We don’t know where they came from—they just showed up one night. Maybe some stowaway fruit fly eggs arrived on a bunch of bananas from the grocery store. Or maybe it was a bad idea to let fruit salad sit on the counter while we had a bonfire in the backyard. Or maybe I neglected to empty our compost bucket for a little too long and some of those awful pests with their sense-of-smell superpowers shimmied their way through a screen. (Here’s the right way to compost at home.)
However they got into our house, we wanted them out. Fast.
Then I noticed a pin on my ever-helpful Pinterest feed: Make a Homemade Fruit Fly Trap, it announced. So I did.
My anti-fruit fly campaign became a bit of an obsession. I didn’t just want to make one type of trap, I wanted to try a bunch so I could end the invasion once and for all. I Googled “homemade fruit fly traps” and felt slightly relieved to discover a long list of folk remedies. Obviously I wasn’t the only person to fail at keeping fruit flies at bay. I put the five most popular recipes—all of which use common household items—to the test. I’d noticed most of the fruit flies were hanging out near the vinegars in my pantry (did you know vinegar lasts forever?), so I cleared a spot for the traps on the shelf and let them do their thing for about 12 hours. Here’s how each trap fared.
Trap 1. Rotten Fruit
How to make it: Put some chopped, past-prime fruit in a bowl. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Using a toothpick, poke a few holes in the plastic. The holes should be large enough for fruit flies to crawl in but small enough to keep them from getting out. (Psst: Here’s what to do with all those aging bananas.)
My take: While I was preparing the other traps, fruit flies were already coming over to investigate this one. I was sure it was going to win.
Fruit flies captured: 0 (Seriously! I wish I had put up a pantry cam to find out what happened, but I can guess. Read on.)
Trap 2. Milk + Sugar + Dish Soap + Black Pepper
How to make it: Combine 1/2 cup milk with 2 teaspoons granulated sugar. Heat it on the stove or in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in a squirt of dish soap (this makes the surface of the liquid somewhat sticky so the fruit flies can’t escape) and pour the mixture into a bowl. Crack black pepper over the top.
My take: This was the most frustrating trap to keep tabs on, because I couldn’t tell the difference between specks of black pepper and potential casualties. Luckily, when I dumped out the bowl the next morning, I could see the results.
Fruit flies captured: 3
Trap 3. Balsamic Vinegar + Red Wine Vinegar
How to make it: Combine equal parts balsamic and red wine vinegar in a glass. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, secure with a rubber band and poke a few holes in the plastic (as with Trap No. 1).
My take: Fruit flies sure do like the vinegar bottles in my pantry, especially the balsamic. But for some reason, they weren’t attracted when it was served up in a glass.
Fruit flies captured: 0
Trap 4. Dish Soap + Apple Cider Vinegar + Hot Water
How to make it: Squirt a little dish soap into a glass. Add apple cider vinegar until the glass is one-third full. Let your tap run until the water is steaming hot, then blast it into the glass so a thick layer of bubbles forms on top.
My take: I knew I was on to something as soon as I concocted this trap. The fruit flies that had been hovering around the rotten banana (Trap No. 1) buzzed right over. The bubbles dissipated quicker than I would have liked, so I had to keep adding more water to refresh the bubble layer. However, the fruit flies didn’t seem to mind when the vinegar became increasingly diluted.
Fruit flies captured: 18
Trap 5. Beer + Rotten Banana
How to make it: Put a piece of rotten banana in a jar. Pour in enough beer to partially cover the banana. Grab a cone-shaped coffee filter and poke a small hole in the bottom. Set it on top of the jar, folding the paper over the edges of the jar to hold it in place. (You definitely don’t want to use these amazing local craft beers in your traps.)
My take: This turned out to be a sad waste of beer. When I removed the coffee filter the next morning, there were more living fruit flies than dead ones in this trap.
Fruit flies captured: 3 dead, 5 alive
Trap No. 4 won by a landslide! I was inordinately happy (gleeful, really) to see the death toll mounting each time I checked this trap during the day. But I also think Trap No. 5 has potential. If you’re curious about this method, add a squirt of dish soap to the beer and use the plastic wrap cover method from Trap No. 1. Maybe you’ll have more luck.
Since that first test, I think I’ve perfected the winning trap. As you can see from the photo, I used a juice glass, which meant I had to refresh the bubbles a few times. Later, I tried it in a pint glass. Sure, it uses more vinegar, but the bubbles last much longer, making fruit fly killing a hands-off event.
I also tried this trap with two types of apple cider vinegar: the clear filtered stuff and the raw, unfiltered variety. The latter was definitely more effective, probably because it contains little bits of fermented apple. (Do you know the benefits of eating fermented foods?)
Since the test about a week ago, I’ve kept a pint-size trap in my pantry (I also cleaned my vinegar bottles and have been faithfully taking out the compost). I’m happy to report I hardly ever see fruit flies anymore. But if and when they ever stage another invasion, I know what to do—and now, so do you.