Campus Life

STAYING FOR THE SUMMER Invasion of the fruit flies

Dealing with unwanted dinner guests

Fruit flies!

They vexed the grads and undergrads alike, and ate the fruit inside the bins, and ruined the pleasures of summer, and drove us to our wit’s end.

I knew the house I’d be living in over the summer had fruit flies ever since I started hanging out there during the term, attracted initially by the cheap meal plan but finally won over by the friendly, unique atmosphere. I never really paid much attention to the frugivorous pests zipping through the air like liberated commas. They’re harmless, after all, and don’t sting, bite, or lay eggs in your ears. Only their proximity to squeamish humans singles them out for extermination. I thought they were no big deal.

I was wrong.

In the heat of the summer, the pests multiplied, forming a loose layer over any surface. Fruit, trash cans, beer bottles, leftover bread, and even kitchen sponges became fly singles bars, where eligible bachelors sang their mating songs to vie for the attentions of the other sex. Casually waving a hand in their direction would send up a cloud of flies, as panicked as stereotypical teenage partygoers when the parents come home early.

We naturally tried to evict these unwanted guests. Plans ranged from the practical — making more fruit fly traps — to the mad scientist — breeding a race of fruit-fly-eating flies that would then lead to fruit-fly-eating-fly-eating flies and so on. Several years ago, the discussion included the thought of buying an industrial fly zapper, which was vetoed because the house members back then preferred the “organic” look of homemade fly traps. I’m not sure anyone would be convinced by that argument now.

My own room for the summer had a sizable fly population because the previous inhabitant had been homebrewing beer, so I went to work making a simple fly trap. First, I got a leftover glass jar and added a little beer to the bottom. Then, I taped a piece of paper into a cone with a small hole and inverted it in the jar opening. Finally, I taped around the jar opening to make a fly-proof seal. Flies land on the paper funnel and are attracted to the fermented beer, squeezing through the small hole. They aren’t smart enough to squeeze out again, so once they’re trapped inside, it’s only a matter of time before they drown in the beer below.

The rest of the house was trying to deal with the flies attracted to the fresh fruit. They tried keeping the fruit in storage bins, which backfired because the bins concentrated the population of flies, making convenient breeding grounds. Opening the bins caused an explosion of flies in the air. Finally, one house member donated his refrigerator as fruit storage, solving the problem.

With the war against fruit flies at an uneasy stalemate, we pressed on to other concerns, like the first party of the summer. In honor of the unwanted guests, the party was dedicated to fruit flies. There was strawberry chiffon cake with whipped cream frosting for the people, fruit rinds a-plenty for the flies, and boba tea for its resemblance to fly eggs. One person even dressed as a fruit fly trap, and a visitor wore fruit fly wings.

Tomorrow, we will again wage war, but today, we had a truce. After all, if you can’t beat them, you might as well party with them.