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How to repel fruit flies using wine corks

Sick of fruit flies swarming around your produce? Try this.
Fruit flies
Fruit flyGetty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

There's nothing quite as pesky as a small army of fruit flies buzzing around a bowl of delicious, ripe fruit. Luckily, there's an age-old hack to repel those little pests — and it will also give you an excuse to stock up on more wine.

Over the weekend, TODAY Food editor Emi Boscamp learned about a mind-blowing trick from her mother. The hack is surprisingly simple: All you need is a bowl of fruit and a few dry, clean wine corks. That's it. No insect repellant, no chemicals, no special covers. Even in the open summer air, fruit flies steer clear.

But why does it work?

Kick fruit flies to the curb with just a couple corks.
Kick fruit flies to the curb with just a couple corks.Emi Boscamp

Ryan Watts, a sommelier who works for Cameron Hughes Wine, explained how a simple cork can work wonders when it comes to keeping fruit clear of fruit flies.

“Two things attract fruit flies: sugars and moisture. This is why you most often find them around ripe fruit and in or around sinks and drains," Watts told TODAY. "Natural cork is a perfect deterrent as the cork material absorbs moisture put off by the ripening fruit and activates a fragrance from the cork that fruit flies are none too pleased about."

Once the sugary moisture is wicked away and the fruit flies catch a whiff of the natural cork scent, they simply choose not to land on the fresh produce that suddenly isn't so appetizing. Though Boscamp (and many others) hadn't heard of this hack before her mom told her about it, Watts said it's been around for long time.

"This cork deterrent was essentially an old wives tale at one point, being traced back to a French grandmother," he said. "But as more folks tried it, it began to catch on because it actually works."

For the trick to work well, however, Watts said there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, the corks need to be made of natural cork — not a composite or synthetic material — or it won't have the same effect. If you're using corks from leftover wine bottles, make sure you thoroughly dry them before placing them in a bowl with any fruit. Corks with wet, sugary wine will only attract more flies.

"White wine (non-sweet styles) work best, and corks tinted red from red wine are fine. Just avoid any corks with built up sediment or tartrates (aka wine diamonds)," Watts said. "If you have to use a cork with sediment or tartrates, I recommend removing the tainted area of the cork carefully with a knife or good, sharp kitchen scissors."

And while clean corks can stop fruit flies from landing on fruit, they won't stop a fruit fly infestation in the kitchen.

For folks who may not be going through enough wine bottles to throw five or more corks into their fruit bowl, some companies have commercialized the trick by making bowls crafted with natural cork. Watts' all-time favorite is from Emile Henry, a French company. It's a large ceramic bowl with a removable natural cork top. The cork top holds the fresh fruit while the ceramic bowl underneath stores root veggies and alliums that keep best in a darker, dry environment.

Emile Henry Fruit and Vegetable Storage Pantry Bowl

"While it isn't cheap, it's effective and there's just a certain je ne sais quoi to having a French kitchen piece that is understated but somehow still stands out," Watts said.