By Mordechai Schmutter

There’s a famous saying: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” And it’s true. You can’t put bananas in the fridge.

Anyway, I think we finally got rid of our fruit flies, now that the weather is getting colder and they were going to die out anyway.

OK, so I wouldn’t call them our fruit flies. They were fruit flies that lived in our house. Rent-free.

For people who have no fruit in the house, I should explain that fruit flies are these tiny flies that love overripe fruit or any fruit that you leave out for more than 20 seconds. Also, there’s no such thing as one fruit fly. They seem to come in familial units of several million. Your kid leaves one grape under the table and suddenly you have a thriving community of fruit flies, with queens and kings and rosheiyeshiva and that one guy who’s always pacing back and forth for no reason. And in the fly community, everyone likes fruit. There are no mothers who have to convince their kids to take a tiny piece of fruit when they’re hungry 20 minutes before supper.

They don’t even necessarily just hang out near the fruit. They hang out in random spots in the house. And you’re wondering, “Is there fruit here? Do they know something I don’t? Is there an apple under this couch?”

So that’s nice–they do help you find food. This can be useful if they come out right before Pesach and they point out where all the food is. But they only find fruit, so that’s not really useful in terms of chametz. Unless you count jelly sandwiches.

But when do they come? They come toward the end of the summer. We sometimes get fruit flies around then. Is that embarrassing? It means we eat fruit. Well, no. Actually, it means we buy fruit. I blame my wife, because she’s the one who keeps buying the fruit. I never buy fruit. Rosh Hashanah–that’s it. Once a year. And it’s always something our fruit flies have never seen before. Sometimes it has spikes.

The thing about buying fruit is that it’s hard to determine how much of it is going to get eaten before it’s too late. When my wife buys one apple, all the kids want it. When she buys ten, no one touches them.

So what do we do? Well, the best idea, if you have fruit flies and can’t figure out what they’re eating, is to move. But don’t count on actually selling your house, because it’s not easy to hide the fruit-fly problem. You can’t just shove them in a closet when people come in.

Obviously, your first thought, if you want to get rid of them, is to find your overripe fruit and throw it in the garbage. Great. Now they’re all congregated around the garbage.

So I’m thinking about keeping my garbage can in the fridge. But then there won’t be room for the fruit. I’ll have to keep that on the counter.

And anyway, no matter how clean you keep your house, the first time a kid leaves an apple core somewhere, or a banana peel, or pours food into the garbage and completely misses the bag, you have fruit flies, and they don’t go away just because you got rid of the mess. If there’s something else to eat, they’ll find it, and they won’t leave until there’s no food in the house. They’re like relatives who come for yomtov. The thing is, they’re not even your relatives. They’re your spouse’s.

We have to kill them (the flies, not the relatives). We can’t catch each one in a cup and slide a piece of paper underneath and let it go outside. (Still talking about the flies. Not the relatives.) There are millions of these guys. (OK, now I’m talking about both.)

Flyswatters aren’t great, because the fly has to be standing on something for it to work. You can’t just whack it through the air as it passes you.

“Where’d it go?”

“I don’t know, I think I hit it across the room.”

Maybe open the door and hit them in that direction.

Also, I’m pretty sure they would go right through the holes on a flyswatter. You need like a shoe or something. But you need to be able to get your shoe off at a moment’s notice. So generally the way you deal with it is you clap, and then you slowly check your hands. And if there’s nothing on your hands, you’re disappointed. If there is, you have to go wash your hands, but if you’d used a shoe, you’d have to wash your hands whether or not you caught the fly.

You can always just turn on the vacuum cleaner and pull them right out of the air. That’s actually kind of fun. Then you just have a vacuum cleaner bag full of flies you’re not sure are dead.

Step two is to burn the vacuum cleaner.

So what some people recommend–and what I generally do–is to set up a trap. I take a Gatorade bottle and put some grape juice and vinegar at the bottom and a funnel at the top. The flies come in through the funnel, and they can’t find their way out. Because apparently, figuring out how to leave the way you just came in is harder than finding a lone grape under a couch. So the flies fly around in there for a little bit, trying to figure out how to get out, and then they give up and commit suicide in the grape juice. Which is definitely one of the best ways to go–covered in grape juice.

But this seems to be the most effective trap. There was one summer when I bought a sticky trap–a really sticky cardboard pole that sat upright on the counter for several weeks–and the kids kept getting stuck to it. They kept touching it to see if it was still sticky. I caught like ten kids. (I didn’t even want more kids.) And then the trap kept falling over and getting stuck to things, and I had to throw it out, along with anything that was stuck to it. So now I do the funnel thing.

But sometimes I look at the trap, and we have flies walking around the inside of the bottle, trying to figure out how to get out, and I kind of feel bad for them. And then there are flies walking around on the outside of the bottle, trying to figure out how to get in. Really? I don’t even feel bad for those guys. They talk about survival of the fittest, but you know who’s surviving? The dumb ones. The ones who can’t figure out how to fly into the deathtrap but keep trying anyway.

It happens to be that the way this trap works is that for a while you don’t catch anything, but then the more flies go in, the more flies come in after them. Fruit flies are social creatures. They’re like, “Hey, look how many guys are in there! We must be missing something.”

You know what it is? It’s the grape juice. It’s a kiddush, so everyone shows up. If you wanted to catch men–like if you have too many men in your shul–you can set up a trap by putting out grape juice in the multi-purpose room, and maybe some vinegar with herring in it. And maybe something sticky and mezonos. And the guys will come, they’ll eat, and they won’t be able to figure out how to get back out the door, no matter how many kids their wives send in to get them. The kids will get stuck in there too.

So for a while, the trap was working. We had fewer and fewer flies. Then yomtov hit, and we brought out the honey. That went into competition with the grape juice-vinegar thing. But now, baruchHashem, they’re gone. Too much yom tov, I think.

So in the end, I don’t know if we actually got rid of our fruit flies, or if the change in weather did. I think it’s possible the trap was constantly luring more into the house. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the flies left around the same time that we started sending our kids back to school. With fruit secretly hidden in their knapsacks.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

 

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