It’s one of those routines, rituals even, that help us toll the days of the week and the weeks of the month.
For me, it’s Wednesday. One week I take out the recycling bin, the next I take out the fruit fly bin.
It used to be the yard waste bin. But since Tacoma has been urging us to toss just about any edible and formerly edible food waste into the same brown bin, it has morphed into the fruit fly bin.
Haste makes waste. Waste, in turn, makes fruit flies.
I’m not anti-recycling. To the contrary, I’m somewhat obsessive about it. Which is what makes the summer-long fruit fly bloom so discouraging. I want to be a recycler, not a breeder.
I checked the city website for anti-fly advice. All it tells me is to keep the little brown bin that stays in the house clean, line it with newspaper (another good reason to subscribe) and maybe sprinkle some baking soda in the bottom.
I have since learned that fruit flies appreciate a nice, clean fresh-smelling food waste bin. At least they don’t seem especially turned off.
Once we went inside in the summer to escape flying insects, now we go outside to escape them.
A News Tribune letter writer suggested wrapping, bagging and freezing food waste and then removing it the night before yard waste pickup. I’m obsessive but not that obsessive.
A coworker said she keeps the bin on the back porch, which works to keep the flies out of the house. But if I have to go to the porch each time I have leftovers I might as well go to the alley.
Besides, those at the top of the food-waste chain should not give up so easily.
After doing some deep reporter-type research (Googling “fruit flies”) I discovered that the best way to prevent the appearance of fruit flies in the kitchen is to not store, prepare or consume any food there. I want to try something less sweeping.
According to the University of Kentucky extension service, fruit flies breed and feed on darned near anything, but are especially fond of ripened or fermenting fruits and vegetables (who isn’t?).
“The reproductive potential of fruit flies is enormous,” the university entomologist reports. “Given the opportunity, they will lay about 500 eggs. The entire lifecycle from egg to adults can be completed in about a week.”
And it isn’t just summer. That may be when the yummiest rotting fruit is available, but fruit flies can be year-round guests. There are lots of things they like, including drains, potatoes and onions, spills under the fridge, a mop.
“Finding the sources of attraction and breeding can be very challenging and often will require much thought and persistence,” the university says.
So all we have to do is outsmart an insect with a brain the size of a … well, something pretty small.
When we had a fruit fly bloom here in the newsroom, I learned that some people trap them with vinegar. I discovered this after passing a colleague’s desk and picking up a little plastic apple that had a hole in the top. Curious, I turned it upside down … over her desk … which quickly was covered with vinegar and dead fruit flies.
Good thing she wasn’t there.
Too cheap to buy a special plastic-apple fruit-fly trap, I poured some vinegar into a glass and covered it with plastic wrap. I then poked holes in the plastic with a toothpick (a paper funnel over a glass or bottle is suggested by some). I discovered two things: 1) fruit flies seem to prefer red wine vinegar over white wine vinegar; and 2) they breed faster than they drink vinegar.
Now I’m told it works better by adding dish soap to the mixture, or warmed-up apple cider vinegar or honey or wine or tequila. Since I’m unwilling to share either wine or tequila with insects that have brains the size of … well, something pretty small, I’ll stick with the vinegar and hope the tequila helps me not care when it doesn’t firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8657 blog.thenewstribune.com/politics @CallaghanPeter