Is it just me, or do fruit flies seem to enjoy our fruit almost more often than we get to? Fruit flies just go bananas over fruits and veggies, and while we go bananas over their presence, today we’re going to dive deep into what fruit flies love to eat – and the scents they are attracted to.
Fruit flies are most commonly attracted to sweet-smelling, sugary, and fermented scents. As a general rule, fruit flies fruits are attracted to ripe fruits and vegetables, but also are very much attracted to rotting and the carbon dioxide fermenting foods. Fruit flies are also attracted to damp scents and areas.
With their strong sense of smell, and love for all-things-sweet and damp, fruit flies are commonly seen throughout your home. To find out more about what fruit flies are, why they’re in your homes, and what they are attracted to – keep on reading!
Why Are There So Many Fruit Flies in my House?
So first things first, what exactly is a fruit fly and why are so many in your house? We all know them to be this nuisance pest that comes around far too often, and be that as it may, they are a type of fly that feeds on sugary and fermented substances.
Fruit Flies are extremely small flies that feed on sugary and fermented substances and are seen throughout the world. They breed in moist areas and can lay up to 500 eggs at a time. A fruit fly is the stereotypical unwanted visitor, that loves to visit all year round.
You never just see one fruit fly in your house, it’s always as if a whole family, with all their distant cousins, came to visit – and believe me, we’re not in the mood for that sort of company.
The reason – once one fruit fly appears, that one fruit fly alone quickly finds a surface to lay eggs, and within 30 hours, can hatch up to 500 eggs. As bone-chilling as it sounds, fruit flies hold truth to the meaning of mi casa, es su casa, and firmly believe that your food, is their food.
As small as fruit flies are, with their ⅛ inch long bodies, their presence is never minimal. When there is one, there is a ton, and it’s because of their enormous reproductive capabilities. Fruit flies can be seen in your fruit, in your vegetables, and in your nightmares – but seriously, they can even show up in cleaning supplies and damp areas around your home!
Fruit flies are most commonly seen in the kitchen of our homes, but the thing is, anything that has any sort of fermentation is all that is needed for them to breed.
It’s not uncommon for fruit flies to be seen in garbage disposals, garbage cans, mops, and mop buckets, and even in empty bottles – as any leftover residue from a sugary drink or juice is enough!
Why Are Fruit Flies Attracted to Rotting Fruits and Vegetables?
In essence, fermenation is the breakdown of sugars in organic material that causes the release of (CO 2).
Fermentation is the process that naturally occurs when foods start to break down and turn into sugar and carbon dioxide. However, fermentation also occurs purposefully as a process to create certain foods like cultured milk and yogurt, yeast based drinks, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
Now, why do fruit flies obsess over fermented foods? According to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, fruit flies are actually attracted to the carbon dioxide that is released when food is fermented. Because sugary foods do eventually ferment and release carbon dioxide, that’s why it’s a fruit flies’ food of choice.
The Foods, Fruits, and Scents Fruit Flies are Attracted To
The things fruit flies are attracted to are really one-size-fits-all in terms of fermenting. If it’s fermented, a fruit fly desires it and it’s going to lay its eggs and get on with eating!
I mean listen, we all have our fav. foods, but for fruit flies, it doesn’t stop at fermenting foods. They are also wildly attracted to moist areas and oftentimes, breed in these wet locations.
Think overripe fruit, think yeasty foods, think fermented or cultured foods. Also, think wet and sludgy. Basically, anything with a “thick” texture can and will attract a fruit fly. For instance, the peel of a fruit, or the slimy mess that happens when fruit begins to rot, or the sludgy mess of wet, damp spaces.
Keep on reading to find out about specific foods, fruits, and scents that fruit flies go absolutely crazy for!
If you’re interested in repelling fruit flies, you can read our guide to the scents that fruit flies hate here.
Sugary Scents & Foods Attract Fruit Flies
First and foremost, sugary scents attract your fruit flies and are the most common attractant when it comes to fruit flies. Most commonly found in fruits that are going bad. The sugary aroma is enough to attract a fruit fly, have it lay its eggs, and for the infestation to begin.
Sugary scents attract fruit flies, but it doesn’t only have to be your fruits that attract them. Fruit flies can be found on candy, candy wrappers, dessert items, and baked goods. A little bit of sugar within a food, fruit or scent, is all a fruit fly needs to be attracted to.
