Penn State "No Can Do" Fruit Fly Program

Composting food scraps, napkins and other organic wastes is good for environment and can save money, however problems with fruit flies and other pests can crop up quickly. A new effort at Penn State is looking at ways to manage these compost pests.

Composting food scraps, napkins and other organic wastes is good for environment and can save money, however problems with fruit flies and other pests can crop up quickly. A new effort at Penn State is looking at ways to manage compost pests while increasing greener methods of waste removal.

A project for their "Principles of IPM" class, a group of Penn State students formed the fruit fly IPM group to develop an integrated pest management (IPM) program for fruit flies as part of the new "No Can Do" program on campus. IPM is a safe, effective, and scientific approach to managing pests that uses knowledge of pests' habits and needs to help implement pest prevention tactics as a first line of defense.

The "No Can Do" program was designed by Penn State's Office of Physical Plant to reduce the amount of waste leaving campus by increasing recycling and integrating compost disposal in all academic buildings. A key feature of the program is the elimination of garbage cans from personal offices. Once fully implemented, office owners will be expected to bring any waste to either a compost container, recycling containers or a non-recyclable waste container located every 150 feet of corridor space. Office owners will also be able to obtain a compost caddy, a small, 1-gallon, lidded container, to store their compostable items in before disposing of them in the hallway compost container.

According to the fruit fly IPM group, compost containers and compost caddies can harbor fruit flies and other pest even if emptied multiply times a week. "The key is following proper sanitation methods, such as keeping the lids shut on compost bins and not allowing organic debris to build up on the walls or lid of compost containers which can harbor pests," said Anna Testen, a Penn State graduate student in Plant Pathology. Other IPM tactics include emptying compost bins before fruit flies develop, monitoring for fruit flies with a sticky or baited fruit fly trap, and relying on workers in certain areas to report excessive fruit fly numbers.

Ed Rajotte, PA IPM coordinator and professor of entomology Penn State, stressed the importance of looking for potential insect problems by looking for sources of food, entry, moisture and harborage. "This monitoring could be important for assessing potential fruit fly problems," said Rajotte. Penn State's Office of Physical Plant agrees, as they are in the process of adopting the fruit fly IPM group's recommendations for fruit flies as expand Penn State's green initiative.

While fruit flies are mainly a nuisance pest, according to the group there is a chance they can transmit diseases from the areas they frequent to food. "Once present, fruit flies multiply rapidly, especially in the warmer months, and can be hard to control. The fruit fly IPM group aims to get a handle on the problem now, before the 'No Can Do' program is rolled out across the entire campus, including all dorms and eating areas," Testen explained.

Educating students, faculty and staff on how to properly use compost containers and compost areas will be a priority. According to Testen, signs with information on what can be composted and how to properly use compost containers will be posted in composting areas. In addition, the group produced a brochure that will be included with each compost caddy that includes information on how to clean the compost caddy and provide suggestions to using the compost caddy that will minimize fruit flies. The group also suggests educating incoming freshman through EcoReps, a program on campus in which undergraduates educate their peers about sustainability issues.

Other members of the Penn State fruit fly group include undergraduate students Jill Pollok, Jingchen Zhao, Mike Mattis and Myers Shaiyen. For more information on fruit flies and their control, go to Penn State's fact sheet at

The Pennsylvania IPM Program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting integrated pest management in both agricultural and urban settings. For more information, contact the program at (814) 865-2839, or Web site


Tags: Composting, fruit flies, pests

About Pennsylvania IPM Program

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Kristie Auman-Bauer
Press Contact, Pennsylvania IPM Program
Pennsylvania IPM Program
316 Ag Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States