that identification. BugGuide also confirms: “recently found in Europe.” Picture Winged Flies resemble Fruit Flies.
Hello Mr Marlos,
Thanks for the answer, never seen a flying bug put its wing straight up..
Letter 12 – Walnut Husk Fly
Subject: Fruit or deer fly
Geographic location of the bug: Rochester, new york
Time: 09:24 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Green eyes,chestnut body w gold shield,almost, on back .black lines on transparent wings. Looked a bit like a smallish deer fly or a very large fruit fly.
How you want your letter signed: Dip-Teran
This is a Walnut Husk Fly, Rhagoletis completa, one of the Fruit Flies in the family Tephritidae, and it is pictured on BugGuide. According to BugGuide the larval host is: “Walnut husks primarily. It can attack other plants, such as peaches.”