I received several letters from readers in October inquiring about the best way to rid the house of fruit flies. I, too, had a sort of infestation in my kitchen after a couple of bananas in a plastic bag found their way behind a basket on my countertop and practically liquefied before I discovered them. The bananas were easy to dispose of, but the fruit flies remained and became a nuisance.
Fruit flies seem to materialize out of thin air, but that's not actually the case. Most times, you've unwittingly brought their microscopic eggs into your home on fruit from the grocery store. Other times, they were flying around outdoors, minding their own business, when their super-strong, fruit-seeking instinct sensed ripening fruit inside your home. They found a way indoors and zeroed in on the bananas on your counter, where they settled in and laid eggs. Those eggs typically turn into full-fledged adults ready to breed in just a week, so it's imperative to eliminate them quickly.
There are all sorts of traps and contraptions -- and chemical sprays -- available for purchase that claim to get the job done. Some do, some don't. But no matter: You can save yourself the expense (and/or exposure) by making a homemade trap like I did. All you need is a sheet of paper, a tall jar, tape and apple juice, cider or cider vinegar.
Add about an inch of cider vinegar or juice to the jar. You can also add a 2-inch-long piece of ripe banana for good measure, but this isn't necessary.
Roll a sheet of paper into a funnel and insert it into the jar, keeping the opening at the bottom above the liquid. I used an 8 1/2-by-11 piece of printer paper. Adjust its width so that the top of the funnel fills the mouth of your jar.
Adhere the funnel to the mouth of the jar with tape to eliminate any gaps.
Place the jar in the area of activity.
Fruit flies will flock to the jar, fly in and become trapped. Left undisturbed, they eventually will drown. When the area is free of fruit flies (this took two days in my kitchen), remove the funnel and dispose of its contents. If you prefer a catch-and-release system, bring the jar outdoors and remove the funnel periodically after flies enter to allow them to escape.
Reader Damian DiFiglia of Bellmore told me that his daughter lost 30 arborvitaes from her Massapequa property in the wake of superstorm Sandy in October 2012. He's now trying to help her find salt-tolerant screening plants to replace them in her canal-front garden, and asked for some border plant recommendations, as well.
Some plants are more salt-tolerant than others, and, ironically, arborvitae are among them. It's important to understand that plants in this category exhibit a level of tolerance to aerial salt spray carried by wind, fog and storms. During superstorm Sandy, however, many plants and trees were not only sprayed, they were deluged and completely immersed. Even the most salt-tolerant of plants cannot sustain that level of abuse.
Still, the following plants are your best bets for beachside applications. They're also good choices for properties near roadways and sidewalks that are exposed to de-icers like sodium chloride during winter.
Salt-tolerant evergreen shrubs
Spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica)
Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra)
Salt-tolerant evergreen trees
Japanese falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard')
Eastern Red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)
Reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster')
Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)
Sedum 'Autumn joy' (Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy')