Many individuals have mistaken a fungus gnat infestation for a fruit fly infestation since fungus gnats and fruit flies have similar appearances.
They are not, however, the same kind of issue. In damp soil, fungus gnats deposit their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on fungus, tiny roots, and other organic matter in the soil. Fruit holds little appeal to them.
- Fungus gnats are the tiny, black insects you may notice hovering around your plants and in the soil.
- Fruit flies are the gnats that are buzzing about the fruit or the garbage disposal in your kitchen.
If you’re still unclear, read this article to learn how to distinguish between the two so you can always make a correct identification.
How can I get rid of little flying insects in my indoor plants?
We plant lovers don’t want to witness plants being harmed by pests. The problem enters our homes, which is gross, therefore we especially don’t want to see pests in our houseplants! Fungus gnats are pesky, winged insects with little wings that resemble mosquitoes and are about the size of fruit flies. The good news is that compared to many other pests, these plant flies cause significantly less harm, and even better, they’re rather simple to get rid of.
Long legs, transparent wings, and a preference for nutrient-rich, damp soils are characteristics of fungus gnats. These little flies may be seen flying around plant containers, but unlike some more dangerous pests, you won’t observe them actually chewing on the plant’s foliage. However, you will see them in the soil, feeding on the organic matter and hairs from plant roots. Do not underestimate the damage that these bugs can still do if not addressed.
Even though adult fungus gnats only live for about a week, they can have a big impact in that short time by producing up to 300 eggs under the correct circumstances. With such a quick turnaround and a brief life cycle of about 3–4 weeks, populations can grow incredibly quickly.
It’s rather simple to tell if your plant has a fungus gnat issue. Since these plant flies can’t fly very well, they usually stay rather near to the plant. They’ll probably be moving in zigzag patterns while you watch them. It’s typical to witness all the different phases of this bug at once because they reproduce so quickly. It’s likely that some bugs still in their larval stage will be visible if you gently agitate the soil. They inhabit the earth where they eat organic debris and have translucent bodies and glossy, black heads.
Our plants are getting ready to settle in for the upcoming cold season as winter approaches here in North Dakota. Unfortunately, that signals that these pesky bug populations are about to reach their peak. During this time, dormant plants use less water, which causes their soil to stay moist for longer. Gnats thrive in moist soils because they promote root rot and fungus. Be cautious when bringing delicate plants inside to overwinter since you run the risk of inviting unwelcome pests into your house.
Your plants will start to exhibit signs of stress if ignored and neglected. Fungus gnats don’t directly harm plant leaves, but they eat the root hairs and deplete the soil of vital minerals. This may result in abrupt plant withering and yellowing of the leaves, sluggish development, and a general decline in vigor.
When tackling any pest, you should always start with natural management approaches. The least hazardous and disruptive to your plant and house are typically natural and organic remedies, while chemicals may occasionally be required as a second line of defense. Fortunately, most fungus gnat populations may be controlled and eliminated naturally provided they are discovered and dealt with in a timely manner. Remember that one plant container can hold three to four generations of bugs, so you’ll probably need to apply your favorite approach more than once. Gnats in your indoor plants can be managed in the following ways:
Do not overwater. Before watering your indoor plants, allow the top couple of inches of soil to dry up. This will not only stop fungus gnats from deciding that your plant would make the best place for them to live, but it will also interfere with their reproductive cycle and assist to reduce populations that have already moved in.
Activate sticky traps. Not just for mice, either! Sticky traps are easy fixes for many pest issues. Gnats that are moving will be caught if you place them immediately on the soil’s surface. To stop them from laying eggs, remove them from the trap, discard them, and replace it frequently (every two to three days). Particularly effective at drawing these insects, yellow traps are.
Create vinegar and cider traps.
Mix equal volumes of cider and vinegar in a shallow dish or can to act as a trap for fruit flies. Lay the trap on the soil surface inside the container or even next to the damaged plant. The concoction will attract the bugs, who will then fall into it and drown.
Bring in useful nematodes. Although it may seem counterproductive to introduce additional bugs into the equation, doing so is a simple way to reduce pest numbers. Nematodes are incredibly minute, worm-like insects that are frequently invisible to the unaided eye. In their larval stage, they attempt to infiltrate fungus gnats and other insects, releasing a bacteria that eventually consumes the pest from the inside out. When you think about it, it’s awful and disgusting, but not as disgusting as allowing gnats to devour your prized houseplants!
