Fighting the Muskoka Fruit Fly!

Fruit Flies - Karen Acton Muskoka RealtorSeriously there is no such creature as a Muskoka Fruit Fly however we do get fruit flies in our Muskoka homes and cottages. So exactly where do they come from and how do you get rid of them?

We might think they come in on the fruit we buy, however most often, they come in from outside when they smell the delicious fragrance of your fruit ripening. They have a crazy short life span, going from egg to adulthood in 8-10 days, which means they reproduce at a ridiculously fast rate. They thrive in moist damp places like your sink or compost bin. They are attracted to fruits and other foods-particularly ones that are fermenting or rotting.

So how do you prevent them from getting to the fruit bowl? First and foremost seal your doors and windows.  The flies enter your home from the outside when you open a door, or through poorly sealed screens on your windows. While it is possible that they came in with the fruit – if you like to buy very ripe fruit – but they most likely came in when they smelled your fruit getting ripe. The point being, it is very important to make sure your home is properly sealed with no splits in window screens, or doors left open if you want to avoid these pesky little critters.

Second, if you compost make sure you have a tight fitting lid on your kitchen container. To control fruit flies in your house, you need to block the odors of ripening fruit. Remember to take the compost out to the compost pile or green box regularly too.

Third, remember they breed in damp places. If you have sinks that are not in constant use, like the guest bathroom, make sure the plug is firmly in place to stop them breeding in the drain.

Lastly, try covering fruit bowls and plates. Look for mesh food covers like your granny had or go for a decorative glass dome.

If the preventative measures fail and you find yourself faced with these flying aggravations you can try one of these trap recipes to rid your Muskoka home of them. Fruit flies are especially drawn to ripening bananas, which give off amino acetate. Vinegar and red wine also seem to be strong lures. So it is not surprising that they form the base of many of the trap recipes I found by googling and have included below. There are many sites listing various ideas so I have gathered up a few that looked most practical.

Apple Cider Vinegar Trap

Fruit flies can’t resist the smell of fermentation, and since apple cider vinegar is from fermented apples, it’s a dream drink to them. Heat the vinegar beforehand to release more of its irresistible fragrance.

You Need

1 mason jar or something similar

a funnel (you can make one yourself)

½ cup of Apple cider vinegar

A drop of dish soap

A piece of ripe or overripe fruit (optional)

Heat up apple cider vinegar and pour it into your jar- it just needs to be deep enough for the flies to drown-and add a drop or two of dish soap. The dish soap will break the surface tension of the liquid so the flies can’t just sit on top and fly away when they’re done. If you find you need a little extra temptation, drop in a ripe piece of fruit and let it breakdown. If they don’t drown, place the whole thing in the freezer for 20 minutes. There is no need to remove the old contents if you want to reuse this trap but it may look unappealing after a little while.

Fruit in a Jar

Fruit flies like fruit, so what better to lure them into a trap than…fruit?

You Need

1 glass jar

Plastic wrap

A toothpick

Some very ripe or overripe produce

Soapy water

Put several pieces of very ripe or almost rotting fruit in the bottom of a glass jar, and cover with plastic wrap – a rubber band works to secure if needed. Poke holes in the wrap with a toothpick, and set the jar where you notice the fruit flies seem to come from or congregate. You may want to set one outside the doorway on a warm sunny say. The flies will be drawn into the trap but won’t know how to get out. At least they can enjoy a nice little feast until you decide the jar is full enough. At that point, submerge the jar in a bucket of warm soapy water and let it be for about 10 minutes to ensure the flies won’t be coming back. Rinse out, refill, and repeat! This is a great way to get rid of produce that you accidently let sit too long.

The Die Happy Trap

Believe it or not flies can get intoxicated just as we can. They are very drawn to red wine and will congregate to it if any is left out. They will either drown, or you can use the freezer or soapy water technique to finish the deed.

You Need

About an inch of red wine left in the bottle

Several drops of dish soap (optional)

No explanation needed, once intoxicated they will drown in the wine or be too tipsy to fly out of the bottle!

There are many more variations on these and a few strange ones using things like milk and pepper, but I chose to offer these three as I felt they would be easy to do and seemed the most scientifically sound. As your Muskoka Realtor I love to help and I hope this has been a useful blog.

Enjoying Your Muskoka Cottage – Bug Bite Free!

Karen Acton Royal LePage - Muskoka BugsAnyone who has been in Muskoka knows that we host the occasional flying guest! The blackflies and mosquitos know how spectacular Muskoka is and come here to enjoy it too. Now don’t get me wrong, the bugs are never so bad as to make us not want to be in spectacular Muskoka and they are certainly not an issue when you are at your beautiful Muskoka Cottage with a gentle breeze coming off the lake to blow them all away.

