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Carnivorous Plant Fruit Fly Remedy (and Other Fruit Fly Control Ideas)

September 15th, 2009 · 8 Comments ·

With the harvest season upon us, and bowls of plums, tomatoes, and apples crowding the counters, fruit flies are proliferating madly.  Some things, like tomatoes, just can’t go in the fridge without altering their flavor, and ferment more quickly when covered.  But if even one skin breaks, the flies descend!   There are lots of fruit fly control methods out there.  Here’s our latest madcap plan: we’ve positioned a carnivorous Venus Flytrap alongside our countertop tomato bowl.

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Fruit flies are sometimes a little light to trigger the snapping mechanism of the flytrap, but they do stick to the fly-attracting substance the plant produces, and even this one little plant has managed to catch several flies.  We’re going to add a sticky sundew (another carnivorous bog plant) to our Botanical Anti-Fruit Fly Force.  And while it’s admittedly not making a huge dent in the fruit fly population, our new trap sure does entertain us.  Even Claire, our radical little bodhisattva vegetarian, gets in on the fun, feeding the plant flies she catches in the chicken coop.  “It’s gotta eat,” she says.

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If you obtain carnivorous plants from a nursery, make sure they have been cultivated, and not torn from fragile bog habitats.  Most nurseries are ethical about such things, but it’s worth asking where their carnivores come from.  Keep the plants very moist, preferably in a bowl of water.

The fruit fly life cycle is crazy-fast–egg to adult in seven days– and it’s hard to match their menacing tenacity.  The very best way to control fruit flies is scrupulous sanitation:

  • Keep fruit with even the tiniest bit of broken skin in the fridge.
  • Wipe counters, wash dishes, rinse out sinks immediately.
  • Wipe the edges of open wine bottles, and keep them in the fridge if you can (just one fruit fly in the bottle with give the rest of the wine a sick-sweet taste).
  • Even with their skins on, bananas are great fruit fly attractor, so it’s best to avoid them (who needs bananas anyway, with all the gorgeous local produce to be had?).
  • Take out your compost scraps twice a day, and keep them covered between-times.  Ditto the gargabe can.
  • Make a simple trap by dropping a few of their favorite foods (skinned plums, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, wine…) in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap that has little holes poked in it–the fruit flies will get in, but look at how tiny those brains must be; they won’t get out.
  • And just for fun, add a Venus flytrap or two!
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Look up close--their eyes are red...

PS: This post now has a follow-up, Sundews: The Best Carnivorous Plants for Catching Fruit Flies.

pest control

8 Comments so far ↓

  • June

    Tis the season for fruit flies! And now that I know their eyes are red…eww. I’m even more disgusted. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Eric Gyllenhaal

    Cool idea, but I’d be worried (for the plant’s sake) about the low humidity. If I had my way, I’d let House Spiders build their webs near the tomato bowl. I’d maybe even build them attractive framework that sits above the bowl.
    Of course, when it comes to spiders, I rarely get my own way, even at home.
    By the way, I’m really enjoying Crow Planet! However, it also makes me sad, because West Nile Virus wiped out most of the crows in our area (Chicago).
    Eric

  • Nicole

    I grow quite a few carnivorous plants . I would say that sundews and butterworts would be much better for insect control.

    A couple of cultivation tips: Carnivorous plants are generally sun loving plants so if you keep your fruit in a corner, you plant will likely die. Do NOT use potting soil — this will kill your plant. Use a 50/50 mixture of peat moss and perlite. Make sure that the peat moss does not have fertilizer added to it. On that note DO NOT fertilize your plant — fertilizers will kill it. Finally water — Carnivorous plants need low mineral water. If you only have one or two plants, the easiest thing to do is buy distilled water.

    These care sheets are published by a nursery that specializes in carnivorous plants
    http://cobraplant.com/index.php?main_page=page&id=7&chapter=1&zenid=4bad0c67d9706d946416a1b98c7a4f4e

    • lyanda

      Thanks, Nicole, for all the great tips! Even if you don’t use them for pest control, carnivorous plants make interesting in-home botany lessons.

  • shelterrific » Blog Archive » blogwatch: where we were clicking this week

    [...] Fruit fly solutions never get old — and this one at The Tangled Nest has the added fun of being green and carnivorous! [...]

  • claire

    AAAAAAArgh! I’m coming to eat you little buzzers!

    P.S. That was a very vegetarian thing to say wasn’t it?

  • Shelley

    Place some vinegar (doesn’t seem to matter what type) in a clear glass jar and cover with plastic with a very small hole in it. Just make sure it is tightly sealed around the jar. They go in and typically stay in.

    I have found the ultra cheap regular vinegar appeals the most to my fruit flies. I live in a duplex with a neighbor who insists on keeping compost on our shared back porch uncovered. My house is plagued with flies of several types because of the neighbor. My next step is to get the plants to go along with the jars of vinegar.

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