If all else fails, there are always insecticidal goods and sprays to keep pest numbers under control. There are many products available that either target the adult stage or the larval stage, but either is OK. You should be able to get rid of these unpleasant plant flies in a few of weeks as long as you successfully target one phase of their life cycle and reapply often.
Larvae are easily eliminated with hydrogen peroxide since it kills them immediately upon contact. Infuse your soil with a solution made of four parts water and one part hydrogen peroxide.
To destroy larvae, neem oil can also be put to the soil after being diluted with water. Neem oil can also be sprayed on surfaces to instantly kill adult flies. Last but not least, pyrethrin sprays contain extracts that are harmful to a variety of pests and can instantly kill flies and fungus gnat larvae.
Fungus gnats can affect the health of your houseplants even though they don’t transmit any diseases that are dangerous to humans. Your plants will thank you by giving off a lush, healthy appearance to enliven your home if you keep pests at away.
Why do my indoor plants have tiny flying insects in them?
Numerous little flying insects that resemble gnats have been seen all over a few of my houseplants. How can I get rid of them and what are they?
Most likely, they are fungus gnats. These naughty little creatures are a very frequent pest throughout the winter, and they are more drawn to the damp soil in houseplant containers than to the actual plants.
Most of the time, fungus gnats are an annoyance. The adults can occasionally hover around your face or at the very least give the impression that you live in a greenhouse overrun with insects.
Although the adults resemble little mosquitoes, they don’t bite, sting, or harm plants despite their appearance.
Actually, the larval stage of this bug—the two to three weeks of its life that you cannot see—poses a greater risk to plants.
What causes plant gnats to die?
If you keep an infestation under control, fungus gnats normally won’t harm your plants, but they are very bothersome. They often fly directly into your face as they flutter around it. Additionally, they appear to follow you everywhere. It’s best to address their presence even when they don’t actually harm your plants because they are frequently indications of issues with your maintenance routine. Create a proper watering schedule.
Establish an appropriate watering routine
To eliminate any eggs or larva in the soil, establish a suitable watering schedule. Additionally, it will keep fungus gnats from settling there in the future. Before watering, always make sure the top few inches of soil are dry (for more common houseplants). A moisture meter is available, but I don’t bother with one.
You can print off my free printable plant watering trackers if you’re having trouble remembering when you last watered your plants. Every time you water your plants, update it on your fridge and laminate it!
Use sticky fly traps
In the gift guide I created the previous year for houseplant lovers, I featured my favorite yellow sticky stake fly traps. Since then, I’ve been purchasing inexpensive yellow fly paper, cutting it into strips, and affixing it to the stakes. or simply hang it up. These are quite effective at managing adult populations.
The yellow color of the fly traps attracts swarms of adult gnats. They perish after becoming entangled in the deadly yellow fly paper. Gnats, I’m sorry. And once adult numbers are under control, there is nothing on which to lay eggs.
Invest in a Katchy machine
Okay, I’ll confess it: after seeing one of my planty pals on Tiktok post about her Katchy, I went out and purchased one myself. I was struggling to handle a severe fungus gnat infestation at the time. I gave in and purchased it, and it’s actually pretty wonderful!
The advantage of the Katchy is that it actually has a very attractive appearance—much nicer than a bunch of garishly colored fly paper hanging all over your home. Additionally, you can rapidly replace the sticky fly traps to give it a fresh look.
You turn on the UV light that is mounted on top of it at night to attract flies to it. The flies are then drawn down onto the fly paper by the machine’s fan.
Get rid of gnats in houseplants with vinegar
A quick and easy method for reducing adult gnat populations is vinegar. In addition to sticky traps, this is a fantastic alternative. Simply add a few drops of dish soap to a small shallow bowl of vinegar. Refresh as it fills up with dead gnats every few days. They adore this material.
Use sand or gravel to dress the soil
Fungus gnats lay their eggs in the top few inches of soil, so covering the top with sand or gravel can assist to keep them out. I’ve done this with decorative pebbles or sand, but that’s not my preferred approach. However, I am aware that some people adore this approach. So it’s worthwhile to try.