Sugar is addicting – so it’s no wonder why fruit flies love it almost as much as we humans do.
Fruit Flies Love the Scent of Yeast
Another scent that fruit flies absolutely adore is that of yeast. But what exactly is yeast and what foods is it in?
Yeast is actually a fungus, and it’s used often in food production. Yeast is primarily found in baked goods, and your favorite drink, as it helps gives the food product the taste and texture. Yeast is found in malt beverages, baked products, berries and grapes, cereals, soy sauce, and miso.
Yeast is found in a ton of different foods and drinks, and because of this, fruit flies can be attracted to all of the above.
Fruit Flies Love Bananas
It’s completely bananas, how much fruit flies love this sweet, yellow fruit. Believe it or not, one reason that fruit flies love it so much is actually because it is essentially one of the most common, everyday, household fruits.
Bananas just always seem to be in our kitchens, and because of the popularity, we see it as a fruit flies favorite fruit.
Have you ever wondered why a banana is so different from all our other common fruits – not juicy, and different textured? Well, Bananas are actually an herb, and the peel of the banana is actually the fruit. You learn something new every day.
The inside of a banana is comparable to ginger, and the peel is the part of the banana that contains the seeds, making it the fruit.
Whatever a banana truly is classified as does not make a difference to a fruit fly. When rotting, a banana has one of the sweetest smells, even if it’s really not attractive to humans. And that’s all you need to attract a fruit fly – a sweet, rotting, strong smell.
Fruit Flies Are Attracted to Mangoes
Mangoes are another fruit that fruit flies cannot resist, in fact, there are actually mango-prone fruit flies that have their own classification! Ceratitis Cosyra is the name, and eating mangoes is their game. Mangoes are super sweet, and super juicy, and super sludgy when rotten.
Mangoes are a tropical fruit that turns a beautiful golden-red color when ripe. They are stone fruit, which means that they have a large pit in the middle. Fruit flies are extremely attracted to the sugar in mangoes and begin to breed and multiply near mangoes once they ferment.
Mangoes are one of the scents that fruit flies love. It’s not even so much the fruit itself that attracts them, but the scent itself. Want to keep fruit flies away from mangoes? The best way is to simply hide them because if there’s a mango around, a fruit fly will find it.
Fruit Flies Love to Eat Watermelon
To be honest, this doesn’t come as a surprise, right? We know fruit flies love sugary sweet scents and fruits, and we know they love damp, moist areas – so the watermelon is more like a watermelon Heaven when it comes to fruit flies.
Watermelon is from a flowering plant and grows on vines. The green, pink, and black speckled fruit is something we’ve all grown to know and love – especially during those hot summer BBQs. Fruit Flies are extremely attracted to the sugar in watermelon when it begins to ferment.
Watermelon with its hydrating properties and sweet-tasting slushy goodness is truly an all-inclusive resort when it comes to what fruit flies are attracted to. And believe me, they will take a vacation in your watermelon.
Carbohydrates in Bread Attract Fruit Flies
As mentioned previously, yeast is one of the scents that fruit flies go crazy for, so it’s no wonder if you see fruit flies near your bread. Whether it’s Italian bread, pita bread, or a hamburger bun – think of white bread as the biggest attractant.
White bread, a typically sweeter tasting yeasty bread, is like nectar of the gods when it comes to something a fruit fly loves. The high amounts of sugar, and the process of fermentation that occurs when the bread starts to break down, is what attracts a fruit fly to it.
Damp Mops Are Breeding Grounds for Fruit Flies
Wait, what? Aren’t fruit flies only found on fruits – I mean that is their name? Fruit flies are actually not only found on fruits, but on many occasions, can be found in your cleaning supplies like mops, and mop buckets.
Fruit fries love damp areas that stay moist, and our cleaning supplies, unless dried to it’s fullest, become the perfect spot for fruit-fly breading. It’s damp and warm. If you ever wonder where all these fruit flies came from in your house, it would be a good idea to check your cleaning supplies to see if they had bred in your mop before attacking your fruit.
Other cleaning supplies that fruit flies can be found in are our wet sponges, wet rags, brooms, inside your vacuums, and leftover buckets that may have residue. Brooms and vacuums especially can have fruit flies if you had cleaned up a food mess, and didn’t clean the tool properly.
