What Are Those Small Flies in My House: Drain, Fruit or Phorid Flies?

Flies are a nuisance for everyone who owns a kitchen, especially the tiny variety of insects that lurks around your kitchen sink. These tiny flies can accumulate in large numbers and, though mostly harmless, are incredibly irritating.

There are several species of small fly that breed in drains and, given the similarity in their appearance, can be tricky to tell apart. However, accurate identification is key for control, as different fly species require different approaches for effective extermination.

So, how can you work out which type you’re dealing with – are those drain flies, fruit flies or phorid flies in your sink?

Drain flies (aka moth flies)

As their nickname suggests, drain flies look like tiny moths. These irritating sink flies can congregate in large numbers around drains and you may also find them hanging out on walls, ceilings, and windowsills in your kitchen.


Drain flies are tiny, fuzzy insects with dark-colored bodies and wings. Their wings appear disproportionally large for their bodies and are covered in tiny scales, which explode into dust when swatted. Drain flies can often be found relaxing on the walls and ceilings of your kitchen and will fly short distances when disturbed. Their larvae are small, gray and easy to miss, though you may see them wriggling around in the water in your sink or grain.

Where do they live?

These tiny flies love moisture and are happiest in stagnant water. Their eggs and larvae are most often found in the slimy film that develops on the sides of drains and on the surface of the water in blocked drains. They can also breed in drain pans, in the pipes of air conditioners and in the surface film of infrequently used tanks and toilets.

How can you get rid of drain flies?

Getting rid of drain flies is mercifully simple; but first, you must locate their breeding grounds which, due to the inconspicuous appearance of their larvae, can be easy to miss.

Useful tip!

One way to check for drain flies is to apply a light coating of oil to the inside of a clear plastic cup and invert this over your drains. If you have drain flies, you will see them stuck to the inside of the cup in a matter of days.

Once you’ve identified a drain fly breeding site, pour boiling water down the drain for short-term control, then clean the drain thoroughly to eliminate them completely.

How can you prevent drain flies?

The best way to prevent drain flies is to keep your drains clean and to remove other breeding sites around your home. This will stop drain flies from moving in and laying eggs in your sink.

Fruit flies

If you are seeing lots of very small flies in your house, chances are they’re fruit flies. The fruit fly is a fan of ripe and rotting fruits and veggies, so they’re most common during late summer and fall. They usually find their way indoors on food items brought in from the garden, though they may also get in through windows and doors. Although relatively harmless, fruit flies carry harmful bacteria (such as E.coli, salmonella, and listeria) on their bodies and may contaminate the food they land on.


Fruit flies are tiny (around 1/8” long) and have tan or yellowish bodies. They have six legs, clear wings, and bright red eyes. Look for them buzzing around unrefrigerated fruits and vegetables in your kitchen!

Read more about how fruit flies and gnats differ.

Where do they live?

Fruit flies are highly attracted to unrefrigerated, perishable products and are most commonly found hanging out among bananas, onions and other fruit and veg items. However, they also can (and will) breed around drains, garbage disposals, and trash containers.

How can you get rid of fruit flies?

Fruit flies breed at an alarming speed and can take over your kitchen in no time at all. If an infestation moves in, the only way to eliminate them is to remove all breeding sites from your kitchen. Ripe produce should be eaten or stored in the refrigerator, drains should be kept squeaky clean and trash should be emptied regularly.


When disposing of food waste, wrap it up thoroughly to prevent the bugs from finding it in your trash.

To kill fruit flies buzzing around your kitchen, you can consider using an aerosol bug spray to take down the adults.

How can you prevent fruit flies?

Fruit flies thrive on ripe and rotting produce. To keep them out of your house, make sure you store all fruits and vegetables in the fridge to avoid tempting in flies. If you have fruit flies coming in through your doors or windows, consider installing screens to stop them.

Phorid flies

Phorid flies are another species of tiny fly that can be found throughout the world. Their main food source is decaying organic material, especially decomposing animals. The phorid fly has earned the grim nickname of ‘coffin fly’ because of their occasional presence around human caskets.


Phorid flies may be tiny, but they have several distinguishing features that make them easier to identify. If you look closely, you will notice that the phorid fly has a humped back and will often walk or run along surfaces in a jerky, erratic way.

Where do they live?

Phorid flies lay their eggs in decomposing plant or animal material. Therefore, they are most likely to show up in your home if there is a dead rodent or a rotting bag of potatoes or onions nearby. They are also commonly found in drains and cracked septic tanks and lines.

How can you get rid of phorid flies?

Phorid fly control primarily involves removing their breeding grounds. Seek out and discard all rotting veggies and other organic matter from your home, before setting to work on cleaning your drains.

Unfortunately, hot water will not kill phorid flies. Instead, drains must be scrubbed thoroughly to remove the slimy layer within, which is where phorid flies lay their eggs. Once you’ve gotten rid of their breeding grounds, phorid flies will usually disappear in a matter of days.

How can you prevent phorid flies?

The best way to prevent phorid flies is to be vigilant about cleaning your kitchen. Never leave bags of vegetables (especially onions and potatoes) to rot, take out the trash regularly and clean your drains often to prevent slime from building up.


What are these tiny little flies in my house? Most people will experience a sink fly invasion at some point, but getting rid of these pesky bugs is only possible if you know what you’re dealing with. Drain flies, fruit flies, and phorid flies may all look very similar to one another, but each insect has different habits and requires a targeted approach for effective extermination.



Can they live in house plants? Should I get rid of my house plants just in case? I have treated my plants with neem oil, soap, water and diatomaceous earth on top. I’m so nervous that these flies will come back. I live in an apartment and they seems to have come from the basement but I still see a few in the week, a month later. A lot less but a few nonetheless.


    Is it possible you’re dealing with fungus gnats? You can read more about them in this article. You’ll also find some useful advice there.

Kimberly lee

We have an infestation of drain flies and moths. For some reason they are attracted to me. How do I get away? Is there something that I can put on my body to keep them away


    We suggest reading our article about moths. As for drain flies, you can try pouring boiling water once or twice a day for about a week. You can also look up some DIY solutions. One of such would be a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and salt which should be left in the drain overnight. Good luck!

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