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The Queen recently had a birthday. This is what I gave her.

As it seemed inconvenient to keep them in our bread drawer, I also built her a wormbin to keep them in.

I went with the OSCR Jr. model. The irritatingly cryptic plans are in this PDF, with useful supplemental information here.

Now, before I go on, let me assure you that this wasn't one of those situations where I gave someone a birthday gift that I secretly wanted for myself. My wife's hobby is gardening, mine is playing board games; thus, of the two of us, she is generally the one more enthusiastic about worm crap. My opinion of the whole enterprise was, essentially, "oh great--another 500 mouths to feed."

But I reckoned correctly that she'd appreciate he gift. And to get the ball rolling, I took the initiative in feeding them the few few days, gathering up our our banana peels and coffee grounds, taking them out to the bin that we had parked out in the garage, and burying the foodstuffs into the bedding.

Our book on vermiculture (Worms Eat My Garbage!) suggested we save scraps for a few days, and feed them only two or three times a week. Even so, I was out there giving them three squares a day, plus in-between-meal snacks. I don't know what got into me. My inner Jewish Grandmother rose to the occasion. I'd fix myself a huge bowl of fruit salad, take one bite, and say "Wow, I can't take another bite. But it would be such a waste to just throw this away ..." The Queen would be tossing eggshell into the garbage and I'd leap across the kitchen to intercept it. "No! No no no no, the worms!" I'd cry. "The worms can totally eat eggshells. It helps them multiple. Put it in the Tupperware container!" She'd sigh and oblige. And as soon as the Tupperware container was sealed, I'd seize it from her hands, rush to the garage, crack open the wormbin and holler "Soup's on, my lovelies!"

When there was no food I would just go out there, peel back the bedding, and gaze upon them in adoration. I can't say that the returned the affection. They were more, like, "Gah! Turn off that light, dumbass--we're photophobic!"

Anyway, long story short, after about a week the ratio of decomposing advocado rinds to Eisenia fotida was about 3:1. You'd think the wrigglers would be appreciative. But no--instead they stabbed me in the back. They started inviting undesirable types into the home I had lovely crafted for them, and these guests quickly turned the joint in a sex palace. The only thing my wormbin lacked was some red lights and a Barry White soundtrack.

I discovered when I went out to check on my worms one Friday morning. I opened the bin and a large, black, cloud of insects rose ponderously from it, like that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, except with less face-melting. As the wormbin was right outside the door to the garage, and I'd left that door open, they serenely drifted into our home like a raincloud over the savanna.

And so I spent the weekend conducting the following Google searches:


"fruit flies"

"fruit flies" kitchen eliminate

how "get rid of" "fruit flies"

(kill OR eradicate OR destroy) "fruit flies"

(massacre OR slaughter) "fruit flies"

"fruit flies" death "most painful" torture


"anger management"

And for their treachery, those ingrate Drosophilidae-loving worms got their house moved to the back yard. Little bastards.

Oh, who am I kidding? I can't hate my wormies. (I mean The Queen's worms! They totally belong to her ! I'm just, you know, helping out with them.) And the fruit fly debacle was ultimately of my own making, as I gave them way more food than they could consume in a timely fashion.

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy: build yet more wormbins, until I have enough to process all our kitchen waste. Given that I am already in the thrall of vermimania, that might not be the rational thing to do in my situation. But when is love ever rational?

Posted on August 20, 2007 to Storytelling


My wife's hobby is gardening, mine is playing board games; thus, of the two of us, she is generally the one more enthusiastic about worm crap.

You should play If Wishes Were Fishes with her! It comes with a bunch of big purple rubber worms.

Posted by: Doug Orleans on August 20, 2007 10:04 PM

Two remarks.

