Fruit flies are a common nuisance for many people, especially in warmer summer months. They take up residence in your kitchen, hanging around the vibrant bowl of fruit on your counter (hence the name). However, they often meander into other areas of your kitchen, which is disconcerting at best.
Who wants to be swatting and swinging at flies buzzing in the kitchen while trying to prepare a meal? Not us! So, given their bad rap, it’s no surprise that there’s concern surrounding fruit flies and compost. Are they actually bad for your compost pile? Let’s find out.
What Are Fruit Flies?
Fruit flies are tiny little insects, only about ⅛ of an inch long, that reside near fresh produce, specifically fruit. They commonly plague kitchens in warm temperatures, sending homeowners into a tizzy as they try to get rid of the little creates.
On the plus side, these flies have a short lifespan of between 8 and 15 days. On the bad side, they reproduce. Rapidly. One female fruit fly can lay as many as 2,000 eggs on any moist surface. Those eggs morph into maggots within a couple of days, then hundreds of fruit flies.
So, getting rid of them is a chore, especially considering the fruit itself is how many of these creatures get into your home. Often, the fruit you buy from a farmer’s market or grocery store has fruit fly eggs, which appear out of thin air a few days later.
Generally, you’ll find fruit flies in one of two places: around produce or in and around your sink. There might be miscellaneous food scraps in your sink, including fruit pieces, so they gravitate toward your sink. Or, they might flock to your produce bowl or compost pile.
Do Fruit Flies Ruin Compost?
Composting is a great way to repurpose old food scraps. Instead of tossing them in the trash, where they’ll eventually rot in a landfill, you can use them to create nutrient-rich compost for your garden. However, composting is a process, and one wrong step can ruin it.
Although fruit flies are an unwelcome guest in your home, they’re beneficial for your compost pile. They help break down the organic material in your compost bin, helping the process along. So, while you don’t want them lingering in your kitchen, they don’t harm your compost pile.
Fruit flies are like earthworms – the flies and larvae eat rotting and decaying organic material in your compost bin, and their waste becomes a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Their presence can be a good thing, especially for the decomposition of the organic material in the compost pile.
If you have an outdoor compost pile, you probably don’t need to worry about controlling the population around the pile. However, if your compost pile is indoors, you’ll need to control the issue to avoid a full-on invasion.
How Do I Get Rid Of Fruit Flies In My Compost Pile?
While they are helpful in some scenarios, fruit flies aren’t the best houseguest. They flit around your kitchen, searching for the perfect food and location to lay their eggs. So, before the population of fruit flies in your home skyrockets, it’s essential to get rid of them.
Here are a few tips and tricks to keep the pesky creatures at bay:
Add A Lid
One of the easiest ways to stop bugs from entering your compost bin is to add a lid to the top of the container. Although you might be tempted to leave the lid open while you prep a meal or slice produce, keep the bin shut unless you’re adding something.
Choose a good, secure lid that doesn’t have holes or gaps where the fruit flies could get in. Remember, these flies are tiny, so they can squeeze in small spaces.
Bonus: keeping a lid on the bin will prevent the not-so-nice odors from engulfing your kitchen.
Create A Trap
Drawing fruit flies away from your kitchen isn’t as hard as you might think. Simply create a trap that is too great for the flies to pass up, and tada! Problem fixed. Of course, you might have issues if the flies have already laid eggs, but this is a great way to trap the live flies. You can always leave a trap on the counter to entice the new flies in once they hatch.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Glass jar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dishwashing liquid
- Plastic wrap
- Rubber band
Add some apple cider vinegar to a jar – about an inch covering the bottom of the jar will do. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the jar, which will help disrupt the surface tension. Wrap a sheet of plastic wrap snugly over the top of the jar, then secure it in place with a rubber band.
Poke a few holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick. Set the jar on the counter, and just like that, you have a fruit fly trap. The fruit flies will enter the jar through the tiny holes created by the toothpick. Once they enter the jar, they’ll drown, preventing them from exiting back into your kitchen.
For best results, place the trap next to your compost bin.
If you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand, you can also buy fruit fly traps online. The traps have a sticky substance on the surface, which the flies stick to, effectively preventing them from leaving.
Grow A Few Deterrent Plants
If you have a green thumb, consider growing a few deterrent plants. Fruit flies dislike the smell of basil, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass. Consider growing a few of these plants in pots in your home.
Or, to keep the flies at bay around your outdoor compost pile, plant a few of these plants around the pile itself.
Use Mint Or Essential Oils
Fruit flies don’t enjoy the smell of peppermint, lavender, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. So, use this to your advantage. Add a few sprigs of fresh mint to your compost pile if you have some on hand.
Or, if essential oils are more your speed, add a drop or two of any of those scents on or around your compost bin. For best results, add the essential oils around areas where the fruit flies are most likely to get in, such as around the lid.
If you don’t mind the scent of these essential oils, add a few drops of one of these scents to your diffuser. This works great as a way to keep the pesky bugs at bay.
Move The Bin Into Direct Sunlight
Fruit flies appreciate a warm environment, but they tend to find the area less inviting once the temperature gets too high. If you can, move your compost bin into direct sunlight. This will cause the temperature in the container to rise quickly, effectively killing the fruit fly larvae inside the compost bin.
Bury Produce Well
Fruit flies thrive in compost piles when the temperature is right and the food is plentiful. If you remove or change one of these elements, the bugs will have difficulty surviving. So, if you can’t put the bin in direct sunlight, take away the food source.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add produce scraps to your compost pile at all. Instead of tossing them on top of the pile, bury these scraps with brown material and soil. The composting process will continue doing its thing, as you haven’t disrupted the nitrogen or carbon content.
Without the scraps on top, the fruit flies won’t have anything to feast on. So, they’ll either leave or die.
Avoid Using Boiling Water
Scalding water is a cure for unwanted houseguests, right? Well, while it’ll deter and kill many unwelcome pests, including fruit flies, it can also kill the beneficial bugs in your compost pile. For your compost pile to decompose and break down, it needs beneficial bugs to do the work.
If you kill these bugs, your composting process will come to a screeching halt. Now, you won’t have compost when you need it. So, stick with one of the above-mentioned methods to tackle the problem.