My Marsala Wine Brings All the Fruit Flies to the Yard

Me, going into my kitchen when I got home to The Lemon Incident. (Image by the always-fab Allie Brosh)
Me, going into my kitchen when I got home to The Furry Lemon Incident. (Image by the always-fab Allie Brosh)

I don’t get fruit flies very often, but every now and then, they come seemingly out of nowhere to descend upon a bit of something-or-another that I’ve overlooked in my kitchen and allowed to go rotten. Like that time I somehow missed the trash can and an apple core ended up on the floor for a couple of weeks until I moved the can out enough to see it. Or that other time recently that I forgot I had a lemon on the verge of spoilage and went on vacation, only to return to an object so green and furry that I only knew it was a lemon because I could still see the sticker.

I’m not a very good housekeeper sometimes.

When researching ways to get rid of fruit flies due to The Apple Core Disappearance, I read about a fruit fly trap. The trap consists of a bowl, punctured plastic wrap, and (most of the time) cider vinegar. The idea is that the flies will get under the plastic wrap to get at the vinegar; then, not being the brightest creatures, they will be unable to navigate their way out of the Trap of Doom. The concept is sound: I’ve seen bugs unable to find giant holes in window screens, so it seems likely that finding a tiny hole in clear plastic wrap would prove impossible.

The first time I went to construct this trap, I ran into a tiny snag: I didn’t have any cider vinegar. I also didn’t have a car at the time to obtain said vinegar. What I did have was some cheap Marsala wine that I’d bought with the idea of making tiramisu, then never used because I taste things before dumping them into recipes and this Marsala wine was super-gross. Since wine is a kissing cousin to vinegar, and since I would have to develop raging alcoholism to actually consume that particular wine normally, into the trap it went.

I AM THE LORD OF THE FLIES. Wait. I did not think that through.
I AM THE LORD OF THE FLIES. Wait. I did not think that through.

It worked like a mother-flippin’ boss. The flies cleared out quickly. I may have done a victory dance.

The traps worked so well that, a few years later, I tried the same technique when I had flies again. Only this time, I didn’t have any nasty Marsala wine, because ew. I did have cider vinegar, though, so I used that, per the original instructions.

Nada. The flies wouldn’t touch the stuff. They didn’t even want it when I added some apple cores after they rejected the plain vinegar. The fruity little buggers turned up their noses at my vinegar trap until I got desperate and put all of the produce in the refrigerator, including the tomatoes. Yes, I was that desperate: I put up with mushy tomatoes.

This time around, I skipped the vinegar and bought another $6 bottle of Marsala. The flies are already starting to pile up in the trap, happily drunk on syrupy-sweet fermented yuck. My quasi-scientific methods have led me to the conclusion that fruit flies may like rotting fruit best of all, but they’ll definitely settle for fruit-based adult beverages, and maybe aren’t so crazy about high-acid liquids. I just hope the flies don’t become connoisseurs; I can barely afford to keep myself stocked up with alcohol.


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  • Samantha Owens

    I am happy that I read this. Because I have totally had the fruit fly problem before, and now I know how to take care of it. :D

    • Insatiable Booksluts

      The other part of taking care of it is to eliminate other fly food. Do the dishes, etc. They looooove dirty dishes almost as much as they love gross-ass booze, apparently!

  • Pingback: My Marsala Wine Brings All the Fruit Flies to the Yard | CookingPlanet

  • Colleen

    I’ve had success with this trap using apple juice, but I’ll remember the shitty wine trick for next time.

    • Insatiable Booksluts

      I’m finally starting to get them to a manageable level. I keep thinking that maybe they will adapt or notice all of the little bug bodies in the trap, but nope.

  • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

    Methinks you need a jug of Carlo Rossi always on tap.

    • Insatiable Booksluts

      It would ONLY be used for pests, haha! We’re not much on wine. (Beer and liquor, on the other hand… hell yes)

  • sharifahwilliams

    Glad I’m not the only one who thinks Marsala wine is blech.

    • Insatiable Booksluts

      Oh god, I hate it! I mean, to be fair, I’m not much on wine other than Riesling or pinot grigio, but yuck.

  • Dana Staves

    Ugh, I had the fruit fly problem all the time in my old apartment (only once, so far, in my new one). And I go into full-scale Fruit Fly War. And it’s so true – this works like a charm (though I just used whatever was left in the bottle of any cheap wine I had on hand)! I’ll have to keep a bottle of Marsala wine under the counter so I can save the good, albeit cheap, stuff for myself. :)

    • Insatiable Booksluts

      I’m just glad I had crappy wine on-hand that first time, because if I’d used cider vinegar, I would still not know how to get rid of them. :|

  • Amanda M

    You have to add a little squirt of dish soap to the cider vinegar trap, then it works well. But this is good to know too.