Hydrogen peroxide mix
You most likely already have hydrogen peroxide in your home, which is another substance that can help control fungus gnats in addition to vinegar. When watering dry soil, use 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 5 parts water to help kill off any organisms. Almost all common houseplants won’t be harmed by this, just avoid using straight hydrogen peroxide!
Try a soap and water mixture
This was briefly discussed in my essay on how to debug plants before storing them for the winter. To get rid of everything in the soil, I usually put an insecticide on it and mix it with some soapy water.
I don’t give this much thought. I simply fill a watering can with warm water, a few drops of mild dish soap (one without a degreaser), and the soap. It will start to bubble. The plant is then given water. Simply sprinkle the top layer of soil if your plant is already damp to stop further overwatering.
Neem oil spray
You may also get rid of fungus gnats by using neem oil. Either get a diluted neem oil spray or a neem oil concentrate and make your own dilution. A concentration I purchase, I find, goes further. My own has been around for a while, and I simply reuse an old spray bottle.
Okay… I’ve tried it before, but I don’t think it had any effect. But a lot of folks suggest cinnamon. Cinnamon, a natural fungicide, can be sprinkled on top of the soil. This should be done while the earth is dry, worked into the top inch or two of soil, and then the plant should be watered.
Use a systemic pesticide
A systemic pesticide can also be used to eradicate everything in the soil. When you water the plant, the pesticide kills everything. You can apply insecticides to the top few inches of the soil. In all honesty, since fungus gnats are less difficult to eradicate than other pests, you probably don’t need this strength of insecticide on them.
I killed several thrips that I had in my giant monstera deliciosa and other indoor plants with insecticide granules. It succeeded! Praise be, it also wiped off all of the fungus gnats. Consequently, it was a plus!
Gnats in potted soil: how can I get rid of them?
Fortunately, there are several of organic and chemical-free ways to get rid of fungus gnats from your prized plants. You can use a traditional trap or common household goods like potatoes and dish soap!
Let the Soil Dry
It’s important to remember to let the soil dry out for a few days and refrain from watering your plant because fungus gnats and their larvae prefer to nest in moist soil. The gnats will be forced to live in an uninhabitable habitat as a result, and they will disappear in dry soil. Do not be afraid to skip your next watering in order to get rid of the gnats; your houseplant will be able to endure the dryness for a longer period of time than you might imagine.
The best advice is to take your plant out of the planter and drain any extra water from the bottom. Thus, there won’t be any dampness where gnats might deposit their eggs.
There are numerous traps you may employ to get rid of these bothersome bugs if you’re seeking for a speedier fix. You can choose to DIY these with a few common things or run to the store and buy specialist traps, depending on what best suits your needs.
- Pour a cup of white vinegar and a few drops of liquid dish soap onto a shallow saucer. The gnats will be drawn to the solution and fall into the trap if you place the bowl near your plant. Repeat the procedure until no more gnats are present.
- Sticky fly traps are an alternative if the smell of vinegar deters you from making your own homemade gnat trap. These little yellow paper sheets attract gnats and trap them with glue because of their brilliant hue. Although it might not be visually appealing, this procedure is simple and safe.
- Consider purchasing an indoor fly-catching gadget if you’re sick and tired of gnats in your plants and need an urgent fix. These are typically USB-powered and can be purchased locally or online. The blowers and LED lights draw the gnats, and eventually they are drawn into the trap.
- Are there any extra potatoes in the kitchen? Set a trap for them! Place the potatoes flesh-down on the ground after cutting them into little pieces. The fungus gnats will be drawn to the potatoes by their dampness. Just be careful that the parts don’t dry out otherwise it won’t operate.
Sanitize and Repot
Consider removing the plant from its planter and scraping out the soil if you want to take matters into your own hands. When doing this, take care not to disrupt the roots and take only what you can get rid of. Put the contaminated soil in a plastic bag and wash the planter with soap and warm water to sterilize it. Repot your plant into new soil after this is finished, then put it back into its planter.
Use a Spray Bottle
Take a spray bottle and combine water and dish soap in it. Repeat the technique until all of the gnats are gone by spraying the solution on the top layer of soil. If you’re seeking for a quick and natural solution to get rid of fungus gnats, try this.