Kitchen Hacks

The French Grandma's Trick to Keeping Fruit Flies Away

Hint, hint: There’s wine involved (of course).

October 14, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

When I worked in Paris as an au pair, I marveled at how the French seemed to have it all figured out. The family’s grandmother always set the table with the good silver—even on a Tuesday. I was instructed to pick up fresh, fluffy chouquettes from the boulangerie for the kids’ after-school snack instead of, I don’t know, granola bars (which is what I would’ve gotten). It was almost irritating how everyone around me seemed to have effortlessly mastered the art of languid lunches, work-life balance, cheese savoir-faire, and the immaculate matte lip.

Back in New York and many years later, I’m still confronted with the myriad ways the French do it better. For example, when I stumbled upon this bowl, and learned that they have mastered yet another art lost on the rest of us: keeping fruit flies out of the kitchen. While I continue to swat at them, wrap my fruit in tea towels as tightly as possible, and set out homemade traps of dish soap and vinegar (which would work if I didn’t knock them over), the French are over there quietly slaying the whole fruit fly thing.

So what’s the French secret to keeping those pesky little bugs at bay? It’s wine corks (of course). Some say the absorbent material soaks up any extra moisture as produce ripens, which is what attracts fruit flies in the first place. That’s what the classic French cookware company Emile Henry alleges; they cleverly adapted the old trick into an all-in-one cork and ceramic fruit bowl. Others shrug and say that, for some reason, fruit flies just don’t like cork.

Regardless, the method is simple. Just open a few bottles of well-aged red (just kidding; that’s the French version. Any wine will do). Toss the corks right into your fruit bowl, or place near your trash can. (Just make sure there’s no wine residue on the cork, or every fruit fly in the state will be swarming your kitchen.) Then kick back and sip on that wine.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I have a French-er way to get rid of fruit flies: drink a bottle of wine, then leave the empty bottle open on the countertop. The little buggers fly into the bottle and can't get back out. It'll trap pretty much every last one of them. Bottoms up!”
— Sarah E.
Comment

Just call it the laissez-faire approach to fruit flies. So very French.

Have another trick for keeping those pesky flies off your fruit? Tell us in the comments below!
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42 Comments

Bonita8a August 8, 2021
Actually, the fruit flies "come" because flies lay eggs on the fruit before you ever buy it. If you wash your fruit when you take it home, the eggs wash off, and therefore there are no flies to hatch.
 
Deb M. January 8, 2021
I bought a Venus fly trap and a few other carnivore plants!! Put them in my kitchen window... yep they work!!
 
Mar November 8, 2020
I put my fruit on a tray (better air circulation than a bowl) with a bulletin board cork tile under the fruit. So if you don’t have wine corks, this work for me.
Also, I rinse my soft fruit in water with a dash of vinegar to kill the bacteria and prolong the life of the fruit (dry carefully too). A fan blowing gently on the fruit tray/bowl also discouraged fruit flies.
If you don’t have ammonia, chlorine bleach in the drain also works.
 
Jen B. November 7, 2020
Would, say, a cork coaster work as well? I have no cork wine-tops. Screw tops and some sort of faux-cork toppers seem to be the most popular here.
 
M October 23, 2020
Cork-topped wine bottles are nowhere near as rare as some of these comments suggest. Will have to take some out of my cork bag and give it a shot.
 
barbara0621 October 21, 2020
It's hard to save a cork when the bottles of wine come with screw tops (all New Zealand wines and many others) or plastic corks.
 
Margaret B. October 16, 2020
Thank you for all those great ideas all.
 
cassandra August 24, 2020
This was the best hack ever! We have not had a fruit fly since about 3 days after I read this article in Oct 2019. (It is now August 2020). Not a single one. We just leave corks (real ones) around where we have fruit. I don't understand why it works, but it absolutely does.
 
Petit S. May 5, 2020
fruit flies do not like lavender. I used a small washcloth with several drops of lavender oil on it and put it behind the fruit bowl/plate. It worked!
 
Clare C. May 5, 2020
Does it have to be genuine cork? The reason I ask is that most wine bottles nowadays have plastic corks because they work better to preserve the wine (they don’t dry out and shrink).
 
Wendy W. May 5, 2020
Yes
 
Clare C. May 5, 2020
Thanks!
 
ccoates May 5, 2020
I tried everything.... the vinegar, the soap.... the vacuum! I finally decided I would let the kids have some fun. I went and bought about 4 of those bug zapper "rackets" and let the kids go crazy. I did have to sweep regularly but it worked. I'll try the cork and/or wine bottles next time. Good ideas though!
 
martha1108 October 21, 2020
I did not mean to Flag this comment. My finger slipped. I wanted to Reply. I wanted to say that this was a great idea and I’d use it on moths.
 
