Monday, October 14, 2013

The Most Valuable Thing I Learned in Grad School

In a former life, I was a fruit fly geneticist. I spent many hours sorting flies (separating the boys from the girls), collecting virgins (true story), looking at flies, talking to flies (probably), and above all, killing flies. I keep saying that if karma really is a bitch, I am due for a huge swarm of fruit flies to descend on me and dump me in a vat of caustic liquid any day now.

I learned many things as I toiled away on my dissertation research, but I think that killing fruit flies is the one practical thing I have put to use most. I thought I had shared the simple art of fruit fly trap-making with my entire family by now, but just this past summer I schooled my uncle, who may be a retired Navy Commander of a nuclear submarine AND a lawyer AND current Ph.D. candidate, among other accolades, but he did not know how to properly get rid of the fruit flies buzzing around his kitchen.

And now I will share it with you. All you need are a handful of items you probably have in your house right this very second:

Some paper (an index card, probably the 4X6 size, would also work great), vinegar (I used red wine vinegar, but any type would work - please don't use expensive, high quality vinegar!), liquid soap (hand, dish), a jar or cup of some kind, and tape. I also needed scissors (not pictured).

Take the paper and tape, and make a funnel out of it. The funnel is going to sit in the opening of the jar/cup, so you need to make sure that it is not so long and/or thin that it will touch the bottom of jar. To achieve this, I first cut my paper (regular computer paper) in half:

Now, when you take one of these half sheets of paper and make it into a funnel/cone shape, you can see that it's still a little too long for the jar:

I snipped off an inch or so of the bottom (narrow) part of the funnel, and then re-formed the funnel so that the bottom was much narrower than the top, securing it with tape:

Then I added a little vinegar and 2 pumps of hand soap to the jar before resting the cone in the opening:

The cone should not be touching the vinegar

Simply place the trap somewhere prominent/near where your fruit flies have been appearing. I put mine on the edge of the pass-through between the kitchen and the living room:

Then I left to go help M. finish up bedtime with the kids. When we got back downstairs, less than half an hour later, I already had 5 fruit flies at the bottom of the jar: 

I would expect this in my mom's house, where the empty wine bottles outnumber the people by about 16 to one. But we've been living off of boxed wine (no empties!) and the occasional beer, and I've only seen the occasional fruit fly buzzing around, so I wasn't expecting such a quick response. It's like magic! Or science!

Now you, too, can amass bad karma by going forth and killing fruit flies. But please remember - with great power comes yadda yadda...


  1. I think I resent that remark about the wine bottles except it is all too true! And her fruit fly traps really work but you do need to clean them out about once a week and add more vinegar. I think the fruit flies can smell all the dead ones. Mom

  2. I had a major infestation last year and did this very thing on the advice of a friend. I did not do the funnel part, but it still worked quite well. Maybe even better with the funnel!

    I love using those little bits of grad school knowledge in practical ways. My family always asks me about weather. So fun!

  3. I marked this to come back and tell you THANK YOU! This is very helpful!