What are the little bugs flying around in my kitchen?

Written by james young
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What are the little bugs flying around in my kitchen?
Screens keep houseflies outside, but other flying insects breed indoors. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Few homes provide complete protection against the entry of insects. Some types of small flying insects find the kitchen a perfect environment -- complete with water, food and a breeding ground for larvae. In the fall, some insects seek the shelter of houses, and during the spring mating season, swarms follow electric lights into living areas at night. But some insect problems require nothing more than a vacuum cleaner to fix.

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Drain Flies

Drain flies breed in the contaminated water of sink traps and could spread dangerous bacteria to food and fixtures in the kitchen. Drain flies measure only 1/6 of an inch long when fully grown but could breed in large numbers in drains anywhere in the house. These dark, hairy flies only fly a few feet at one time and hold their wings up over their bodies when resting. The flies lay eggs in the slime on the insides of drainpipes or garbage cans. Pyrethrin spray safely kills adults, but glue traps laid over drain openings also eliminate the flies. Bacterial treatments clean drains and eliminate breeding grounds.

Fruit Flies

Fruit flies, red-eyed gnats about 1/8 of an inch long, feed on garbage and rotting fruit outside the home and find the same food sources inside the kitchen. Cleaning up rotting food offers the best control for fruit fly problems. Any damp container with food residue provides the basics for fruit fly reproduction. One fly could lay 500 eggs in her lifetime, according to entomologist Michael F. Potter of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Spraying adult flies won't affect eggs and larvae developing in drainpipes, garbage cans and on unwashed dishes. Unless you eliminate all potential breeding areas, fruit flies continue emerging.

Meal Moths

At least five different kinds of meal moths attack grain and other dry food products stored in the kitchen. Moths often arrive in food infested during commercial storage. Adults measure between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch long, with a wingspan of an inch or less. Meal moths could be either brown or grey. Larvae typically reach 1/2 an inch in length. Large numbers of moths live and die without leaving the infested container, but a few emerge to seek new breeding grounds. Discard any infested food and store clean food in tightly sealed glass or plastic containers. Moths chew through plastic bags and cardboard boxes. Clean up any spilt food that could harbour larvae.

Other Insects

Fungus gnats grow in damp soil both outside and inside the home. In the house, fungus gnats breed in flowerpots and planters. Overwatering creates perfect conditions for fungus gnats, but letting soil dry until barely moist benefits most plants and kills fungus gnat larvae. Coppery-brown Asian ladybird beetles, a type of ladybug, seek shelter in houses in the fall and cluster in large numbers on warm windowsills and around lamps. Cluster flies also enter houses when temperatures fall. These large, slow-moving carrion flies hide in wall spaces, emerging in swarms on warm winter days. Sealing your house provides the best protection. Vacuum cleaners trap large numbers of winter insects quickly and leave no insect corpses behind.

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