killing fruit flies

fruit flies on windowsill

Okay, so the biggest difference I've noticed since moving downtown, other than the occasional late-night drunk shouting out on the street, his or her voice floating up the alley, is that city fruit flies are hard-core compared to suburban fruit flies. These urban suckers jump right into your bowl of yogurt and roll around while you're eating: "Move it, human—my turn." And they're big, the bouncers of their kind. So after enduring them for three weeks and yesterday watching a cloud of them rise off a split ripe banana in a fruit bowl, I had to take action.

fruit fly reflection in vinegar-dish-soap potion

Jeff had given me a simple, cheap recipe for killing them with three cupboard ingredients: cider vinegar, sugar, and dish soap. They're attracted to the vinegar and sugar, and the dish soap alters the surface tension of the liquid, allowing them to drown. I didn't know or look up the proportions ahead of time and so just did squirts and shakes, mixing it up with my finger in a small shallow bowl. Within minutes, they were poised on the rim of the dish. But only when the midday light hit the kitchen windowsill today did I realize the killing potion is working. I'm counting at least 12 dead fruit flies in the photo below, and more outside the shot.

drowned fruit flies

For this post, I did a quick Google search on the topic, and some recipes omit the sweetener and use a whole cup of vinegar or recommend a paper cone or plastic wrap with tiny holes on top of a jar. But a small amount of cider vinegar, sugar, and dish soap in a shallow dish works just fine. Save the rest of that vinegar for your summer salads. And per the Web, you can use whatever cheap liquid sweetener you have on hand, like leftover juice or wine, instead of the vinegar. Also, vinegar does evaporate, so add a little more of the concoction to the dish as needed.

Even more of the tiny pests are floating in the killing field two days later. Bye-bye fruit flies. (Thanks, Jeffrey.)

brick wall reflection in potion dish

fruit-fly killing field: two days later

now you see them, now you don't

Note: Portland doesn't yet have composting set up for apartment complexes, except on a case-by-case basis, so I've been keeping my compost container in the fridge as when actually composting but then dumping it in my bag of trash right before I take it down to the alley bins to help reduce the scourge of fruit flies and nasty smells under the sink. I should soon look into what it would require to get composting started in this complex. ¡Si, se puede!

Edited 6/1/14 to add: Last year I stopped using the sugar and just mix vinegar and dish soap, and it still works fine. Fruit flies don't seem to be picky. The only problem is my kitchen smells like vinegar, even with the window open. But that's better than having fruit flies swinging off my hand towel and loitering on my cutting boards.


  1. The first several months of my site there were no comments; just give it time; now they come in like crazy every day! Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the support, David!


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