What You Should Do If Your Pilea Has Fruit Flies
I think you’ll agree with us that fruit flies are annoying; whether they’re flying around your fruit bowl or congregating on your houseplants, they are an absolute pest. And if you’ve been growing houseplants for a while, you’ve probably had to deal with fruit flies at one point or another.
We like to think of Pilea as a very resilient plant. However, it’s not immune to pests, since a lot of that resilience depends on the environment we place our plants in.
Here are the main reasons why your Pilea may have fruit flies, and what you should do if you notice these pesky little guys flying around.
Why do houseplants get fruit flies?
The main factors that attract fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to your houseplants are the same ones that attract the flies to your kitchen counter:
a damp or moist surface and
an area rich in decomposing matter
You may have noticed that if you’ve left a piece of fruit to go bad on your counter, you’re sure to have a parade of fruit flies feeding on it. But they also breed in other areas that tick the two factors we mentioned above. You may see fruit flies in drains, trash cans, compost buckets, empty dirty bottles, garbage disposals and damp mops or rags.
Even though it may seem that the fruit flies appear out of thin air, that’s not the case. We bring them in on produce (either from the supermarket or from our own gardens), on the soles of our feet when coming from outside, or they simply manage to find their way indoors through open unscreened windows.
In the case of houseplants, the fruit fly eggs may also be burrowing in your new bag of potting soil (remember that potting compost is made of decomposing matter). So you may have done nothing wrong and still get overwhelmed with fruit flies.
A single fruit fly can lay as much as 500 eggs and it takes only 7 days for a fruit fly to go from egg to adult, according to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. So no wonder it feels like a fruit fly invasion if the situation gets out of hand.
Let’s get down to specifics and find out what to do when your Pilea is invaded by fruit flies.
1. Keep the houseplant soil dry
Just as we mentioned before, one of the pre-conditions of fruit fly infestations is a moist environment. Not only moisture itself will bring on the fruit flies. But the damper your plant stays, the more it’s likely to get root rot. Where there’s rot, there’s decomposing matter. And where there’s decomposing matter, there will be fruit flies.
Have a look at this guide on how to tell if you’re overwatering your Pilea.
2. Clean up the decomposing matter around your houseplants.
Remove any dead leaves that have started to decompose. Unlike their outdoor counterparts growing in the garden, indoor plants should not be mulched with their own dead leaves.
Inspect your Pilea’s roots and check for rot. If your plant has mushy roots that have turned brown and slimy, then you must remove them as soon as possible.
While you’re at it, remove the top two inches of soil out of your pot and replace it with fresh potting soil.
3. Set up a vinegar trap next to your Pilea.
Once you’ve removed the possible sources of infestation, here’s a simple trick to catch the fruit flies that are still gathering around your plants.
Pour a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a jar. Then roll up a paper cone, such as a coffee filter or an envelope, and place it in the jar, but without letting it touch the vinegar. The cone should act as a funnel, attracting the fruit flies into the jar, but not allowing them to escape. At this point, they either drown in vinegar, or you release them outdoors. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, a piece of fermented fruit or a banana peel also works as good bait.
Keep setting this trap until you no longer notice fruit flies around your houseplants.
4. Set up yellow sticky tape.
If you’re not a fan of setting your own traps, or you can’t stand the smell of vinegar floating around your house, yellow sticky tape is the perfect solution. Just look for “houseplant sticky stakes” at any gardening center or home improvement store.
The yellow of the tape acts as a magnet to the fruit flies, while the adhesive immobilizes them. The tape is single use, so when all the real estate has been taken up by dead flies, you must dispose of it.
Although some houseplant tapes do contain pesticides, we recommend that you try the non-pesticide version first, especially if you have kids and pets that might be tempted to take a closer look.
A more frugal option would be to buy your own yellow tape, stick it back to back to turn it into double-sided tape, perforate the top and hang it on a stick. Place this stick upright in the soil of the Pilea that has been attracting fruit flies.
Here are a few other factors to pay attention to when it comes to your indoor environment to help you control fruit flies in your house:
Don’t set your houseplants near a food prep area;
Avoid leaving cut produce around for too long;
Cover your fruit bowl with a napkin or a tea towel;
Take out your trash as soon as it’s full;
Dispose of dirty food containers immediately;
Avoid leaving dirty dishes out for too long;
Avoid leaving wet sponges or washcloths in the sink;
Don’t forget to run your garbage disposal.
Here’s the good news: Fruit flies lay their eggs near the surface of moist decomposing matter, so upon emerging, the tiny fruit fly larvae continue to feed near the source of the decomposition. Removing the source should bring the fruit fly problem under control.