Time’s fun when you’re having flies.
~Kermit the Frog
Time flies like the wind; fruit flies like a banana.
~attributed to Groucho Marx
It’s not easy being green unless you also have a dorsal brown stripe and live in a box of ripe Asian pears on the front porch that has become a metropolis of Drosophila (fruit flies). Then you are in frog heaven with breakfast, lunch and dinner within reach of your tongue any time.
And the Drosophila happily move in to the kitchen any time some pears are brought in. The apple cider vinegar killing fields I’ve set up on the kitchen counter are capturing dozens daily, but their robust reproducing (which I carefully studied in undergraduate biology lab) outstrips the effectiveness of my coffee filter funnel death trap lures.
Fruit fly season too shall pass. Time flies and time’s fun when you’re having frogs.
The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.
Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.
~Karina Borowicz “September Tomatoes”
I have an uncomfortable relationship with fruit flies this time of year. The compost bin erupts with a black cloud of fruit flies when I throw in the day’s cast offs. The fruit I bring in from the orchard and garden must be preserved before it rots, but hundreds of Drosophila melanogaster decide their breeding grounds are far more hospitable in a warm kitchen than in the chilly outdoors. And breed they do, each female laying up to 100 eggs a day just like in biology lab at Stanford 40+ years ago where we traced recessive vs. dominant genetic traits of curly deformed wings, stubby bristles and colored eyes. I am not interested in such subtlety in my current crop of flies. In fact I have no sympathy for them at all.
I have laid out killing fields everywhere on the cupboards — fruit fly traps (paper cones feeding into apple cider vinegar baths in water glasses), a cautionary tale to the daily burden of fresh fruit flies.
As rot and degradation is their happy place, the flies will win until the fruit is harvested, preserved and put away for a winter day. Then the kitchen becomes my happy place again, fly-free with no more killing fields.
Then I must face the cruel task of pulling up carefully tended garden plants to ready the beds for winter. Perhaps if I remember to sing as I pull them out by the roots, they won’t see me weep.