a story about gnats and their ugly babies

Gnats (a.k.a. “fruit flies,” “vinegar flies” or “no-seeums”) made my life miserable all last summer. Gnats are tiny, black, flying insects. They’re similar to mosquitos but smaller. They don’t buzz but they hover around your head. They don’t bite but they will annoy the living doodoo (scientific term) right out of you.

I occasionally see one or two in the kitchen. That’s understandable because a bowl of fruit sits on the table, and they love fruit, especially overripe fruit. But why are they in the office? What’s the attraction? Let’s see if we can solve this mystery.

Not a single day passed this summer that I didn’t swat at a gnat/fruit fly as it flitted across the monitor or attempted to fly into my mouth or up my nose. Apparently they’re attracted to our mouths because we exhale carbon dioxide. Does this mean my breath smells like rotten fruit?

They just about drove me crazy – a short trip!

They love moisture and overripe fruits, vegetables and wet soil around house plants. We’re BIG on bananas and peaches, and those are two of their favorite treats. They enjoy tomatoes, too. Who could blame them? They also like squishy potatoes that have been stored a little too long.

So, how to get rid of them? You’d think it would be easy to kill such a brainless little bugger. Like many insects, fruit flies pass through egg, larva and pupa (cocoon-like) stages before emerging as sexually mature adults. They only live about 10 to 18 days, but the reproductive potential of fruit flies is impressive; given the opportunity, they will lay about 500 eggs. The entire life cycle from egg to adult can be completed in about a week. Can you see where this is going? It’s easy to get a full-blown infestation in a very short time. By the time you realize you have a problem, a dozen females could have laid… well, you get the picture.

And where do you think they lay their eggs? That’s right! Fruits and vegetables! After the eggs hatch, this is the first food for the larva. Nothing like larva in your fruit. ICK! Double ICK!

Larva Stage

Just know this. If you have adult gnats and fruit flies, you have eggs and larva.

These mindless, little creatures annoyed the bejesus out of me last summer. I find it impossible to swat them. They never stop moving, and I hate to spray poison inside.

What to do, what to do, Internet?

This is what I did. I poured a small amount of wine in a glass and added a small amount of sugar.They smell it and think it’s happy hour. They’re not the brightest little critters.

They tell all their friends, “Meet me at the yellow house on the corner. I hear they’re serving the good stuff tonight.” My gnats/fruit flies have excellent taste and enjoy a nice sip of Merlot, but I’ve heard that less discriminating members of their group enjoy apple cider vinegar very much.

Then we covered the glass with plastic wrap and poked holes in it.They leave their families and friends…. never to be seen or heard from again…. buuuhahahaha!!This traps the adults. Of course, that’s only half the problem. To prevent a full-blown second and third generation infestation you must remove fruit before it becomes overripe, check out that potato bin and don’t over water your plants. They love moisture and rot and fermentation.

To get back to the original mystery question. What’s the big attraction to the office? No fruit. No veggies. No houseplants. BUT… we sometimes have a glass of wine in the evening while surfing. AND we sometimes leave our glasses sitting on the desk until morning. That’s a big no no. MYSTERY SOLVED! Just call me Sherlock.

I console myself in the knowledge that our gnats have huge hangovers and swollen eyelids in the morning.

Oh, and another thing. They love moisture, and this makes sink and bathtub drains likely infestation locations.  Solution: Pour enough oil around each drain to lightly but evenly coat it. They smother in it.

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