Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scientific Method: The Fruit Fly

I'm not ashamed to say it: The QueenBee household has been fighting a plague. For some reason (I suspect it's because we're just so darned sweet) for the last two weeks we've entered the kitchen at some risk, with a swarm of fruit flies rising around us like the Third Plague of Egypt.

For those not familiar with fruit flies (and where do you live, the North Pole?) here is what one looks like:
Yikes! Well, they're don't look this scary-looking in the wild, where they're a sixteenth of an inch long.

Anyway, In the interest of ridding our kitchen of these pests (and because I love you, my readers) I decided to try an experiment. I would see if the Internet knows whereof it speaks when it speaks of fruit fly eradication.

I had a couple of basic ground rule--I wasn't going to spray anything around that might poison Husband, and the eradication elements had to be in the house because my ability to plan ahead is pretty much zero. Thus I googled "how to get rid of fruit flies" and a list of methods came up that involved a few simple household ingredients.

Here's the recipe: Put a half cup of balsamic vinegar in a shallow bowl, add a squirt of dishwashing detergent, and let the vinegar do its job. Apparently fruit flies cannot resist a really well-appointed vinegar spa, buzz around, and eventually fly into the liquid and drown.

Well, that seemed simple enough. Too simple, in fact. So in the interest of complicating my life, I decided to see if the Internet REALLY meant balsamic vinegar or if just any old vinegar would do. Thereupon our experiment commenced.

I pulled out balsamic vinegar, which is a rather evil-looking potion. In order to see if the fruitflies were influenced by smell or by sight, I also got out a lovely rose-colored red wine vinegar.

Here comes our third character, dishwashing detergent:

Two bowls of vinegar, two squirts of foam, and our traps were ready for the unsuspecting varmints to experiment, and DROWN! Mwahahahaha.

While I was searching for eradication methods I came across this site and because I'm all about the humane when it comes to household pests (yeah, right) I decided to throw the touchy-feely method into the mix. A lovely vase, with pink ribbon, and a funnel of (recycled) paper completed this trap.

The theory here is that fruit flies, with their itty-bitty brains, follow the lovely banana smell through a tiny hole in the paper funnel then can't find their way back out. I set up the trap following humane catch-and-release rules.

And now we wait. (Imagine a clock with its hands spinning around, falling back one hour for daylight savings time, then spinning forward again.)

Today I checked the results.

Fruit flies apparently are teetotalers. The red wine vinegar attracted a grand total of five participants.

It was a bit more complicated to measure the effectiveness of the balsamic vinegar, with it being the approximate color and viscosity of motor oil, but science must prevail. A rusty tea strainer and a rinse later, I counted 21 victims.

But imagine my surprise when I looked through the wall of the humane trap. These fruit flies are much dumber than their close-up (above) would indicate. HUNDREDS of flies were swarming around the overripe banana.

(Obviously, my point-and-shoot is inadequate for science. You'll have to take my word for it.)

So I took the trap outside and humanely released them, and they gathered to plot their re-entry into the house.

And thus concludes my research on eradication of fruit flies. Science. It's always surprising.

You're welcome.

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