Like spiders or ants, fruit flies (or drosophila melanogaster) are an unfortunately common pest that most homeowners are likely to battle at some point. These pests (which surprisingly share over half our human genetic code) prey on neglected produce and spilled beverages in your kitchen. But do they prey on humans too?
- While they may carry bacteria, they don’t show active interest in harming humans.
- Fruit flies feed on decaying fruits, vegetables, and plant matter, as well as sugary drinks and alcohol.
- If you think a fruit fly has bitten you, you may have these bugs confused with a similar bug capable of biting, like sand flies or biting midges.
- There are several preventative measures you can take to prevent a fruit fly problem in your kitchen. Try one of the home remedies listed below, and if the problem persists, contact a professional.
No, Fruit Flies Don’t Bite
The short answer is no—fruit flies don’t bite. These tiny flies are certainly not among the most dangerous bugs local to Ohio. Their behavior is generally harmless. They don’t show interest in harming humans and don’t generally have reason to bite .
While fruit flies are often a sign of unsanitary conditions and may carry bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, or listeria, they’re peaceful in demeanor and not known to actively cause bodily harm.
Moreover, it’s not anatomically possible for fruit flies to bite, as they lack the “teeth” (or piercing/sucking/biting mouthparts) that blood-feeding flies and insects, such as mosquitoes and horse flies, require. Their mouths are only built to taste, eat, and puncture fruit and other plant matter.
So What Do They Actually Eat?
Fruit flies generally prefer sugary or fermented foods, including various fruits and vegetables as well as sugary drinks and alcohol. Decaying fruits and vegetables are attractive to fruit flies. Female fruit flies often lay their eggs beneath the skin of decaying fruit.
Rotting, unrefrigerated produce, such as bananas, potatoes, and onions left out in your kitchen, are of particular interest. Melon, tomatoes, squash, and apples are other fruit-fly favorites. Wine, cider, beer, or fruit juice that’s not properly sealed can become a fruit fly hub (as can a spill under your refrigerator).
Biting Insects You May Be Mistaking for Fruit Flies
If you’ve felt painful bites and sworn a common fruit fly was the culprit, you may be mistaking a similar-looking bug capable of biting for one of these more harmless pests. (When in doubt, look for fruit flies’ famous red eyes!)
Sand flies are similar in size and appearance to fruit flies and can cause painful, itchy red bites on your skin. Unlike fruit flies, sand flies feed on human blood. Their bites can cause weepy blisters that are prone to bacterial infection. Sand flies are more common in sandy areas of the Southern U.S. but have been spotted as far north as Maryland and Delaware.
Biting midges or “no-see-ums” are also commonly mistaken for fruit flies. Slightly more stocky, but still relatively similar in appearance to fruit flies, midges can cause painful, itchy raised welts on your skin, particularly in clusters on your legs or the back of your neck. Drawn to body heat and the smell of human skin, biting midges feed on the blood of humans as well as other mammals and birds. Midges can be found all across the U.S. and most of the world but particularly in coastal areas, in muddy, swampy areas, and on farms.
It’s worth noting that allergic reactions to fruit flies are possible. If a fruit fly has landed on your skin recently and you notice a cluster of red bumps, you may simply have an allergy.
Fruit Fly Problem? Here’s What You Can Do
It’s important to take steps to prevent fruit flies, like avoiding letting produce rot in your kitchen, washing produce after you buy it and storing it in your refrigerator, rinsing bottles and cans before recycling them, emptying trash cans regularly, cleaning drains and garbage disposals, wiping down countertops, and cleaning up spills immediately in order to eliminate potential food sources.
If you suspect a fruit fly infestation, there are some home remedies and store bought solutions that may help. Microwaving a bowl of apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dish soap can create a DIY fruit fly trap (fruit flies will be attracted to the scent of the ACV, but the decreased surface tension caused by the dish soap will make them drown).
You can also create this vinegar trap, or a similar one with just apple cider vinegar or whole fruit in a bowl, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and poke entry holes in it (or create a cone with a piece of paper) to keep tempted flies inside.
Similarly, leaving a nearly empty bottle of wine or beer open in your kitchen may trick fruit flies into flying inside, only to keep them trapped below the skinny neck of the bottle. You can also purchase a sticky trap.
Fruit flies are known to hate the scent of basil, lemongrass, lavender, clove, peppermint, and eucalyptus, so leaving these dried herbs around your kitchen or diffusing them in essential oil or spray form may deter pests.
If your fruit fly problem has gotten out of hand and none of these home remedies are working, it may be time to invest in a professional pest control service.