For the love of fruit flies

It's inevitable. If you make wine, whether you make 5 gallons or 5000, you will get fruit flies. I still remember the first time I opened a fermenting barrel and was swarmed by the little beasts. I thought I was in a Hitchcock film! Faced with a bajillion fruit flies, I started researching solutions. Before I go any further, let me point out that this was my first mistake. I should have researched this WAY before. Back to the research. My first stop was the hardware store. I bought fly strips. This was my second mistake. Fly strips catch flies... and moths... and crawly thingies. They are not so good at fruit flies. In terms of esthetics, fly strips are on par with Klingon Gagh... After a day or two, I had a yellow strip of gooey paper with several flies (house flies) stuck to it. There was ONE fruit fly. I suspect it likely fly into the paper by accident after spending too much time sniffing the fumes. Back to the hardware store. By chance, they had fruit fly traps. Salvation? Not really. Turns out that fruit fly traps are fly paper in fancier boxes at twice the price. You place a piece of fruit inside the trap to lure them in. This part works. The part where you expect them to now land on the paper? Not so much. One would expect that their fat little bodies would tumble to the paper and a sticky demise. Instead, having gorged themselves on the free buffet, they fly clumsily out of the trap and find a place to sleep it off. A few hours later, they come back... with their friends. It's like a house party gone bad. After two days, the body count was 3. I could hear the little beasts laughing at me. This really hurt my feelings. Finally, I decided to ask Mr. Internet. I found a solution in some obscure farmer's blog that sounded absolutely insane; not because it involved flamethrowers or carpet bombing, but because it was incredibly simple. Naturally, being so simple, it could NOT possibly work. I laughed at this old country method thinking how could this possibly capture beasts that had so far elluded modern science. I opened a barrel to check on the wine and once again, I was swarmed. There were fruit flies EVERYWHERE. Where did I put that ridiculous fruit fly trap idea... it wasn't like I was winning this battle. What the heck. I went back to Mr. Internet and looked it up again. This time I went to the grocery store and bought a small bottle of apple cider vinegar. At home, I took a soup bowl and added about a cup of the apple cider vinegar. I stretched plastic wrap across the top and pulled it tight. I poked a few holes in the plastic wrap with a skewer and set the bowl on top of the barrel. I turned off the light and left the room. I'm sure I heard the fruit flies laugh at this new attempt. The next day, I re-entered the room, fully expecting to be hit with waves of the beasts, along with all their friends from neighbouring barrels (they must have Twitter, Facebook or something). What I saw was incredible. That bowls of apple cider vinegar had thousands (OK, maybe hundreds) of fruit flies in it! What kind of Voo-Doo was this? I was gobsmacked. Now, it was I who laughed manically! I'm sure I could hear the little beasts talking amongst themselves. Now THEY shuddered at the sight of ME! This simple farmer's trick, which cost me about $1 worth of apple cider vinegar, took out more fruit flies in a day than modern science's marvels (at about $20) could do in a week. As a bonus, it was a 100% non-toxic solution. It was so effective, I had to empty the bowl and set a new trap out. Within 2 days, the number of fruit flies was next to none. I now leave these marvels of everywhere when we start a new barrel. I leave a couple on the counter in the tasting room, discretely hidden behind ice buckets. The moral is, of course, if it's worked for 200 or 300 years, chances are it might still work. Now you know as well. Happy hunting! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever-patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at

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