Sometimes, something as small as a grain of sand can be supremely annoying.
Take the gnat It doesn’t bite, but can ruin your day. It can invade your car or home. It can land in a freshly poured glass of wine, swarm food, and buzz endlessly around your face.
You know what they are, but how the heck do you get rid of them? You may have resigned yourself to fighting gnats, but it is possible to get rid of them for good.
Here are a few ways to (hopefully) rid your life of those flying nuisances. Finally.
What is a gnat?
To conquer an enemy, we need to understand it.
The insect we know as the gnat actually goes by several different names. Officially, it’s defined by Britannica as “any member of several species of small flies that bite and annoy humans.”
Basically, gnats look like tiny flies.
However, gnats are typically characterized as nonbiting insects. Britannica outlines that in North America, the gnat name is applied to the following: midges, fruit flies, black flies, the fungus gnat, and a biting midge.
In Great Britain, gnats are used synonymously with mosquitos.
Entomologists in the United States tend to agree that what we call gnats in America are typically midges and fruit flies.
Where do gnats live?
Where can you not find them, are we right?
In terms of regions, gnats can be found around the world. There are 600 different species of gnats in North America alone.
In other terms, that means you can literally find them anywhere you are.
In general, fungus gnats like overwatered plants in greenhouses, but can also stunt the growth of potted and ornamental plants, according to pest control company Orkin.
What about gnats inside the home?
According to dengarden.com, the gnats you’re most likely to find in your home are the fungus gnat, fruit fly, and phorid fly.
The fungus gnat is small and black and primarily attracted to plants and decaying organic material. They also, however, sometimes act as pollinators.
They aren’t particularly good fliers; you’ve probably seen them walking over plants and dirt. But when they do fly, they get into human’s faces, noses, and ears.
They are also called dark-winged fungus gnats and they look similar to mosquitos, with slender legs and segmented antennae longer than their head, according to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Most fungus gnat damage occurs in greenhouses, nurseries, and sod farms.
If you are seeing gnats in your kitchen, it’s likely a fruit fly.
As their name suggests, fruit flies are attracted to ripened or fermenting fruits and vegetables, according to Michael Potter, an extension entomologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
Fruit flies are also attracted to rotting bananas, potatoes, onions, and unrefrigerated produce, Potter elaborates. Tomatoes, melons, squash, graphs, and other items brought in from your garden also cause fruit fly infestation, he adds.
Fruit flies are mostly a nuisance, but they may also contaminate food with bacteria and other organisms that cause disease, according to Potter.
Like its fruit fly cousin but with a hump pack, phorids are also known by another name —scuttle fly. That’s because they often run quickly across a surface rather than fly.
Like fungus gnats and fruit flies, phorid flies are attracting to decaying organic matter, according to Adam’s Pest Control.
Phorids can also spread disease-causing bacteria onto food, and large numbers appear in a short time, says the company. They are yellowish-brown or black.
One unique way to identify adult phorid flies: two distinctive veins near the front of the wing that goes up to about halfway before the wingtip, adds the company. They do not bite.
Phorid flies are big problems in hospitals; their larvae have been seen feeding on the flesh of patients’ wounds.
Gnat life cycle
Fungus gnats go through four stages: eggs, larva (with four larval stages), pupa, and adult.
The eggs and pupae can be found in damp organic matter and eggs hatch in about three days, according to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Larvae take about 10 days to develop in pupae and then four days later they turn into adults (the warmer it is, the faster they will develop).
UCANR reports that a generation of gnats can be produced in about 17 days.
Fruit flies go through the same four development stages as fungus gnats, with fruit flies taking about one or two weeks to develop into adults at room temperature, according to pest control company Orkin.
The egg and larval stages last about eight days and the pupa stage takes six days.
Adult fruit flies can live for several weeks. Just 48 hours after leaving the puparium, female fruit flies can start breeding and laying eggs, Orkin says, and they are fertile for their entire life.
They’re crafty. According to livescience.com, they can fit through window, door, or window screen cracks. They can also smell fermenting fruit and rotting food from far away.
Phorids develop in a wide variety of decaying materials, such as foods, rotting plants, moist manure, or dead animals.
Another breeding ground: moist organic matter that accumulates in drains and plumbings, earning them the nickname “drain flies,” according to Colorado State University.