First, Worms Eat My Garbage had a great recommendation for the droso's -- flies apparenty will not burrow to lay eggs. So you use shredded paper (we have a cross-cut one at work) to layer above whatever stuff you dig in. You can't just dump food on top; you dig it in (gently), and then cover with a fresh layer of shredded words. It worked beautifully! No flies, but lots of other beneficial creepy crawlies.

Second, when I bought my first pound of worms (we later gave up on the vermiculturing; we had children instead), the box arrived by mail when I was talking to my next-door neighbor. I opened it up all excited and saw the wriggling mass. "Hey, what's that?" my neighbor asked. "It's a box of worms," I replied honestly. "Really?" she rejoined, coming over to look. "Aieee!" she said, but forgave me.

Posted by: Glenn Fleishman on August 20, 2007 10:23 PM

You know I actually have a solution if you have any remaining in the area. I had an infestation in my kitchen a bit back, and couldn't seem to kill them fast enough. I figured out the ultimate solution that made me REALLY happy at the same time.

1. Get an old microwave you don't care too much about.

2. Get a cup you no longer care about.

3. Fill said cup with vinegar, a LOT of vinegar.

4. Put this cup inside the microwave with the door open.

5. Wait about 20 minutes, then rush up and slam the door.

6. Set the microwave for about 1-2 minutes and watch them explode in a horrible, miserable, gratifying death.

If you plan to reuse the microwave you can clean it out pretty well. I never had problems after disinfecting it really well.

Posted by: mindsuckr on August 20, 2007 10:33 PM

My mom had a bin of worms once. We kids were a bit grossed out and refused to go near them. My mom, however, was quite attached to them. When they arrived, she called customer service to say that the worms seemed a bit woozy and wondered if something was wrong with them. "They might be jet-lagged" the rep said. My mom asked, "Do they have personalities?" The rep paused, and then said, "It might be said that they have a collective personality." That collective personality orchestrated quite a few jail breaks...

Posted by: Alkelda the Gleeful on August 20, 2007 10:37 PM

Just kill one or two of the bigger fruit flies and put their heads on stakes (Oh ok, toothpicks) as a warning to the others.

Posted by: Nabakov on August 20, 2007 11:14 PM

Well you know what they say:

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like an apple.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on August 20, 2007 11:59 PM

Typo: "vericulture."

The way to get rid of fruit flies in the kitchen is to put plastic wrap with holes in it over some soda pop, they can't climb back out.

Posted by: Noumenon on August 21, 2007 12:16 AM

We had a fruit fly problem in college. I found that the cup with wine/juice/soda/vinegar didn't work quick enough for me, so I vacuumed them up. It came with a surprising sense of satisfaction that vacuuming your rug doesn't compare to.

Posted by: Meaghan on August 21, 2007 5:02 AM

If you don't want to donate a microwave to the cause, add a couple of drops of dish soap to a bowl filled with an inch or so of vinegar, and leave it out where ever the fruit flies congregate, like the kitchen counter. The vinegar attracts them, and the soap lowers the surface tension so they can't float.

Posted by: Jason Clark on August 21, 2007 5:12 AM

I would add to Jason's suggestion. I had a nasty infestation of fruit flies this summer because of all the rain we've been having and the litter box that is in the garage (which the cats access through a cat door that connects to the house).

Do the vinegar and soap trick, but take a liter soda bottle, and cut the top off about an inch below where the neck goes straight and becomes the body of the bottle. Now turn over the neck of the bottle. It will look like a funnel. Put the vinegar and soap in the bottle, and then put the "funnel" into the body of the bottle. It will fit snugly since it came off the bottle to begin with! The flies will fly in because of the vinegar, but they are too dumb to get out through the small hole!

It will take a couple of weeks to get all of the flies (because the eggs that have already been laid will hatch), so just change the vinegar and soap now and then.

It really works!!

Posted by: Ty on August 21, 2007 6:48 AM

Wait, vinegar? So you mean that old saying about flies and honey is actually a crock?

