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Easy Way to Control Fruit Flies Naturally

September 08, 2008

It’s September. Our edible gardens are overflowing. Delicious, sun-ripened tomatoes and peaches and melons are filling up our counter space as we make our way through the season’s edible bounty. If you’re like me, you avoid refrigeration for these freshly harvested items (and others) to ensure they retain great texture and flavor. Sure, eventually some end up in the fridge, but as others languish on the countertop, fruit flies are bound to find them.

Swarms of these little buggers explode from mounds of ripe seasonal fruits and vegetables, seeming to have emerged from nowhere. Their populations increase faster than we can consume our edibles, and they seem near-impossible to control.

Certainly, after putting in all the effort to produce (or purchase) un-sprayed, natural, organic foods, we’re not going to start spraying once they’re in our homes. And, without putting the harvest directly in the fridge, there seems no way to keep the fruit flies at bay. Even if we do put them in the fridge, the fruit flies may start gathering in our sinks (just to spite us, I think).

So, get to point, right? How can they be controlled?

Sundew hunting insects amid ripening tomatoes

Sundew hunting insects amid ripening tomatoes

For the last two years I’ve started keeping Sundew plants in my kitchen. Sun Dews (Drosera genus) are beautiful, carniverous plants. Their lovely leaves are covered with drops of, well, what else? Sticky dew-like droplets that trap tiny insects, which the plants then digest.

I keep my plant, for most of the year, on the window shelf over the kitchen sink. Here they get great morning sun that creates a spectacular sparkly show of dew drops for me to enjoy. As well, by keeping them above the sink, I’m more inclined to keep them very moist, which they require.

Sundew digesting Fruit Flies

Sundew digesting Fruit Flies

When I wash fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden, leaf hoppers often jump from my harvest and hit the sundew. Okay, I’ll admit that sometimes I catch the darn bugs and feed them to my plant.  When the fruit flies erupt, I often place my tiny sundew amid the bowl full of fly-attracting deliciousness. The flies are also attracted to the plant, and it gets to enjoy harvest time almost as much as I do. And, sometimes the fruit flies just seem to be everywhere — swarming around a drip on a wine bottle or hovering near the seam of the compost tub. Occassionally, during these times, you’ll find me whirling my sundew through the air, capturing as many fruit flies as possible. But most of the time, just having the plant in the kitchen does the trick. It seems that by allowing my sundew to gorge itself on carniverous feasts during the harvest season, it requires little to no animal feeding the rest of the year.

One thing a sundew won’t do for you — it won’t clean pests off your houseplants. I had a houseplant that was infested with aphids. As a test, I put the sundew in the base of the plant’s pot and encouraged some aphids toward the sundew. Poor thing, it just got infested by the aphids. I won’t be trying that again!

Sundews grow in many places around the world and are made up of many different species within the genus. Odds are you’ll be able to find one that is native to a location near you. Check with local nurseries or specialty growers.

More information on Drosera is available:

Want to see a fruit fly struggling to get away from a drosera? The video’s a little rough, but still…

14 Comments

  1. Mary Woodworth says:

    Great job, Robin! It’s fun to read your writing. I’ve got a mental picture of you frantically twirling your bug-eating plant. Maybe we can go shopping for one over Thanksgiving.
    XOXO
    Mary

  2. rhaglund says:

    Thanks for all of your comments Mary. I’d love to help you find one (or a few). In your SoCal garden, you could probably keep them going year-round, outdoors, in a shady-located waterfeature too. How fun!

  3. Sally says:

    Robin – I loved the aticle. I will be looking for one of these bug eating plants, but in the meantime I have another solution you might want to try. Place a small jar of white vinegar with a little water and a few squirts of liquid soap close to the ripe fruit and veges and you will be amazed at how many little bugs collect in the jar and not on your fruit!

  4. rhaglund says:

    Sally, that’s a great idea. I’ve also heard beer bait works, but who wants stinky stale beer in the house? Vinegar, well that’s another story! Thanks for writing in!

  5. Katy says:

    I felt really bad that I just couldn’t keep my sundew alive. It was even a gift and I tried pretty hard! Fortunately I don’t have many fruit flies for probably the same reason the plant died – it’s pretty shady even in the sunniest parts of our house. So glad it’s working for you!

  6. great site, thanks for all the information

  7. […] The first thing I try to determine is whether the pest is truly a fruit fly or is actually a fungus gnat. They’re both tiny and truly annoying. Fruit flies tend to invade our kitchens, particularly during harvest season and sometimes they move into our houseplant soil along the way. I’ve posted ways to use carniverous plants in your kitchen to control them, and some of my readers have shared their methods as well in this post. […]

  8. […] plants that eat animals. Heck, I’m a sucker for raising plants that eat animals — like my Sun Dew that is both beautiful and attracts and digests my kitchen fruit fly populations. I’ve even […]

  9. Amazing what plants can do, great site thanks

  10. glade says:

    If anybody is looking to buy pest eating plants stop by CALIFORNIA CARNIVORES located in the small town of sebastopal near santa rosa they have every kind of bug muncher u can thibk of

  11. […] The first thing I try to determine is whether the pest is truly a fruit fly or is actually a fungus gnat. They’re both tiny and truly annoying. Fruit flies tend to invade our kitchens, particularly during harvest season and sometimes they move into our houseplant soil along the way. I’ve posted ways to use carniverous plants in your kitchen to control them, and some of my readers have shared their methods as well in this post. […]

  12. […] contents every week, so it doesn’t have to do much rotting on site or produce maggots and big fruit fly populations. During the dry, hot days of summer, we often leave the emptied bin open for several […]

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