It is important, however, to try to avoid being bitten by these flying aggravations however many of us do not want to expose ourselves to chemicals like DEET which is one of the most widely used ingredients in store-bought conventional bug sprays for personal use. It is designed to repel, rather than kill insects. Here is what the Canadian government recommends.

“Choosing an insect repellent

Choose a product that meets your needs. For example, if you plan to be outdoors for a short period of time, choose a product with a lower concentration of repellent and re-apply only if you need a longer protection time.

Important!

Only use products that have a Pest Control Product registration number and are labelled as insect repellents for use on humans. Never use a product labelled as an insecticide on your body!

DEET

Registered insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed. Health Canada completed its latest review of DEET products in 2002, which was supported by the Canadian Paediatric Society.

The higher the DEET concentration in the repellent, the longer it provides protection. While this is true for protection against both mosquitoes and ticks, DEET repels mosquitoes for a longer time than for ticks. To get protection from ticks, look for a product that specifies use for ticks.

Health Canada has approved the following concentrations for different age groups. Prolonged use should be avoided in children under the age of 12.

Adults and children over 12: Up to 30% concentration of DEET may be used. One application of 30% DEET should be effective for six hours against mosquitoes.

Children aged two to 12: Up to 10% concentration may be used, applied up to three times daily. One application of 10% DEET should be effective for three hours against mosquitoes.

Children aged six months to two years: Up to 10% concentration may be used, applied no more than once daily. One application of 10% DEET offers three hours of protection against mosquitoes.

Children under six months: Do not use personal insect repellents containing DEET on infants under six months of age. Instead, use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors in a crib, playpen or stroller.”

SOME ALTERNATIVES TO CONSIDER

Since DEET is a known eye irritant and can cause rashes, soreness, or blistering when applied to the skin and determining the right concentration could be complicated, you may wish to try some DEET free homemade bug repellents that I’ve found to help keep the bugs away this season.

This first recipe comes from Wellness Mama and it literally takes just seconds to mix up and can be varied based on what you have available. There are several variations so you can try whichever one you have the ingredients for.

Wellness Mama Essential Oil Bug Spray 

Ingredients: 

  • Essential oils: choose from Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint
  • Natural Witch Hazel
  • Distilled or boiled Water
  • Vegetable glycerin (optional)

Method:

  • Fill 8oz spray bottle 1/2 full with distilled or boiled water
  • Add witch hazel to fill almost to the top
  • Add 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin if using
  • Add 30-50 drops of essential oils (mix them as you like) to desired scent. The more oils you use, the stronger the spray will be.

Make Bug Spray from Dried or Fresh Herbs

Ingredients:

  • Distilled water
  • Witch hazel or rubbing alcohol
  • Dried herbs: peppermint, spearmint, citronella, lemongrass, catnip, lavender, etc. Use at least one herb from the mint family.

Method:

  • Boil 1 cup of water and add 3-4 TBSP of dried herbs total in any combination from the above. I use 1 TBSP each of peppermint, spearmint, catnip and lavender, and also throw in a couple of dried cloves.
  • Mix well, cover and let cool (covering is important to keep the volatile oils in!)
  • Strain herbs out and mix water with 1 cup of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Store in a spray bottle in a cool place (fridge is great because then it’s nice and cool!)

Use as needed. Added bonus: it smells great and is very refreshing to the skin!

Super Strong Insect Repellent Recipe

Be warned this one apparently smells bad when it is wet, though the smell apparently disappears as it dries. It is based on a recipe that was supposedly used by thieves during the Black Plague to keep from getting sick. They used it internally and externally to avoid catching the disease and to keep the flies and other pests away. According to legend, it worked and they survived… but it definitely makes a great insect repellent these days! It is also very inexpensive to make and you probably already have the components on hand!

Ingredients:

  • 1 32 ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBSP each of dried Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme and Mint
  • At least quart size glass jar with airtight lid

Method:

  • Put the vinegar and dried herbs into large glass jar
  • Seal tightly and store on counter or place you will see it daily. Shake well each day for 2-3 weeks.
  • After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs out and store in spray bottles or tincture bottles, preferably in fridge

To use on skin, dilute to half with water in a spray bottle and use as needed. Use whenever you need serious bug control!

Other ideas were simpler including the use of vanilla extract in witch hazel and water or lavender oil directly on your skin. Basil leaves rubbed on the skin is apparently quiet effective too and any member of the mint family works.

No matter which of these repellants you try or even if you decide to stick with commercially sold products, remember that repelling these critters is very important. West Nile virus can make you very sick and has been found here in Muskoka.