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AUSTRIA EXPLAINED

How to deal with fruit flies plaguing your Austrian flat

Do dozens of little fruit flies swarm across your Austrian kitchen in the warmer months? Now temperatures are heating up, here are a few clever ways of dealing with the problem.

How to deal with fruit flies plaguing your Austrian flat
A fruit fly on a banana skin. Photo: DPA/Daniel Naupold

Warm springs and summer in Austria are a time when tiny critters get in your face and generally behave in an irritating way. In hot years the wasps are out in force (at least later in the summer); in wet years the mosquitos have a field day. 

But whatever the weather is like you’re sure to have a fruit fly infestation in your kitchen if you’re not careful. So what can you do about the little pests?

A single female fruit fly can lay up to 400 eggs a day meaning that within a very short period of time a black cloud will fly up into your face every time you open the bin or stick your hand into the fruit bowl – harmless overall, but very annoying.

While the task of keeping fruit flies at bay sometimes seems hopeless there are some simple tricks that ensure the infestation doesn’t get out of hand.

Keep things ship shape

This might seem like an obvious one, but which of us hasn’t on occasion left a few plates in the sink to clean up the next day? While you might get away with that kind of behaviour in the colder months of the year, it really isn’t advisable when temperatures outside go above 19C (66.2F).

Fruit flies will feed on left over bits of food, especially if they are sugary. Washing up plates and cleaning surfaces immediately after you have eaten is one sure way of keeping the plague at bay.

More importantly still, you should empty out you bins daily. This especially goes for organic waste which, if you have it, you will have noticed is a breeding ground for the miniature flies.

Besides being attracted to sugar, fruit flies also like yeast. In fact Belgium scientists found out back in 2014 that the same smell that beer aficionados love about a good pint is also what attracts fruit flies – apparently it’s a strategy developed by yeast that lures the flies into spreading the microbe to new places.

The downside is that open or half empty beer bottles will attract fruit flies to your kitchen. So clean them thoroughly or, even better, take them down to exchange for Pfand at your nearest drinks store.

Some methods are more drastic than others.

Setting traps

There are a couple of tried and tested traps that people set in order to catch their fruit flies.

The classic trap is a cup containing a mixture of vinegar, fruit juice and washing-up liquid. If you cover the cup in clingfilm and pierce holes in the plastic the flies will crawl in, attracted by the smell but won’t be able to get back out. The washing up liquid breaks the surface tension, ensuring that the flies drown in the sweet solution.

READ ALSO: These eight words show just how different German and Austrian Deutsch can be

Of course, there is also a Bio version. You can put a banana in an open plastic bag. Wait until a load of flies have crawled before carefully closing the bag. Then take it outside where you can release the flies back into nature thus ensuring an honourable draw in which neither side suffers long term consequences.

Another trap which the website wohngueck.de claims to be particularly effective involves mixing yeast, sugar and washing up liquid in a bottle (preferably one with a long neck.)

Scaring them away

Just as there are smells that attract fruit flies, there are others which deter them from sticking around.

One such deterrent is lemon juice mixed with cloves. This is apparently also an odour that wasps and mosquitos simply can’t stand.

There are various herbs that release smells that are discomforting to fruit flies. Basil, lavender, mint and chives are all said to help keep the little beasts away.

Other flying insects

It is worth pointing out that not every flying bug is treated the same in Austria. While fruit flies (Fruchtfliege) are generally despised and there is no shortage of methods to try and get rid of them, bees, for example, are very much protected. 

READ ALSO: Austrian fruit grower jailed for killing bees

Bees are essential to pollination and part of the group of animals protected in Austria, especially during spring and summer. 

The bee population and its colonies are closely monitored in the Alpine country. Many people have flowers and even small “insect” houses in their gardens and balconies especially to serve as refuge to these tiny animals and if your Austrian friend sees you killing a bee (even one that is aiming for your beer glass), you will be frowned upon.

