Garden Help Desk: How do I keep fruit flies away?

August 6, 2018

Fruit fly

Question: The leaves on my Japanese maple are turning brown and crispy around the edges and at the tips. What can I do to stop this?

Answer: This sounds like summer leaf scorch. It’s a common summer problem for many trees in our area, especially trees that aren’t well-suited to our climate.

Frequent, shallow watering can make trees more susceptible to this problem, but deep, infrequent watering during the summer can help trees develop a more robust root system and reduce the amount of damage. Adding a 3-inch layer of bark mulch to slow down evaporation from the soil will also help your tree do better during the summer months.

Moisture is always moving out of the leaves, and our hot, dry summer weather can pull moisture from tree leaves even quicker. Some trees can’t move water fast enough to keep up with this moisture loss in the leaves. Leaf edges can get dry and crispy and the damage can move farther into the leaf. The leaf scorch is more common and severe on leaves that are finely incised or deeply lobed. Your Japanese maple is a good example of this.

Summer leaf scorch is unsightly, but doesn’t usually affect the health of your tree, although badly damaged leaves will drop a little earlier in the fall.

Question: We can’t seem to get rid of fruit flies in our kitchen, even though we’ve been using a fruit fly trap. I’m worried things are going to get worse when we start bringing in fruit from our backyard. What can we do?

Answer: Fruit flies and summer time just seem to go together, and fruit flies can make a nuisance of themselves wherever there are ripe fruits and vegetables. There are some things you can do to minimize the problem:

Keep them out.

Keep them from feeding.

Keep them from breeding.

Fruit flies are tiny, but good window and door screens can make it harder for them to get inside. Even with good screens it will help if you keep your exterior doors closed.

Ripe fruit is this pest’s favorite food. Don’t leave ripe fruits and vegetables where fruit flies can get to them. Ripe fruits should go into the refrigerator. Fruits like tomatoes, that shouldn’t go into the refrigerator, should be used quickly as they ripen. If you have more than you can use quickly, keep the tomatoes covered with a clean towel.

Whenever you put fruit scraps into the garbage disposal, make sure you run the disposal and flush plenty of water through once you’re done. Run plenty of water down the drain any time you pour juices down a drain as well. If you don’t keep the disposal cleaned out, they may lay their eggs in the disposal. To check, put tape across the sink opening before going to bed. In the morning remove the tape and check the tape to see if any eggs have hatched.

Make sure there aren’t any food bits or standing water in your dishwasher and check for water and wet crumbs under stoves and refrigerators.

If you keep a compost scrap container in your kitchen, make sure you keep it covered with a lid or with a clean towel to keep the fruit flies out. When you take your scraps out to the compost pile, turn the scraps under right away. Don’t leave them sitting on top of the pile for fruit flies to find.

Empty the kitchen trash at least once a day whenever you’re having a problem with fruit flies.

Keep fresh fruit covered with a towel if you need to set it out onto the counter to ripen.

Thoroughly rinse out and change your dishcloth at least daily. If you use a sponge, keep it rinsed and wrung out and microwave it every couple of days.

Let the top 1/2-1 inch of soil in indoor plants dry out between waterings so that the soil won’t be attractive to the fruit flies.

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