So you need to know how to get rid of gnats? Don’t worry, fungus gnats are an all too common pest and though they probably quickly appeared in or around your home from seemingly nowhere, we can help you get rid of them just as fast. We have assembled for you a quick guide to help you identify, prevent and eliminate a gnat infestation.
What Are Gnats?
Though a “gnat” is the common name for many tiny insects like the crane fly, and mosquito (especially in the UK) it is mainly referring to the small black bugs that hang around soil, potting mix, and other organic decomposition. The fungus gnat is usually dark gray and around an ⅛” to 1/16” long. Though these bugs don’t bite or cause any real damage, the larvae they lay can do a number on plants in the area especially when allowed to grow to large numbers. These insects feed off of leaf mold, mulch, fungi and compost and will lay the larvae in the areas that contain these items. Gnats have slim legs and long antenna that gives them a distinct look from other types of pests.
Difference Between Gnats and Mosquitoes
This is a common question and worth addressing. Gnats do not feed off of blood like their buddy the mosquito; they mostly subsist off of plants and fungus. Since we are focusing on the more common fungus gnat, we can say they do not bite at all. The mosquito is also generally larger, growing in average to around ½”.
Pictures Of Gnats And Mosquitoes Side By Side
So this is basically how a gnat looks like, on the picture above, courtesy of wikipedia.org, we can spot a black female fungus gnat. And on the picture below, you can see the blood sucking mosquito biting human skin from someone:
Where do Gnats Come From?
Gnats lay their eggs in damp soil or fresh water and probably hitched a ride inside one of your more recent potted plants. One way or another they can find their way to the plants in your home, either coming from a plant outside or making through a door or window. Any damp source breeding fungus will also become attractive to fungus gnats. A small infestation may go unnoticed, and before you know it you can end up with a full-scale invasion.
How to Prevent Gnats:
- Allow your soil to dry completely before waterings to prevent larvae growth.
- Do your best to remove and prevent areas of dampness or standing water that will create fungus.
- Decomposing organic materials like mulch are prime breeding grounds. Be aware of this and protect your interior soil accordingly.
- Check for cracks and holes in windows and screens.
- Quarantine infected plants and change the soil.
- Dirty dishes, damp areas, and the trash are also worth investigating.
- Take trash out overnight.
- Don’t leave damp and moist towels and clothes lying around.
How to Get Rid of Gnats Inside Your House
Here are a few home remedies and products that will help you eliminate your gnat problem with minimal damage and risk to your household.
Remove the Source of the Gnats.
Before going after any proactive approaches make sure you have gone through the list of preventative measures. Otherwise, you will more than likely end up with the same problem in a week or so. We will cover a few methods to how to kill gnats ranging from sprays to traps, but you need to take the head off the snake before you waste your energy with any of these other methods.
Inspect all the soil in your house, especially the soil of any outside plants recently brought in. Check any drains and trash cans inside and outside near the home for the source. Let all the soil in your household plants completely dry out for a time.
Removing Gnats from Potting Soil
- Reduce waterings in order to give the soil a chance to dry, and the gnats an opportunity to starve.
- Clean and remove organic debris like fallen leaves.
- Mix the top couple inches of soil with a trowel every day or so expose and kill the larvae.
- In extreme cases, a ground pesticide can work, though I’d recommended just tossing the soil and starting again.
Once these steps have been taken, move on to the home remedies for gnats.
Make a Homemade Gnat Trap
You can purchase sticky traps from your local store that will usually be pretty useful, but you may not need to go out and buy something. We will give you here a couple of homemade traps that are often more effective than the store bought kind.
● The Jar Trap
You will need some plastic wrap. A jar, cup or similar container. Vinegar.
- Put some vinegar, the apple cider kind works best, into your container. This can be a jar, cup, or small bowl.
- Place plastic wrap over the lid of the cup or bowl, sealing it.
- Poke small holes into the plastic wrap. This will allow the insects in, but not out.
- Allow this to sit in an area familiar with you gnats. When the jar is full or has lost the potency of its scent, go ahead and replace it.
