Understanding the Fruit Fly Infestation

Small fruit fly infestations are frequently encountered in restaurants, bars as well as homes. While often referred to as “fruit flies,” in reality, these are not the same as the Mediterranean fruit fly, which is a serious pest that damages fruit trees. These pests are nuisances that fall into a variety of species, including drain flies, but are often called fruit flies.

By identifying the precise species, a pest control company can help identify the breeding area and target these pests for elimination. Identifying and locating the harborage site – the unique breeding location – is critical to solving the problem and eliminating an infestation. Cooperation of the homeowner or restaurant owner and staff is critical to eliminating fruit fly issues and avoiding frustration.

Drosophila spp are the typical species of fruit flies found in homes. The adults measure about an eighth of an inch long. Their color d is dull, tan to brownish yellow or brownish black; eyes usually bright red. Drain flies, common in restaurants as well as some homes, often fall into the Psychodidae family. They are shorter, have hairy wings. They are often attracted to light.

Adult females lay an average of 500 eggs and their breeding cycle is extremely quick. Their life cycle typically lasts only 8-10 days! Eggs are often laid near fruit, vegetables, cracks in containers, counters or gaps in grout. Moisture from spills and liquids are common breeding sources. The eggs hatch in about 30 hours. The newly emerged adults mate in about 2 days.


Finding the source of breeding is critical. Larval development sites are commonly found in fermenting fruits and vegetables and in their by-products, such as cider or alcohol. The larvae can also be found in briny or vinegar-like liquids where they feed near the surface primarily on yeast. Pupal cases can be located in drier areas on or near the infested food source. Adults are often seen flying or resting on surfaces close to breeding areas. Due to their rapid life cycle, fruit flies can exploit numerous areas of temporary occurrence.

Residences: Look for fermenting grapes, potatoes, onions, bananas, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. Soiled trash compactors, trash chutes, garbage disposal units, compost piles, dirty garbage cans, and bottles and cans being saved for recycling are common breeding sites. Some species develop in animal and human excrement.

Food Service Facilities: Food debris under equipment, in dumbwaiter and elevator pits, and in drains are prime breeding areas. Soiled linens, soured mop heads, beer taps, liquor-storage areas, containers in recycling bins, refrigeration drip pans, spilled soda syrup and alcohol are possible locations. Food debris that accumulates under trash can liners are often overlooked. Food particles in mop water can wash into cracks and crevices to provide larvae developmental sites as can standing water on kitchen, bar, and bathroom floors. Inspect locker rooms for food left in lockers by employees. Check food storage areas for overripe fruit.

Food Processing/Industrial Facilities: Inspect for many of the same areas as mentioned under food service facilities. In addition, check food and product waste disposal systems, pallets and trash dumpsters. Small accumulations of food debris on surfaces and in cracks around equipment are common problem areas. Leakage from sink drains and debris clinging under sink edges are potential areas. Wall/floor junctions often are not properly sealed, creating prime breeding sites for the larvae. In processing areas that are frequently hosed down, look for plastic material, which often traps and holds moisture or food debris.

Health Care Facilities: Small fruit fly infestations often originate in dietary preparation areas and can be found along distribution paths throughout the facility. Look for similar larval developmental sites as noted under food service facilities. The adult flies are attracted by odor cues to fruit in patient rooms and employee lockers, food carts, pantries, hairdresser shops, break areas, trash receptacles, and janitor closets.

Commercial/Office Facilities: Inspect break rooms and vending areas for breeding sites. Many buildings now have recycling programs that include the placement of collection bin within the facilities. Often the bins are not emptied frequently enough and/or are not thoroughly cleaned when they are emptied. This also applies to trash receptacles throughout a facility. Sometimes food debris that falls under trash can liners are a source of infestation.

Animal Research Facilities/Zoos: Pay particular attention to the areas where the food for animal consumption is held and prepared. Floor drains in the animal quarters can be excellent harborage sites. Often these areas are washed down daily and any cracks or crevices present allow organic matter to accumulate in them. Certain types of animal bedding (especially rabbit) are particularly attractive as larval development sites to small fruit flies.

Employing integrated pest management principles to small fruit fly infestations is required for success. Sanitation is of the utmost importance in achieving control. therefore, the pest control operator must aggressively recruit the customer's cooperation

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