Thursday, August 20, 2015
Catch and Release
It’s August here in farm country, and that means peaches. I love peaches, which is weird because I never really ate them growing up. I’ve always been more into bananas and apples. (“You should see me climb trees,” as the old joke goes.) I didn’t try peaches until I was into my 30s and had a brush with anemia. The doctor suggested I eat more fruit, so I experimented in the produce department and discovered the joys of peaches, plums and apricots. I still draw the line at citrus fruit. Won’t eat it, though I’ll drink the juice. On the vegetable side, I actually like broccoli and asparagus. I’ll only eat cauliflower raw, never cooked. My taste buds are a strange set of cells.
Of course, all good things come at a price. With peaches, that price is fruit flies.
Until I went fruit happy, my only experience with fruit flies was high school bio class, where we raised colonies in tubes and learned about genetics. Fruit flies are great for this because they’re tiny and they reproduce faster than rats. You can have three generations in a week. They die off just as fast, which makes cleanup a snap.
Unfortunately, that’s under classroom conditions. In the wild, or in your kitchen, not so much.
My reintroduction to the common fruit fly coincided with my discovery that peaches are tasty. I’d had bananas, apples and pears sitting out on the counter for years and never had any problems. I brought peaches into the house and all of a sudden there are these little black bugs flitting around. Once in the kitchen, they found my trash can and my sink full of dirty dishes. I was forcefully reminded of how fast the little buggers reproduce.
Believe me, I tried everything. I kept the trash covered. I did dishes more often. I sprayed. I didn’t like spraying because this was the kitchen. I have food and dishes in there. It really didn’t work anyway. I’d wipe out one troop and a day or so later the next generation would rise. For all I know, I was breeding fruit flies resistant to bug spray. That was never part of bio class.
The only thing that cleared out the problem was temperature. October accomplished what bug spray couldn’t. After that the house was fine until the following peach season, when we did the dance all over again.
This situation persisted after I moved into the mobile home. The house is bug-free until August arrives and I start bringing the peaches home. The trailer’s even worse in terms of spraying. The bugs congregate around the sink. I will not release poison into the air so close to my sugar bowl. If I put the peaches in the fridge, they get all wrinkly and bad. What’s a fruit-eater to do?
It took me forever, but the solution finally hit me: catch and release.
It’s so simple I could kick myself. I take those little plastic containers dried fruit and other bulk foods come in. Anything fruity works for bait; my favorite is banana peels. I rip up peel pieces and dump them in the container and give the flies ample time to congregate. Every couple of hours I go to the counter, slam the lid on the container, take the captured flies outside and release them back into the wild. The birds and the spiders take it from there. At the end of the day I dump the bait outside, where it either gets eaten by skunks or dissolves into the soil.
This method worked fine for the first couple of years. Usually I’d be fruit flyless within three days, or at least until I brought more peaches home. The last two years, however … it’s not working so well. Days go by and I’m still dumping large container-fulls of fruit flies into the wind. Either they’re breeding even faster these days, or the ones I let go are crawling back in through the screens. I might be catching and releasing the same group of flies over and over and not be aware of it.
I won’t spray, though. Doesn’t help. Guess the flies and I can share the peaches. October will be here soon enough.