You can also make a similar trap by placing using fruit juice, a sugar solution, a banana or similar fruit into the jar instead of the vinegar. Sweet traps are ideal to catch fruit flies along with this 6 tricks. Any combination of cup and bait should work as long as they are attracted to the food and the holes are the correct size to trap them.
● Wine and Soap Trap
Get a small cup like a shot glass or those short little plastic ones you get at outdoor events. Poor in some leftover red wine until the container is over half full. Throw in a couple of drops of dish soap to create a sticky surface to the wine. Let this glass sit out for a while. The gnats will be drawn to the wine but will become stuck due to the soap, pulling them under.
Create a Gnat Spray
In can be good to be proactive with issues like these. We will cover a few different sprays you can make that should help you eliminate and repel the intruders. You can also get rid of the different types of ants by making your own homemade spray. Although these recipes are much safer than many insecticides, always make sure you properly ventilate the areas you spray in.
Get a spray bottle and fill it a few squirts of dish soap and water. Spray this solution all over the plant and soil. Let it sit for a bit, about 3 hours, and then rinse off your plant if possible to avoid any lasting damage.
This mist will knock gnats right out of the sky, allowing you just to come in and sweep em up. Get a misting spray bottle and fill it with a solution of 70% rubbing alcohol. This is also a handy general disinfectant to have around for day-to-day use.
Windex will also take care of gnats, but may not be what you want to coat your house in it. If it’s an area you don’t mind Windexing though, go for it. Just make sure you let the room air out afterward.
Create a Gnat Repellant.
There are many easily found items that will repel gnats quite effectively. Most of these items can be combined with a spray that you can apply to your window sills and doorways to prevent intruders. Mix 10 drops of these solutions (more or less depending on its potency) with some warm water and a spray bottle.
Dryer Sheets – If your dryer sheets have an ingredient named oleander, then they can work as effective gnat repellents. Place these dryer sheets around your plants and soil storage areas, as well as any other problem spots.
Vanilla – Vanilla extract or essential oil wards away gnats. Create a solution with some warm water and the vanilla and place wherever you are having gnat issues. This works great with the spray bottle.
Citronella – This oil is harmless to pets and plants and leaves a pleasant citrus smell behind. Citronella oil works on mosquitoes as well. Just like with vanilla, mix with warm water, preferably in a spray bottle, and apply to problem areas and entrance ways.
Getting rid of Gnats Outside Your Home
All of these same methods used for the inside gnats will work outside, but the repellents and traps will have a much harder time being as effective in the open air. Here are a couple of extra solutions to help resolve any outdoor infestations.
Use Beneficial Nematodes
Nematodes are the top of the line in what kills gnats. Nematodes are little worm looking dudes found in some types of soil. These little bugs will effectively burrow inside the gnats and eliminate them. Nematodes are usually harmless to humans and pets but do quite the number on gnats and other insects. Steinernema feltiae are the type of nematodes that attack fungus gnats, so if you want to eliminate gnats, that is what you’ll need.
Nematodes can be used nearly anywhere including on plants, your garden, trees, and flowers. Make sure to look up all of the relevant information on your type of Nematode before use.
Add Sand to the Top Layer of Soil
Along with discarding old potting soil that is retaining too much dampness, you can add some sand to the top layer to ensure it stays dry and doesn’t breed any gnats. Try and cover the first 1/2 “of your soil to ensure the eggs are not making it underneath.
Potato slices can also offer a gross solution to the larvae. Slice some raw pieces and place them next to each other over the surface of the soil. Check on them a couple of hours later and you should see a number of larvae clinging to the potato piece. Repeat for a few days to eliminate a good share of the larvae.
Another choice similar to sand is Diatomaceous earth. This is a naturally occurring rock that crumbles into a white powder. This rock is created from the fossilized remains of diatoms and will dry out your soil when placed as a thin top layer.
I hope these tips on how to get rid of fungus gnats should be enough to help you get a handle on your gnat infestation. If you need to move on to more industrial strength solutions like store bought sprays, make sure to keep pets from the area and rooms well ventilated.