Why Citrus Trees Attract Flies (and How To Get Rid of Them)

fruit fly

Over the spring and summer, we occasionally get an influx of fruit flies around our house. We have several varieties of citrus trees, so it’s possible that the trees and ripening fruit attract them, but we wanted to be sure. So, we did some research on if citrus trees attract fruit flies and what we can do about it. Here’s what we found.

Citrus trees do in-fact attract flies. Fruit flies and the citrus blackfly are the most likely types of fly to be attracted to citrus trees. To prevent and deter fly infestations, always remove rotten fruit from the ground and tree immediately, and wash your citrus tree with water thoroughly quite often.

So we know that flies are attracted to citrus trees, but why is that the case? Which types of flies are they most likely to attract, and how can we get rid of or prevent flies that flock to citrus trees? Are there any citrus trees that don’t attract flies? If so, which ones? Let’s find out.

Why Do Citrus Trees Attract Flies?

Flies are attracted to all types of sweet fruit, and citrus fruits are no exception. They especially love to burrow inside citrus fruits once they have become overly ripe or have started to decompose. These flies then feed on the old fruit or lay eggs under the peel. 

Flies are attracted to citrus trees by the products the trees produce, not by the trees themselves. Any plant that is the source of a sugary tasting fruit is fair game for a fly. 

Citrus trees produce many sweet things that draw the attention of flies, such as their flowers and pollen, their leaves, the fruit itself, or any rotting and fermented fruit, which often falls near the base of the tree when it starts to decompose.

Are some flies more or less attracted to the sweet products of citrus trees? Do citrus trees attract a certain type of fly? 

Which Flies Do Citrus Trees Attract?

While you may find many different kinds of flies swarming around your citrus trees, particularly if they have rotting fruit nearby, the most common culprits are fruit flies and citrus blackflies. Fruit flies are more annoying than harmful, but citrus blackflies will drain nutrients from your trees.

You will find the irritating fruit flies looming near your citrus tree or trees the most frequently. 

Fruit flies are small, and they don’t pose a direct risk to humans, as they can’t bite or sting. The problem with fruit flies is that they reproduce rapidly and become very pesky and problematic.

Another common critter that can be found anywhere citrus trees are located is the citrus blackfly

The citrus blackfly is an incredibly invasive and parasitic creature. They’re capable of infesting citrus trees and depriving them of their sap and nutrients.

The citrus blackfly coats the leaves of citrus trees it inhabits with a honeydew layer, which becomes moldy and severely impairs the tree’s nourishment.

Thankfully, there are ways to deter both the fruit fly and the citrus blackfly and keep your citrus tree healthy and pest-free.

How To Get Rid of Flies on Your Citrus Trees

While it may be tempting to use pesticides to get rid of any unwanted pests near your citrus tree, these can be dangerous for the environment or any other plants on your property. This is especially true if the spray is applied improperly. The best way to get rid of flies is to use water and dispose of rotting fruit.

Many people’s first instinct may be to run out and purchase pesticides and attack their unwelcome insect guests with everything they have.

Pesticides and chemicals can have a very negative effect on the environment. Moreover, environmental pollutants tend to disturb the entirety of the eco-system and create a cascading effect. They may also kill your grass and ruin the look of your property.

The eco-system exists in a state of harmony, and any disruption to one aspect can inflict dire consequences on the ecology as a whole.

Thankfully, there are natural and environmentally friendly ways to deter fruit flies and citrus blackflies from infesting your citrus tree.

Fruit Fly Solutions

When it comes to fruit flies, prevention is important and will go a long way.

First, practicing good gardening hygiene will greatly reduce the odds of developing a fruit fly problem and prevent it before it even takes root.

Always pick up and dispose of any fruit which has fallen off the tree and is lying on the ground. Also, inspect the fruits attached to your tree to make sure they don’t have any rot on them. If you do notice these fruits have begun rotting, even a little bit, remove them from the tree and discard them.

Fruit flies lay their eggs, up to 500 at a time, under the skin of rotten fruits. If these eggs get the chance to hatch, you will surely have a problem on your hands. As such, simply disposing of any rotten fruits will greatly increase your odds of eliminating fruit flies.

If you are already facing a fruit fly infestation, you can make a trap to catch them.

To build the trap, you will need:

  • Soda Bottle (2L)
  • Vinegar
  • Rotten Fruit
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • String

Once you have your supplies:

  1. Start by cutting the top of the empty plastic bottle completely off. Cut about 2/3rds of the way up from the bottom.
  2. Next, put some vinegar and a piece of rotten fruit into the bottle.
  3. Once you have added the ingredients to the bottle, flip the top part, which you cut off in step one, so that it is inverted. Place it back inside the bottle to form a downward cone, and then tape around the seam to seal it.
  4. Tie the trap to a branch of the tree with the string, and then all that’s left to do is wait.

The trap works by inviting fruit flies to enter the bottle, but they will not be able to find their way back out once they get inside.

Citrus Blackfly Solutions

Spraying down your citrus tree with water from a garden hose thoroughly and frequently will help to keep the leaves free of harmful citrus blackfly residue, particularly the mold and layers of honeydew that will rot the tree if it’s left to sit.

Another way to protect your trees from citrus blackflies is to apply neem oil.

Neem oil is an organic and eco-friendly substance that has been shown to kill the citrus blackfly’s eggs. Neem oil should be added to a spray bottle and sprayed liberally, directly onto the leaves. The flies tend to lay them on the bottom side of the leaves.

If you’d like to solve a citrus blackfly problem and you’re looking for an affordable and effective neem oil, Organic Neem Bliss on Amazon is a good choice. You can also combine the neem oil with this spray bottle to apply it easily.

Which Citrus Trees Don’t Attract Flies?

Some citrus trees, such as orange trees, are much less likely to attract flies.

Oranges are very hard for most flies to penetrate due to their thick, tough skin. Because flies can’t easily break through the skin of oranges, they’re unable to lay their eggs under the peel or feast on the fruit. For this reason, flies are usually not attracted to orange trees.

The same can also be said of other thick-skinned citrus plants, like lemons.

However, while having a thicker rind may make these citrus trees less attractive to flies, if their fruits are rotting, infestations can still happen, and they sometimes occur fast.

Final Thoughts

After we started cleaning up the fallen and rotting fruits, we noticed a large reduction in the number of fruit flies around our property.

Side note: if you try to compost the fallen fruit as we did, make sure to cover the compost pile either with a lid or with a layer of dirt to prevent flies from breeding in it. If you have a hot compost pile, you likely won’t have to worry about this.

Either way, it’s generally a good idea to take similar preventative measures like the ones listed above to keep flies away from your citrus trees.

Tyler Ziton

After years of fatigue and declining health, Tyler found that good, fresh food was his answer. He learned more about healthy food by obtaining a certification in health coaching, and from there decided to grow his own food and become more self-sufficient. From gardening to learning about living off-grid, homesteading has become a good fit and pairs well with Tyler's odd childhood dream – to one day own a goat. Read more.

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