By Bev Johnson

Master Gardner

Bunkey and his buddies were having coffee at the Pretty Good Café last week and complaining about the state of the world. Bunkey was being unusually quiet. “What is going on in your house?” asked Al.  “Petunia has her bloomers in a bunch because there are little flies all over the kitchen.” The group consensus was that she probably had drain flies or fruit flies or maybe fungus gnats.

There are 3 kinds of little flies that bug people this time of year. The most persistent are fruit flies. They come in the house as eggs on fruit from the store. They are on the surface of the produce so if you peel or wash the fruit, you will at least reduce the population. The little monsters can lay 500 eggs that hatch in about a week.  They thrive on over ripe fruit and vegetables but will also breed in drains, garbage disposals, mops, and other damp cleaning rags, and even in empty bottles or cans that haven’t been properly washed out.

If you brew your own beer or make wine or can apple juice, make sure the bottles are well sealed. Fruit flies can lay eggs under a loose-fitting cap. The larvae then drop into your bottle. Nothing like having a little protein with your wine. YUK! 

Just one rotting onion or spud hiding under the sink, or a recycling bin full of unrinsed containers, and you are infested. The only cure is to find and eliminate all potential breeding areas.

Check the garbage disposal. Lay a mouse sticky trap, sticky side down over the opening overnight. If you find 2 kinds of flies stuck to it in the morning, you have drain flies and fruit flies. Several gallons of boiling hot water poured down it should remove some of their food source. A homemade solution to try next is put about ¼ a cup or more of baking soda down the drain followed by a cup of vinegar.  If you still have the little stinkers, you need a biological drain cleaner. This eats up the grease, skin cells, hair, and bits of food that the flies feed on. If you have tried everything, checked all over for any food source and still have flies, call a plumber to be sure you don’t have a broken pipe or a leaky sewer line.

If there are flies hanging around your house plants, you now also have fungus gnats. Oh joy. The simplest solution is to let the soil dry almost to the point of the plant wilting. If, after you water, you still see flies, you will need to dump the plant out, wash all the soil off the roots, dump the soil and scrub all the soil off the inside of the pot. Now re-pot with fresh soil and don’t water so much. If the plant is too big to dump, remove as much of the soil as you can without hurting the roots. Scrape as much of the inside of the pot as you can reach then add fresh potting soil. Cover the soil with either chicken grit or aquarium gravel and quit overwatering. Usually, fungus flies don’t damage a plant, that is unless you have zillions of them. Then they can damage the roots of the affected plant.

These flies lay eggs in overly damp soil, then hatch. Keeping the soil a bit on the dry side will usually kill them.

By the way, Petunia found her fruit fly culprit in the farthest corner of the pantry. An onion had fallen out of a previous bag, rolled into a dark corner and turned to slime. It looked like Minneapolis airport back there.