Fruit Flies Are Attracted to Your Garbage and Garbage Disposals
All a fruit fly needs to be content is some rotten and ripened food or fruit. The location does not have to be pretty! If you throw out old food, the smells can be so strong that a fruit fly will be drawn to your garbage. Not necessarily attracted to the smell of garbage as a whole, fruit flies are attracted to the specific sweet-smelling rotten fruit inside.
Leftover food particles in trash cans and garbage disposals are enough to attract a fruit fly. When they find the food, they will lay eggs, and once the larvae hatch, the babies will start feeding. Fruit flies can lay up to 500 eggs at one time. Once you see fruit flies in your garbage, it’s important to dispose of the bag.
As mentioned, fruit flies love the sludge and love fermentation. Not thoroughly cleaning a trash can or garbage disposal can lead to a thin layer of fermenting food particles, which is all a fruit fly needs.
How to Prevent Fruit Flies Long Term
If you are having a fruit fly problem, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are ways that you can prevent them, and it simply comes down to one thing – sanitation.
One extremely interesting note on fruit flies is that they literally hardly sleep. It’s kind of ridiculous. You can learn more about how fruit flies survive on little sleep here.
Keeping Surfaces Clean
Keeping surfaces cleaned is a great place to start when it comes to preventing fruit flies. It’s sometimes hard to see a residue build up on our surfaces, especially in our kitchen, so wiping down countertops and tables, and areas where food is prepared, will help keep fruit flies away.
Drying Your Cleaning Supplies
After cleaning with water or a product, it’s always best to wipe down and dry the cleaning tool. Empty the vacuum canisters, ring and let to dry the mop, empty any buckets that had water or chemicals in them. Throw wet rags in the wash, and then letting them dry will leave no damp spaces for fruit flies to breed.
Throw Away Overly Ripened Fruit or Vegetables
Listen, we all forget to throw away fruits and vegetables sometimes, and honestly, sometimes the fruit flies are the only thing that makes us realize that a fruit or vegetable has gone bad. Being a little more cautious and checking in on your fruit after a couple of days of having it can help you get ahead of the game and prevent fruit flies.
Tidy-Up Garbage Disposals and Trash Cans
If you are throwing these rotten foods away or down the disposal, it’s good to keep them tidy afterward. Take the garbage can outside and use a garbage bag to keep the food in the garbage can. And rinse out your garbage disposal if you do use it to get rid of your food.
However, if you do notice an infestation in your garbage disposal, check out this Natural Fruit Fly and Drain Fly Gel Treatment, that may help your issue.
Keep Your Bread in a Box
They make bread boxes for a real reason! Yeasty bread like white bread, can attract fruit flies, and sometimes even other insects. The yeast and the sugar make it a fruit-fly-preferred breeding ground, and especially when it starts to go moldy, fruit flies will be all over it. Keeping your bread in a box, or tightly sealed, will help prevent these pesky flies.
If you’re interested in a bread box – check out this Simpli-Magic Bread Box.
Put Baked Goods Away
When we bake, we sometimes leave the pan of brownies in the oven for all to share – however, leaving those brownies can definitely create a fruit fly infestation. After you bake, be sure to wrap and seal the baked goods when you are done eating them. Being some of the most sugary foods out there, these are sure to attract some unwanted fly guests.
If you’re looking for a good way to store foods and baked goods – check out this Food Saver sealer.
Basically, the things that attract fruit flies can sometimes be the things we love too. We all have cravings for sugars, we all like baked goods, we all appreciate a clean home, and we all appreciate a juicy fruit or vegetable.
The problem that occurs is when we let these things go, and forget to tidy up, or we forget to dispose of the foods that are no longer good. But it’s okay, because the truth is – we all deal with fruit flies from time to time, and as annoying as they are, to get rid of them is quite simple and sanitation is the key.
Christenson, L. D., & Foote, R. H. (1960). Biology of fruit flies. Annual review of entomology, 5(1), 171-192.
Willison, R. S., & Dustan, G. G. (1956). Fruit flies and fungal wastage in peaches. Canadian Journal of Agricultural Science, 36(3), 233-240.
“Fruit Fly Trap Instructions.” Fruit Fly Trap Instructions | Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/fruitflytrap.shtml.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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