Fruit Fly: Public Enemy No. 1

Fruit Fly: Public Enemy No. 1

It’s been a relatively short fruit fly season here in the Southern hemisphere (where water spins clockwise in the sink – I checked before writing this post). I put it down to an unusually cool and wet summer which has also meant issues with pollination but that’s a story for another post…

If you live on top of the world, however, you will be heading into into fruit fly season in the next few months so now is the perfect time to prepare for the onslaught (and I don’t mean mixing a cocktail of chemicals to nuke them with). There are alternatives!

The solution: fruit fly bags

Bagging Fruit

Bagging is by far the simplest and probably cheapest organic option for stopping fruit fly from stinging fruit. Bags are easy to make and cost almost nothing. As you can see in the photo, I make my bags out of (chux) cleaning wipes by folding them in half and sewing up the sides. One of these bags will easily cover a truss of tomatoes – just gather the top of the bag around the stem (where the truss meets the main stalk) and secure with a large peg or a piece of string. I tend to put the bags on as soon as all of the fruit has set on the truss. Fruit fly stings green fruit as well, so don’t wait until the fruit starts to ripen. Alternatively, if you’re not a sewer, gather the bag as best you can around the fruit truss and secure any openings with pegs. The thing I like most about these bags is that you can set them and forget them and reuse them. Just be sure to check them occasionally for ripening fruit.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is perhaps one of the most useful organic means of pest control for the vegetable garden. It is fossil shell flour sourced from the bottom of the sea or fresh water reservoirs. A fine, powdery substance, it’s innocuous enough in appearance but deadly to most insects and pests. The reason being, that under magnification, the powder structure has very sharp edges that pierce the insects’ outer protective layer, then rapidly absorb all the moisture inside the insect. Effectively, it’s death by dehydration! Apply by mixing it with water into a slurry and then painting it on the trunks of fruit trees or dust over the leaves of plants after every rainfall.

Eco Naturalure

Eco Naturalure is an organic product that is sprayed either on bushes or fruit trees or on a piece of wood located in close proximity to the fruit. It contains a protein bait to encourage the female fruit fly to feed on it as well as a natural insecticide that kills the fruit fly as soon as it enters the gut. The good thing about this product is that it will control fruit fly numbers in your garden. For it to be effective, it’s advisable to set pheromone traps as an early warning system to identify when fruit fly is present, then start spraying. Repeat spraying is needed after rain.

The Sting

Practice Good Garden Hygiene

In conjunction with any organic means of controlling fruit fly numbers in your area, one of the most important things you can do both for you and your neighbours is to practice good garden hygiene. In other words, keep your garden clear of any fallen and rotting fruit that will attract even more pests. If any or all of your fruit has been been stung, it has to go. Suck up your tears and throw it away. Dispose of any infested fruit by placing it in a garbage bag, twisting the top to keep it closed and putting it out in the sun to stew and kill any pests. If you just put it in the garbage bin, the larvae will hatch and add to the fruit fly population.  NEVER put infested fruit in the compost.

Companion Planting

Insects navigate via their sense of smell so the more smells you can put in the way of your crops to confuse them, the less chance fruit flies have of attacking them. So plant companion plants and flowers throughout the vegetable garden. Doing so will not only act as a decoy to fruit fly and other pests, it will enhance your garden and attract other insects that prey on pests (the more you have of these in your garden the better). In the end, it’s all about balance.

Keep Plants Healthy

Fruit flies are like a predators – they tend to pick on the weakest plants first. So ensure you keep up water and nutrients to plants that are prone to fruit fly attack to give them the best possible chance against this relentless pest.

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