Better to just gently wave them away, and show them outside where they can go on pollinating in the next few weeks. 

Another common headache in the Austrian kitchen is an infestation with kitchen moths, which can quickly clog up and ruin your non-perishable stores.

While it is possible to use a chemical agent against the moths (stores like DM have things like sticky traps that you can put on your walls to catch moths), there is a really interesting remedy for this that is favoured in many kitchens – setting other little flies on them.

It might sound like a silly idea to address an infestation by starting another one, but ichneumon (German: Schlupfwespen) are tiny little flies that live off the eggs of kitchen moths, yet are themselves completely harmless.

According to the environmental news site utopia.de the ichneumon lay their eggs next to the moth’s egg. When the ichneumon eggs hatch they eat all the moth eggs, thus tackling the problem at its root.

And when there are no more moth eggs to be eaten, the ichneumon lose their food source and die too.

An easier idea might be the common suggestion of keeping all your stored items in plastic containers with proper lids. 

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AUSTRIA EXPLAINED

Austria’s civil defence alarm: What you should know about the warning siren system

Austria will carry out its annual civil defence test alarm on Saturday, October 1st. Here's what you need to know about it.

Austria's civil defence alarm: What you should know about the warning siren system

It’s going to be loud, but don’t get scared: the alarm sirens will ring all over Austria this weekend as part of the country’s yearly alarm check when it tests the alert system.

Every year, on the first Saturday of October, thousands of sirens sound alarms all over Austria. For those who live outside of Vienna, that may not be particularly eventful, as sirens get tested more often than in the capital city.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s official emergency-warning phone app and do I need it?

However, the annual country-wide check also means that the federal government will sound all alarms in a 45-minute event to remind the population of the signals of warning and alert.

What happens during the civil protection test alarm?

When sirens are being tested, they ring for 15 seconds only – and this doesn’t happen everywhere in Austria. However, once a year, the tests take on a larger scale.

This Saturday, October 1st, all the sirens will be tested between 12 pm and 12:45 pm. In the Austria-wide event, they will sound alarms on four occasions so people can familiarise themselves with the different signals.

READ ALSO: The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

At around noon, the first test will start with a 15-second alarm. Then, at 12:15 pm, the warning signal, followed by the alarm signal at 12:30 pm and the “all clear” sign at 12:45 pm.

Additionally, the governments will test their app systems, including the KAT alert and the Stadt Wien app – so you should receive test notifications if you have any of these apps.

What is the Civil Protection System?

Austria has a comprehensive warning and alarm system with over 8,000 sirens (180 of them are in Vienna) spread throughout the country. It serves to alert the population in the “event of a disaster”, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

The federal government operates the system along with provincial governments. The signals can be triggered centrally by the Federal Warning Centre in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Provincial Warning Centres of the Federal Provinces, or the District Warning Centres, depending on the dangerous situation.

READ ALSO: Ten essential apps to download for living in Vienna

Different types of alarms mean different things:

  • TESTING (15 seconds continuous tone): A quick continuous tone to test if sirens are working correctly.
    What to do: don’t panic; this is only a test. You can check ORF on radio, TV or online to confirm this.

  • WARNING (3 minutes continuous tone): A constant continuous tone with a length of 3 minutes means “warning”. This signal is triggered when the population is warned of approaching danger.
    What to do: Switch on radio or TV on public broadcaster ORF, or check www.orf.at and follow the rules of conduct.

  • ALARM (1 minute rising and falling wailing tone): An ascending and descending wailing tone of at least 1-minute duration means “alarm” and alerts that the danger is imminent.
    What to do: Switch on radio or TV on public broadcaster ORF, or check www.orf.at and follow the rules of conduct. Look for protective areas or rooms.

  • ALL CLEAR (1-minute continuous tone): A constant continuous tone of 1 minute (only after the alarm signal) means “all clear”, i.e. end of danger.
    What to do: Continue to pay attention to the announcements on the radio, TV or ORF online, as there may be certain temporary restrictions.

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