The Infestation

This is the post in which I will admit to something that may, seen in certain ways, make me and my roommates sound like dirty, dirty girls. But I believe this problem is common. People of the world, listen to me! An infestation has occurred! The fruit flies… they’re baaaaaack.

I got a wonderful letter in the mail a few months back (through my Letters in the Mail subscription with The Rumpus), in which a poet included a new poem he was working on about fruit flies. In the poem, he stresses the importance of cleaning the kitchen, of tracking down every grape that falls on the floor and rolls beneath the refrigerator, every bagel crumb that brushes to the floor, so that we see our food less as food and more as potential breeding grounds for them.

You know who they are. Those small, bumbling little flies that show up in late spring, early summer, once we’ve begun eating the season’s best, sweetest produce – the berries, the watermelon, the tomatoes. We have been lulled into a false sense of security during the winter months, and we have forgotten the reign of terror from last summer, when you could walk into the kitchen and see a miniature swarm rise up from the trash can, the recycling, the fruit bowl, to greet you upon your entrance.

The fruit fly is common, and I learned today from the always-reliable Wikipedia that fruit flies are commonly used to test out genetics and life history evolution because these flies are easy to care for, breed quickly, and lay a lot of eggs.

I know, right? LOTS of eggs. They land on your tomato, your loaf of bread, and they just start laying eggs so more of their dumb little friends can join them and take over my kitchen.

Fruit fly trap: white zinfandel, banana, and a few drops of dish soap.

I have issues with bugs. And only certain ones, really. There’s a spider living in my bathroom that I happily greet when I see it. It’s sort of big, keeps to itself in a corner by the window, and I’m convinced of its value to me because spiders eat other bugs. Roaches, I can’t abide. Ants send me into a fit of rage that is startling to those who know me. And fruit flies. Oh, fruit flies. I become a soldier in the face of fruit flies. I declare war, and I target their one weakness:  their epic hunger.

Fruit flies, you see, are drawn to sugary things. Cups of coffee left sitting out, wine in the bottom of your glass, beer bottles left out without being rinsed, ripe bananas, oranges that are turning mushy, tomatoes. They land, feast, lay eggs, and move on to the next tasty sugar dreamworld. And so, I attack them where they are weakest by setting fruit fly traps.

During last summer’s campaign to end the fruit fly tyranny in my kitchen, I sought out help from the Interwebs and found several message boards that listed various methods for exterminating fruit flies. Some called for chemicals, but since this is my kitchen we’re talking about, I wanted to go the chemical-free route. One person suggested putting a ripe banana in the oven overnight with the oven door open, and in the morning, quickly closing the door and turning the oven on, baking the flies. You’re left, then, with an oven full of flies and gloopy baked banana. Eww.

The aftermath

So I went another route, a combination of suggestions:  I set out a bowl containing a little bit of wine (balsamic vinegar works too) combined with a few drops of liquid dish soap. I add a piece or two of very ripe fruit, and then I cover the whole thing with plastic wrap, securing the sides with a rubber band so that there is a tight seal. I then use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the plastic wrap. And then I wait.

In times past, I’ve gotten maybe half a dozen fruit flies in the trap. They fly in, sniff around, snack on the banana, drink the wine, and then they die. They can actually get back out (I watched one crawl back out of one of the holes), but usually, they won’t. They’ll stay where the food is (provided you haven’t left anything more tempting out on the counter or floor – a deep clean is essential). This go-round, my trap has caught over a dozen little flies.

Perhaps it’s harsh, an unkind war waged against flies. Perhaps it actually does make me look like a dirty girl with a dirty kitchen. But in my experience, once those flies wear you down, all-out warfare is essential. Once you’ve cleaned the floor, bleached the counters, taken out the trash and recycling, cleaned the trash can, thrown away coffee grounds, and searched for every possible breeding ground in your kitchen, and you still have flies, something has to be done. And a good old fashioned fruit fly trap is the way to go. Sure, it looks gross. But you know what they say:  all’s fair in love and (fruit fly) war.

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