Fruit fly trap

I was faced with a familiar problem in my kitchen yesterday: every time I touched my counter-top pile of ripening produce, a swarm of fruit flies rose from the mountain like a flock of startled birds. Since we were expecting friends for dinner, and swarming fruit flies wouldn’t add much to my tablescape (ahem), fast-action was in order.

I don’t remember where I first saw this ingenious, inexpensive, and chemical-free method of ridding your kitchen of the tiny beasts. The first time I put it in action, it didn’t really work — you have to take efforts to get the parts and pieces just so. But when you do, it’s amazing how well it de-bugs your workspace.

It’s not the prettiest contraption, sitting on your counter, but I usually put mine out at night, and let it work while I doze. Or, in the case of yesterday, I put it out at about noon, and by 3pm there was nary an airborn fly to be counted.

Your kitchen will be fly-free until you bring in another load of fruit that has them hidden within. Then they’ll multiply, and you have to set the trap again. I’ve done it about half a dozen times (once, back-to-back, for an especially rowdy crowd) over the course of the summer.

  • Take a jar (I use a quart-sized canning jar) and put a little cider vinegar in the bottom — about a 1/2 inch will do. Then add a piece of banana (at least a couple inches long, to attract the flies).
  • Make a funnel with a recycled sheet of paper (say, the list of wanted addresses for your upcoming 20-year high school reunion… I figure if the reunion committee can’t find someone, chances are that person does not want to be found). The object is to make a pretty small opening at one end, and allow the opening to very closely hover above the banana. Tape up your funnel to hold its shape.
  • Place the funnel in the jar, and tape the top edges of the jar to the funnel, creating a seal all around.
  • Set it near your fruit, or wherever your flies are hovering.

The flies will eventually meander toward that scent of ripe banana and vinegar, and being intoxicated with the promise of sugars, will fly into the funnel. Once there, they get their fill — but can never find their way out of the jar.

After a few hours, your jar will be full of confused fruit flies. It’s kinda sad, actually.

But not so sad that you have trouble sticking the whole contraption, as-is, in your freezer. The flies, vinegar, everything will freeze. You then let it thaw out, dump the bug graveyard, and wash/reuse the jar.

9 thoughts on “Fruit fly trap

  1. We had some luck with a similar contraption, except instead of paper we used a piece of plastic wrap (or something like the plastic bag material from a food container + rubber band) with a few small holes cut with the tip of a sharp knife. I’ve never tried your method though, so I don’t know whether it’s more effective–seems like it could be with the funnel concentrating the bait aroma, but there’s also a decent chance that I won’t be able to find any tape!

    Btw, I love the tags on this post. One usually only gets to pick two of the three.

    1. Ah, yes. Tape can be elusive. It’s probably in that drawer.

      Your way sounds like it could be more easily hidden — a smallish jar, nestled away, rather than an attention-grabbing paper cone.

      Maybe you could do a comparison, and graph the results?

  2. you know, i have battled this problem for years, and just this summer found what has been for us a real solution. not the same fun as a do it yourself project, but for the lazy among us (me), there is a nifty and hardly noticeable little thing you can buy (i got mine at the local hardware store) that is basically the same idea and also non-toxic (works with a vinegar solution). it’s shaped like an attractive little piece of fruit and also has a cone contraption in it–you just set it amidst your produce and–the best part–it really does last for up to six weeks. i’m only on my second one of the summer, and we are almost fruit fly free, though the liquid is disturbingly full of dead flies. here’s an example

    1. Perfect! This is exactly the type of thing that you would run into only at a local hardware store, or maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond (a place where the “beyond” ventures to the bizarre).

      It was fun for the kids to help and see our bug trap in action, but maybe next summer we’ll “graduate” to the attractive, unobtrusive piece of fruit.

  3. Hey Katy – Gretchen sent me this link after book club because I had a fruit fly frenzy – trying out the contraption – will let you know how it works. Hope things are going well for you. Would love to see pics of the kiddos.

    1. Well, I’m waiting — do you have lots of dead flies in your jar?
      If you want, I’ll send you a link to more pics of my kids than you ever wanted to see…

  4. A little late on the discussion here, but we’ve tried a few methods as well. The jar is a good one, but the one I like the best goes like this: place some fruit, a small cup of apple cider vinegar, or some beer on a cookie sheet in the oven and leave the oven open overnight. Shut the oven first thing in the morning, crank up the heat and watch them roast. Hope you guys are doing well…say hello to your jerk husband for me.

      1. 1) They like beer, just like all intelligent creatures. But, of course, it’s better to waste fruit or apple cider vinegar.
        2) No…most are on the cookie sheet, which you can wash. There might be a few random carcasses, but they soon disintegrate.

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