At room temperature, generations are born at about three weeks. Eggs are typically laid over a period of three or four weeks, producing about a few hundred eggs at a time. Larvae feed on organic matter and then move a short distance to drier locations to pupate.
Adults emerge and mate immediately, according to Colorado State University. Phorid flies are very active, moving far and wide from their breeding site.
Phorid flies seem to be attracted more to the rotting flesh of animals than rotting fruit or vegetables, notes Orkin. Orkin also says that, unlike fruit flies, phorid flies are active at night.
An infestation of phorid flies may mean a more serious problem in your home, including a broken septic system or sewer line.
If that’s determined to be the problem, it’s best to let professionals take over since all the material must be flushed out well to fix the situation and prevent phorid flies from returning, says Colorado State University.
Getting Rid of Gnats for Good
Getting rid of Fungus gnats
You’ll need to be proactive in and around your garden to get rid of fungus gnats for good.
1. Since larvae can be damaging to seedlings, cuttings, and young plants, planetnatural.com recommends inspecting plants before you buy them for signs of insect pests. Carefully work the soil near the plant base and look for glossy larvae. Don’t buy any plant that reveals flying gnats.
2. Do not overwater, as fungus gnats thrive in wet soil, and especially don’t water during winter when plants use less of the water.
3. Planetnatural.com recommends letting the soil dry to about 1-2 inches between watering. This will kill larvae and inhibit the development of eggs. It also makes it less likely to use it to lay eggs.
4. A few anti-gnat products are recommended by plantetnatural.com for gardeners flummoxed by fungus gnat infestations:
• Gnat Nix, which significantly reduces gnat populations
• Yellow Sticky Traps, placed on the soil surface, captures a lot of egg-laying adults. Gnats are attracted to the yellow color.
• Mosquito Bits and Microbe-Lift BMC both contain a pesticide that kills larvae but is still safe for wildlife, humans, and other species.
• Beneficial Nematodes can destroy larvae on houseplants. Nematodes are worms that eat both gnat larvae and also other garden grubs and fleas.
• Mix 1 tablespoon of AzaMax per gallon of water and apply as a soil drench to control insect larvae.
Have a lot of larvae? Apply the mixture every 5 or 6 days. AzaMax contains a key insecticidal agreement called azadirachtin
• Combining cinnamon, peppermint, and sesame oils, Flying Insect Killer is a non-toxic spray that is best used to target gnats around your windows.
5. Plantnatural.com also highly recommends Fungus Gnat Predator to kill fungus gnats and soil larvae.
The insect in Fungus Gnat Predator attacks larvae and feeds on them. Depending on your level of pests, you should release 10,000 predators per 200-1,000 square feet.
6. The Old Farmer’s Almanac also endorses yellow sticky card traps placed on the found or attached to skewers above the soul.
It also recommends cider-vinegar traps, containers filled with a small amount of apple cider vinegar, water, and liquid dish soap.
7. Mosquito dunks include dry pellets containing beneficial bacteria that kill flying insect larvae of fungus gnats, fruit flies, and mosquitos. Just fill a gallon jug or watering can with clear water and toss in a dunk, says the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
8. Covering drainage holes helps, too, since some gnats find their way there to lay their eggs.
Simply cover the holes with synthetic fabric that lets water pass from prevents gnats from getting in or out, then cover the fabric with tape, advises the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
9. Epicgardening.com recommends using hydrogen peroxide as a soil drench to kill fungus gnat larvae on contact. Also, spraying neem oil can keep adult gnats at bay, the company says.
10. If you’re seeing a lot of fungus gnats or larvae in your houseplants or indoor garden, epicgardening.com recommends a pyrethrin spray, such as Garden Style Houseplant ; Garden Insect Killer.
Getting rid of fruit flies
Experts agree that one of the single most effective ways to rid any space of fruit flies is diligent cleaning.
Wipe down the kitchen — counters, sink, any place you used to cook — each and every night, especially to be sure you’re not leaving food residue or standing water. Another big help: regularly taking the trash out, according to home advice website littlethings.com.
Other helpful hints: not leaving dirty dishes in the sink, cleaning your drain and disposal regularly, and keeping your fruit bowl in the fridge, if it’s appropriate for the type of fruit you like to keep around.