Kp N. May 5, 2020
I have used the apple cider vinegar in a jar, covered with poked plastic wrap. It works. I have also used wine, fruit, etc. Right now, however, there is a wine bottle, with wine, standing open on the counter. Why am I wasting a bottle of wine, you ask? Because it was a decidedly disappointing insult to the winemaker's art. So, I have no difficulty sacrificing it to trap fruit flies and gnats and send them to that great apple in the sky -- or whatever it is that they might worship.
 
Wendy W. May 5, 2020
I second this. A bit of wine attracts them, the long neck of the bottle keeps them in, and it looks sexier on the counter than a jar of vinegar and dish soap!
 
piggledy November 7, 2020
This reminds me of a moment, in my mother’s kitchen, several years ago. My brother stopped by to visit, and noticed a wine bottle on the counter. He asked if he could have a glass, and I told him I was sure our mother wouldn’t mind. He poured himself a glass, and in another minute or so, asked, “What are these little crunchy things?”

Fruit fly season always reminds me of this story. I love your hint. I have wine corks on hand, zoo will toss a few in our produce baskets and bowls. Will tell my brother, too!
 
Diane March 23, 2020
I use a small jar with a mixture of white vinegar and dish soap. I cover it with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. I punch holes in the plastic wrap and voila! A fruit fly floating cemetery. I also put some bleach down my kitchen drain, let it sit for a bit, then flush with hot water. I do like this wine cork idea and gives me a good reason (Although I don't need one), to open a bottle and enjoy!
 
piggledy November 7, 2020
An empty condiment bottle with a plastic valve at the top works well for the vinegar traps (think Worcestershire, rice vinegar, sesame oil, that sort of bottle). Saves messing with Saran Wrap, as the little critters can’t usually climb back out of the valve. These are easily hidden from view behind things like utensil crocks, corner appliances like toaster ovens, etc., but work very well.
 
Sarah February 2, 2020
Another riff on the Cider Vinegar/Dawn method. Put the mixture in small Mason jars. With a hammer and nail, punch a few holes in the lids and cover with lid and ring. The vinegar attracts the fruit flies, the Dawn limits their ability to fly, and the holes ensure that they can't get out. If you use the smallest Mason jars, it will be difficult to topple them, and there will be minimal spillage through a few little holes.
 
S January 12, 2020
Which came first, the fruit or those obnoxious flies😊❓
(Soapy water under a gooseneck lamp helps. They jump in and perish...) Having said that, where there is fruit, there are tens of millions of fruit flies no matter what tricks we use.
 
Charleen October 30, 2019
A splash of ammonia in your kitchen drains, where the little buggers breed after you've brought them home on your fruit, does the trick for me. Just a splash, then put the stopper in for a few minutes.
 
Charleen October 30, 2019
A splash of ammonia in your kitchen drains, where the little buggers breed after you've brought them home on your fruit, does the trick for me.
 
Gerry M. October 28, 2019
Re your articles re getting rid of fruit flies. Cider vinegar etc. All nonsence. Only one thing for it. Put a funnel on the end of your vacuum cleaner and attack. Instant termination. Might need to do daily but at least gets instant results. Take control. Makes your home a no fly zone.
 
YoRc March 23, 2020
Using a vacuum every day is an equivalent to the definition of user insanity - failing at a task using the same method, over and over, while expecting a different result. If fruit flies could snicker, they would.
 
Janey October 27, 2019
I use..ready for this?.... a ramekin (it's one of those cheap, clear glass ones you get at a hardware store) with some apple cider vinegar and some cherry diet Pepsi.....only because I have it here in the house. Anything that smells sweet would probably do. Then, I cover it with saran wrap and punch some 'baby finger' sized holes....or.... holes about 1/4 inch or so wide. In no time, the ramekin is full of dead fruit flies! Ok.Not full but you can see maybe 50 to 100 of the little suckers in there. Every now and then, I put a bit more Pepsi in to keep the smell sweet for the flies. Works really well for me!
 
Gretchen F. October 27, 2019
Thank you all - I particularly like the suggestion of leaving out an empty wine bottle (un-rinsed, as the darker glass would hide more ‘bodies’ and still be kitchen ‘decor’. Love it!