Posted by: Joe English on August 21, 2007 6:57 AM

I've found that most, if not all, fruit flies that invaded were from the banana peels. I now wash off the bananas as soon as we buy them, and there are fewer fruit flies in the worm bin as well as rarely any in the house.

Posted by: Sarah on August 21, 2007 7:42 AM

This is a bizarre conversation - more bizarre because there are delightfully sadistic solutions offered. Exploding fruit flies in the microwave? Who'd have thunk it?

Can you solve the fleas on my dog? Two dips and a Beruit of smokebombs later, and the damn dog is still scratching...

Posted by: Camron on August 21, 2007 8:20 AM

To get rid of fruit flies, just capture a bunch of them in a box, take it to your local dentist and have her x-ray the hell out of the box to sterilize the captive flies, and then release them back into the rest of your swarm. The sterile flies will breed with the non-sterile ones and after a couple of generations they'll be all gone. For details, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterile_insect_technique

Posted by: Pat on August 21, 2007 8:47 AM

Those Google searches are going to look pretty bad in your murder trial(s).

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on August 21, 2007 9:02 AM

What's with the Google search?...you don't ask your mother for advice anymore???

Don't forget to clean your drain trap. The debris in there is a lovely breeding ground for fruit flies.

Posted by: Yeti Mom on August 21, 2007 9:17 AM

I knew an old woman who swallowed a fly.....
Be careful as it starts with worms. I really would like to figure out how to keep flies out of my cockroach bin. The cricket bin too.

Posted by: Sarah on August 21, 2007 10:34 AM

In the spirit of adding to the general body of fruit fly eradication knowledge, here's my lazy man's $0.02:

-Take a piece of paper, fold it into a cone shape with a tiny hole at the point (bigger than a fruit fly, but not too much), and tape it together.

-Get a tall glass and put some fruit or juice or soda or wine in the bottom.

-Place the paper cone facing down in the cup. The flies are smart enough to crawl through the hole to get to the goodies, but not smart enough to figure out how to get back out.

-Voila! In addition to trapping all your flies, you get a delicious cocktail if you can drink it fast enough.

Good luck, fruit flies are a pain in the ass and even if you think you're done with them, their eggs are on friggin' everything you bring home from the supermarket so you may need to leave whatever remedy you try in place for longer than you think.

Posted by: Virginia on August 21, 2007 10:57 AM

Uhm...Pat never trust anything off Wikipedia....didn't you ever see ANY 1950's era horror film...exposing any insect to large amounts of x-rays will only result in said insect growing at an uncontrolled rate resulting in a fruit fly that is the size of a Hummer H2.

Posted by: Ryan on August 21, 2007 11:28 AM

You don't really need to feed your worms as often as that book tells you to. Just save all your scraps in a covered bucket (outside the house, of course) and feed them once a month or so. The scraps will get nice and squishy and easy for them to eat. Also, never feed them citrus scraps. It evidently gives them the worm equivalent of indigestion.

Posted by: Dave on August 21, 2007 11:39 AM

Hey, do these check-in/can't check-out fruit fly remedies work on normal fat bastard flies, too? Buzzing multi-eyed nasty hairy-legged monsters.... augh. Yes, I know they eat other worse monsters, but still - I really need to keep them OUT of my wine glass during sunset cocktail hour!

Posted by: DataTater on August 21, 2007 12:01 PM

DataTater- Try using a "sippy" cup. Sure it's not as sophisticated as a wine glass...

Posted by: Ryan on August 21, 2007 12:10 PM


Re: fleas Solutin: Move to Idaho

I have lived in SE Idaho for almost 9 years and have had a dog the whole time. The *only* time she's had fleas is when I visited New Mexico and she brought some back. And in those couple of instances, the fleas died of within a week or so of returning to sunny Idaho.