Be a good produce consumer
Since decaying or decayed fruit and produce draws fruit flies, Good Housekeeping reminds consumers to throw out overripe produce, wash produce as soon as they purchase it, and clean up spills such as fruit juice or alcohol.
Experts agree that there are two great types of products to get rid of these gnats for good: fly traps and flypaper.
Here are some products to consider:
BEAPCO Drop-Ins Fruit Fly Traps
Littlethings.com swears by this one, a six-pack that provides six months of protection if that one problem area in your house. Plus, they’re non-spill.
Littlethings.com also likes the more expensive but effective TERRO Fruit Fly Trap, which ingeniously comes in the form of a fake apple to place in a fruit basket.
BESKIT 20-Pack Dual-sided Yellow Sticky Traps
Again, yellow is best. Littlethings.com notes this one is safe to use both inside and out for fruit flies and other bests. They come in a pack of 20 strips.
The safer brand houseplant sticky Stakes Insect Trap is half the price of BESKIT but are top rates, says littletings.com, and good for both your kitchen and bathroom. The surface is non-toxic.
Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch
Good Housekeeping recommends this trap, which looks like a spice bottle. All you do is open it, leave it anywhere you want, and fruit flies flock to it.
DIY fruit fly traps
Good Housekeeping recommends making your own trap with apple cider vinegar and plastic wrap. Other options: Trapping flies with a paper cone, vinegar, and old fruit is another of the magazine’s suggestions.
More ideas: drowning flies in a bowl of dish soap and vinegar or through an almost-empty bottle of wine or beer.
Fruit flies are attracted to the smell of vinegar, according to thebalance.com, and many bloggers swear by mixing two parts vinegar, one part sugar, and a few drops of dish soap to catch numerous fruit flies.
If you don’t want an uncovered bowl of the mixture in your kitchen, simply cover it with plastic wrap and put a few tiny holes in it with a fork.
Something that may keep fruit flies away, but not kill them, is essential oils. Apparently, fruit flies hate certain smells, such as lavender and lemongrass, says littlehtings.com.
Use rotten fruit
If you don’t have vinegar, you can also take rotting fruit to your advantage. Put it in a tiny bow, cover it with plastic wrap and punch a few holes in the top. Be sure to secure it with a rubber band.
Getting rid of phorid flies for good
Eliminate decaying matter
This is a no-brainer. Since phorid flies are attracted to decaying organic matter to feed and breed, says thespruce.com.
Locating and getting rid of rotting organic matter is “often the only method required to get rid of phorid flies,” says thespuce.com. Decaying material is commonly found in places such as garbage cans and sewer drains.
Use a safe pesticide
Particularly ones that contain pyrethrins that will not harm pets or humans, says thespruce.com, however, it is toxic to fish so don’t use it where there’s potential for it to impact streams, lakes, and rivers.
Yes, these help with phorids as well! The adhesive’s sweet swell quickly attracts phorids.
Phorid flies are most commonly found around moisture, so look through drains, leaky sinks or pies, or litter boxes in your home for the source of your infestation, says Solutions Pest and Lawn.
Solutions Pest and Lawn is keen on the following three products: Forid, Pyrid, and Musca-Stik Fly Traps. Florid is an organic microbial grease degrader, Pyrid can be used as space and contract spray, and Musca-Stik Fly Traps attract flies with pheromones.
What doesn’t seem to work
Tempted to put bleach down a drain when you spot fruit flies there?
Good Housekeeping says that kills some larvae, but won’t kill enough of them or eggs to get rid of fruit flies for good.
Bleach flows down the drain too fast to get that job done.
Changing all your soil
If gnats are wrecking your garden, you may be tempted to do this, but it won’t work. Flies will just breed in whatever new soil you lay down. I
t’s much more effective to simply put yellow sticky traps right on the surface.
Penny in a bag of water
We’re not sure where this myth started, but it is not true.
Putting a penny in a bag of water absolutely does not help you get rid of flies or mosquitos — or anything else.
It’s the opposite, actually. Standing water will attract more pests.
Sugar works better than vinegar
Sugar can certainly help you with catching and killing gnats and flies, but it’s not better than vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Instead, use it as a component in DIY mixtures, but using sugar alone does not help trap any type of gnat effectively.
For more on gnats and similar creatures check out the links below:
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