When handling fruit flies, how many times have you said to a commercial customer, “It’s a sanitation issue,” pointed out some things that need to be fixed or cleaned and left? If so, you should never do it again after today! I’d like to give you some tips and selling points, as well as equip you with the knowledge to stop fighting symptoms and start seeing results. Let’s jump into our first tip.
1. Stop using the word “clean.” There’s a reason it rarely works; everyone has his or her own definition of what “clean” means. The way to combat that is to give them a visual definition. Say the words, “scrub and remove.” This gives your customer an image in his mind of what he is supposed to do because you’ve replaced a concept with an action. Don’t stop there: Carry extra cleaning tools (nylon brush, scraper) and show the client how to scrub and remove. You can even give him the tool. You have just instantly made him accountable for handling the source of the problem with a scraper investment of just a few bucks!
2. Be scientific and speak their language. Generally speaking, a fruit fly can go from egg to adult in one to two weeks and is sexually mature two days later, ready to mate and lay up to 500 eggs at one time. If you’re having problems with customer cooperation, give them that scientific fact. It’s enough to make the average person think twice about turning a blind eye to the problem.
Another way to have your customer buy in to looking past the symptoms is to use the word “maggot” instead of “larvae.” This tip works wonders. When people think of the word “larvae,” they picture butterflies. But, when people hear the word “maggot,” they think…well, maggot. It’s a visceral word that sounds gross.
3. Put on your best Sherlock Holmes. This is where you become the detective and search out the source. You’re looking for grime; the perfect amount of moisture. The larval stage/maggot of a fruit fly will be deep in moist, decaying matter. The most common areas are the underside of drain covers; caulk lines; backs of appliances like ice machines and dishwashers; dark corners where mops have slosh build-up; decaying food and more. The trick to seeing them is thorough use of a flashlight. Take a few minutes (yes, literally, a few minutes) and watch. Maggots will constantly move, and you’ll see a sort of pop of light — a flicker or glimmer — where the light reflects off the maggot as it moves. Use your scraper to get it out and show your customer as you uncover the white larvae coming from the build-up.
The next stage of a fruit fly can be a little more difficult to find. The maggot moves away from the food in search of a dry place, and turns into a hard, dark shell. Then, the adult fly emerges and is sexually mature in just 48 hours. You can shine your flashlight directly onto P-traps and PVC pipes under sinks and you will see dark spots where build-up is apparent (see photos above).
4. Create the right conditions. One good tip is to recommend a box or snail fan. (It’s not a bad idea to buy some nice fans and lease them out either.) The idea behind a fan is to keep things dry and keep the fruit flies from mating or landing in that area. Fruit flies are weak fliers and can be deterred by air disturbance. Traps and fly lights are also useful and should be used to catch emerging adults, but they are not the only answer or a permanent solution; they are just another tool in the toolbox.
5. Damage their home (the fruit flies, not your clients). Another tip is to use bioremediation products packed with good microbes to fight that organic build-up and odor. It’s important the customer removes anti-microbial and bleach products from their sanitation practices when you use these solutions, as they kill the good microbes and corrode pipes, mitigating the effectiveness of your treatment. Another chemical suggestion is to use a waterproof dust. If used in a drain, it will coat the drain as the water rises and falls. An IGR mixed with a pyrethroid is good for a quick knockdown, just follow the label closely before any application.
FINAL THOUGHTS. Implementing these tips and suggestions can result in not only making your customers happy and their accounts fly-free, but also be the inspiration for a more comprehensive bioremediation protocol for your business. Managing fruit flies can be a very rewarding and profitable experience.
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Daniel Hill talks fruit fly management for PCT Magazine in Louisiana
Serving the Baton Rouge and Acadiana LA area since 1957