Note: Your mileage may vary if you don't want to move to SE Idaho

Posted by: wavy on August 21, 2007 12:41 PM

I went with a compost bin instead of a worm bin. It's pretty big, and sits out in our back yard. In addition to our food refuse, we can put in leaves and grass clippings and such. That solves the problem of having too much food for the worms to eat (considering that we have 4 kids, we'd have to have a hottub full of worms to eat all our garbage).

Posted by: Sam on August 21, 2007 2:32 PM

I've got two fabulous words for you - bug zapper. Yes, a bug zapper in the kitchen. It may not be nearly as effective, or potentially deadly to your family as the microwave thing, but it sure is satisfying to watch those flying vermin getting zotched. Let the white trash in you free!

Posted by: HDC on August 21, 2007 5:08 PM

The Queen recently had a birthday. This is what I gave her.

I forgot the applicable convention when I saw this, and thought for a second that you had gone nuts and sent a sack of worms to Elizabeth Windsor.

Posted by: alkali on August 21, 2007 5:30 PM

'...a hottub full of worms...'

Never thought I'd read those words combined, never thought I'd like it.

Posted by: Mary on August 21, 2007 7:48 PM

The only advice I have for you is to never stop posting - that was brilliant.

Posted by: Felty on August 21, 2007 8:04 PM

How to get rid of fruit flies, painfully:

1. Build a transmutational recombinant DNA processor.

2. Trick Jeff Goldblum and the flies into getting into it.

3. Turn machine on.

4. Read treatise on "Insect Politics".

5. Run screaming down the street when the door to the machine opens.

Posted by: Davey on August 21, 2007 8:42 PM

I can't imagine I'll ever have a worm bin or the kind of fruit-fly problem you're talking about. Nonetheless, this discussion is fascinating.

Posted by: MarkDM on August 21, 2007 11:36 PM

Why must there be all this killing? Just let 'em live! They ain't hurtin' anybody! They keep me company in the kitchen when I'm cooking. Occasionally one or two will accidentally sizzle when I turn on the gas stove and I can't help feeling a bit like a teeny murderer.

Once I poured myself a glass of wine. I took a sip and ingested a mouth full of fruit flies. I had forgotten that I'd attached one of those winestoppers (but not corkers) to the bottle and thus was treated to a mouthful of carcasses. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as I sprayed wine.

Posted by: Julie on August 22, 2007 12:17 AM

When my brother-in-law gave us a worm bin, the kids decided to name all of the worms "Bob." They call them "the Bobs." They posted a warning sign on the lid of the bin saying "Worms: minding their own business."

Posted by: Straight on August 22, 2007 8:09 AM

They really are stupid, the little devils. We discovered, inadvertently, that if a cake lid is left just slightly ajar, the fruit flies will go in for sweets, but they're too stupid to fly back out. It was a sad waste of birthday cake.

The ultimate satisfaction for me was to attack them individually with a can of Lysol in one hand and a paper towel in the other.

Posted by: lesley on August 22, 2007 9:45 AM

if you put a bug zapper in your kitchen, the bacteria from exploding flies will land in your food

Posted by: melon on August 22, 2007 4:02 PM

Worms actually make for pretty easy keeping. Yes, I'd advise they be kept outside, and move them into the garage during the winter. The worst thing about worms is watching the soil quality. If it goes sour, you'll have a box of dead worms. Since your wife gardens, it probably will be rotated fairly regularly, so this may not be too big a problem. Just my experience.

Posted by: Supra Genius on August 22, 2007 5:40 PM

When I was in college, a friend who was taking first year biology and was in the middle of the genetics section somehow let his fruit fly subjects loose in his old Volkswagon Beetle and had to drive around with them for a few days.

Posted by: C. on August 23, 2007 6:31 AM

Taking a vacuum to them a couple times (like once a day for a couple of days) really is the only thing that has ever worked for me.
One of my friends keeps a couple of carnivorous plants above his scrap bucket in the kitchen and that seems to help too.

Posted by: Colette on August 27, 2007 5:25 PM