Fruit Flies in New England

Fruit Fly Control for Your Home or Business in Boston, MA, CT, RI, ME, NH, and VT

General Information

Commonly known as vinegar flies, fruit flies are insects belonging to the family Drosophilidae. While roughly 175 different species of fruit flies are found in North America, only a handful invade indoor structures often enough to be considered pests.

The pest species of fruit flies all belong to the genus Drosophila and include D. busckii, D. funebris, D. melanogaster, and D. repleta. Worldwide, more fruit fly species are found in tropical versus temperate areas.

Fruit flies commonly found in temperate regions like New England typically emerge during late spring through the middle of summer and decline as cold weather approaches. Named for their attraction to overly ripened fruit and other fermenting matter, fruit flies are widely considered a nuisance and have the ability to spread bacteria.

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Appearance & Identification

What Does a Fruit Fly Look Like?
Small in size, adult specimens typically measure between three and five millimeters long. The body of an adult fruit fly ranges in color from yellowish-brown to brownish-black, with most species also featuring reddish eyes (with the exception of dark-eyed fruit flies).

Like other insects, fruit flies have bodies divided into three sections (the head, thorax, and abdomen). The head and thorax of an adult fruit fly are generally lighter in color than the abdominal section, which is usually encircled by dark bands.

Before reaching adulthood, fruit flies go through a larval phase (maggots) in which the insects have tapered, cream-colored bodies that lack both legs and eyes and measure between two and five millimeters long. After completing the larval phase, fruit flies become pupae, which look like brown seeds measuring about three millimeters long and featuring a pair of stalks protruding like horns from one end of the body.

Habits/Habitat

Pest species of fruit flies are often found inside homes, restaurants, grocery stores, and other places offering ample food sources and breeding grounds. When residing in indoor areas, fruit flies typically live and breed in:

  • Overripe or rotting fruits and vegetables
  • Wet mops
  • Dirty dishcloths
  • Unclean drains
  • Garbage cans
  • Containers holding the liquid remnants of fruit juices, soft drinks, or alcoholic beverages

Outdoors in the natural environment, fruit flies emerge during the warmer months of summer and autumn and often hover around commercial farms, orchards, and other places where fruits and vegetables grow. Strong but slow fliers, newly developed adults demonstrate an attraction to light and can travel up to six and a half miles in a single day.

Diet

What Does a Fruit Fly Eat?
Certain types of fruit flies feed on different substrates. Red-eyed fruit flies primarily feed on overripe or rotting fruits and vegetables.

More specifically, these insects are attracted to the yeast that causes overripe fruits and vegetables to ferment and liquefy. Tomatoes, pears, bananas, potatoes, and onions commonly support fruit fly infestations.

The insects locate food sources by following the smell of the fermenting matter. Conversely, dark-eyed fruit flies generally feed upon the decomposing organic matter of unclean or clogged drains.

Reproduction

Upon developing fully, fruit flies achieve sexual maturity just two days after reaching adulthood. After mating multiple times, female fruit flies lay between 500 and 2,000 eggs in:

  • Fermenting material of rotting fruits and vegetables
  • Unemptied trash cans
  • Dirty drains
  • Wet mops

Larvae hatch from the eggs after a mere 24 to 30 hours and begin feeding on the yeast present in the fermenting food/organic material. After five or six days of feeding, the larvae generally crawl out of the food source to begin the pupal stage of the life cycle.

Fruit flies typically pupate for several days before emerging as fully developed adults within two weeks of hatching from the egg. In warm temperatures (around 85 degrees Fahrenheit), the insects can complete the entire life cycle in as few as eight days.

Problems Caused by Fruit Flies

Though typically treated as little more than an annoying and unsightly nuisance, the fruit fly can potentially spread harmful bacteria to humans. Some fruit fly species are attracted to animal excrement and serve as carriers of disease by also feeding on, and thus contaminating, fruits, vegetables, and other uncooked foods consumed by humans. While the insects typically prefer to feed on overripe fruit and rotting vegetables, a certain species introduced to the New England region in 2011 tends to infest healthy fruit and therefore causes damage to crops, as well.

Signs of Infestation

Because fruit flies complete their life cycle in such a short amount of time, evidence of an infestation is rarely seen before the insects reach adulthood. Adult fruit flies generally infest warm areas with readily available food sources. Infestations are most frequently encountered during the summer, when the insects hover around overripe fruit, rotting vegetables, and trash cans.

Fruit fly infestations also commonly occur in dirty drains and wet mops. The insects can quickly populate an indoor area due to the rapid rate at which they develop from egg to adult.

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Prevention

To prevent fruit flies from infesting an area, homeowners need to eliminate access to the preferred food sources of the insects. Store fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator whenever possible, and dispose of overripe ones before they start to rot and ferment.

Rinse soda cans and other beverage containers thoroughly after use, and keep trash receptacles clean and emptied on a regular basis. Homeowners should also clean sink drains regularly and ensure that the mesh in window screens is fine enough to prevent the small insects from entering from the outdoors. For large and uncontrollable infestations, contact a qualified New England pest control service.