One of the primary excuses people give when it comes for not composting is the pesky pest known as the fruit fly. If you have ever experienced fruit flies in your kitchen, you know just how frustrating these tiny little insects can be.
It is no wonder then that many people are opposed to kitchen composting simply because they do not want to be burdened with fruit flies in compost piles. This is completely understandable: no one wants to find themselves swatting at fruit flies while trying to prepare a meal!
The indoors should mean an escape from insects; after all, mosquitoes in many areas send us running back inside on summer nights after we have done all the swatting and slapping and burning of citronella candles we can possibly take.
The good news is that kitchen composting does not have to mean you will automatically be infested with fruit flies, and there are some practical steps you can take to keep these pests from invading your composting efforts.
Read on to learn more about why fruit flies invade your compost heap and what you can do to stop them.
What Are Fruit Flies and Why Do They Love Compost?
A fruit fly is a tiny creature (only 1/8 inch long) that can wreak havoc on your home. They are as annoying as gnats or noseeums, and they can send homeowners running from their own kitchens.
The good news about a fruit fly is that its lifespan is only 8 to 15 days. The bad news? A female fruit fly can lay up to 2,000 eggs on any moist surface, and within two days, those eggs turn to maggots and then grow into fruit flies. (We will pause here for a moment for your gag reflex to pass).
If you consume fresh produce, there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of fruit flies in your home because they may travel in ON that produce. It is also possible for a fruit fly to travel in from the outdoors, but chances are greater you unknowingly came home with produce that had eggs on it already.
There are two main areas where you may find unwelcome fruit flies gathering in your kitchen: around your sink or around produce. Naturally, this means they will also be attracted to your compost, which may contain fruit peels, rinds, and other food scraps.
Fruit flies are drawn to the fermentation process occurring in your compost; this is where they will naturally want to lay their eggs.
How much of a problem are fruit flies?
Fruit flies may be annoying, but it’s still important to quantify how much of a problem they are.
These tiny little critters don’t have teeth, and they don’t bite. In the composting cycle, they are considered a primary consumer, which mean they break down compost material (especially fruit acid).
So while they are a nuisance, there are not going to do any harm to your compost – in fact, they will probably help it.
Help! I Am Already Infested….
We will share some great preventative tips below, but if you are searching for a way to rid yourself of fruit flies quickly, follow these steps:
- Put Away Your Fly Swatter! Or stop waving your hands like a maniac because you are never going to “shoo” them all out of your house. You are only going to drive yourself crazy in the process. The only match for fruit flies is your vacuum (or you can also use a shop vac). The suction of the vacuum will kill them, and this will take care of the existing ones quickly.
- Trap the Next Generation. Even after you have vacuumed the flies around you, remember there are more eggs and maggots that will eventually turn into flies. Be prepared to trap them quickly with this simple trick: pour some apple cider vinegar in a small bowl or cup and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the wrap with a toothpick. The flies will be drawn right to the vinegar in this fly trap and will get trapped inside. It may make for an unsightly container on your kitchen counter for a few days, but it will be worth it to rid yourself of the nuisance of fruit flies.
Tips to Prevent Fruit Flies in Your Kitchen Compost Bin
Now that you know how to tackle a fruit fly infestation, we will also cover the easy and practical things you can do to prevent one in the first place. Taking these steps will help you minimize the chances of a fruit fly invasion as you compost.
Composting is a fantastic way to both protect the environment (minimizing the space we use in landfills) and also enrich your own garden and protect your plants from drought or deep freezes by enriching the soil.
Fruit flies should not stand in the way of you doing your part to create a healthier and greener planet, so make sure you follow these simple tips:
1. Put a Lid on It
This may seem obvious but keeping the lid on your kitchen compost bin is the most important thing you can do to prevent a fruit fly infestation. You may be tempted to leave it open as you are prepping dinner and throwing food scraps in but play it safe and open and close it each time you have more scraps.
Make sure your composting bin has a good and secure lid; this is important not only for preventing fruit flies but also ensures your kitchen is not overwhelmed by foul odors in between trips to the backyard to empty the bin.
2. Bury your material
Burying your material in your compost can also help deter fruit flies, as the smell that attracts them has been removed. Aim to bury the food 10-12 inches deep if possible.
3. Mix ‘Browns’ and ‘Greens’
When you think of fruits and vegetables in your compost (“greens”), that is what is attracting the fruit flies. By mixing in some “browns” (this can include some twigs, dried leaves, or straw from your yard and other similar plant material), you will lessen the chances the fruit flies will find their way to the “greens.”
4. Use a Cover Material
You can also use brown materials such as straw, cardboard or leaves to cover your compost. This also helps retain moisture and warmth in your compost, speeding up the process.
5. Compost Some Materials Outside
As the name suggests, fruit flies like fruit – but they particularly like banana skins. If you have compost bins both inside and outside, it may be worth putting the banana peels in your outside bin. You can also dig them straight into the soil.
6. Banana Peel Trap
You also can make use of fruit flies’ love for banana peels to make a trap. The Massachusetts Environment Protection Department recommends the following steps:
- Place a banana peel in a clear plastic container.
- Make three or four holes in the container with a toothpick (a pin should also work).
- Place the container near your fruit bowl or compost bin.
Within 24 hours, 99% of the fruit flies should be in the container.
You can also buy fruit fly traps such as the one below on Amazon.
7. Wrap It Up
Another simple thing you can do is wrap your kitchen scraps in newspaper before you throw them in the compost bucket. As the food starts to break down, the newspaper will help to contain and deter the scent that attracts fruit flies (and it breaks down safely and naturally in your compost pile).
8. Freeze Your Compost
Another great way to avoid fruit flies with compost is to purchase a bin that can be used in your freezer instead of being left on the kitchen counter. If you can spare a little space for it, a freezer compost bin is one of the best ways to avoid fruit flies. Then, when you are ready, you can transfer to your outside compost bin at your leisure.