Shake up fall décor to detect small flies


October 18, 2022

Photo: busypix/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Let customers know when it’s time to send their jack-o-lanterns to a farm upstate. Photo: busypix/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Small flies can be one of the most frustrating pests to manage in a customer’s home or business. They’re also one of the most frequent reasons for a callback.

In most cases, an infestation can be eliminated by finding the source and eliminating it. In practice, this is easier said than done. Breeding locations often are hidden in difficult-to-find locations, and it is not always clear who is responsible for remediation. The fall holiday-decorating season creates particular challenges, because decorative pumpkins and gourds are incorporated into displays in and around customers’ homes and workplaces.

Pumpkins surrounded by other seasonal items are not just delightful autumn décor, they can be a source of food and breeding grounds for small flies. The biggest challenge faced by technicians is determining which items are serving as infestation sources.

One way to narrow down the culprit is to give gourds a slight shake. If flies are present, they will take flight. This helps technicians zero in on the offending fruit, as adult flies quickly settle back down to their preferred food source. This technique can be adapted for many different scenarios outside of pumpkin spice season: jostling garbage cans in a kitchen, patting a potted plant on a windowsill, or jiggling a bowl of fruit on a counter often can reveal fruit flies or fungus gnats.

Technicians should be on the lookout for potential problems before the customer calls back with a problem. A spooky jack-o-lantern that looks great on the porch in late October becomes a fermented mess that attracts pests in November. Communicate with customers to clue them in on the potential for pests in fall decorations, so they dispose of the fly food themselves before requesting a callback.

About the Author

Dr. Jim Fredericks, PHOTO: National Pest Management Association

You can reach Dr. Fredericks, BCE, executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA), at

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