If you’ve had gnats living around your home at any point, you know how much of a pain these tiny insects can be. They are even more annoying in large numbers. Gnats typically resemble mosquitoes more than they do flies.
They have two wings and measure about 2.5mm long. Their small slender body often gets them confused with fruit flies, a different class of flying insects found in either of the two distinct families, Tephritidae or Drosophila
Gnats can be physically identified by their legs which are noticeably longer and the dark color of their bodies. They are categorized in the families Mycetophilidae, Anisopodidae and Sciaridae.
Although male gnats do not bite, some species of the female gnats do. They use the blood as a protein enzyme for rapid reproduction and completion of the process. A perfect breeding place for them is moist soil which contains dead or decayed insects or small animals for nourishment.
They can lay up to 300 eggs per day which develop to larvae, to pupa and then to the adult. They generally have a short life span of about four to five months
Besides biting, gnats are able to spread certain infectious diseases as they feed on blood. This makes them dangerous to live with.
Species of gnat
Gnats are of a variety of types. The classifications are majorly based on factors such as where and when they are commonly found.
These gnats thrive in cold and humid conditions. As such, they are also referred to as winter gnats. They have blackish gray bodies, multi segmented antennae and long dangly legs. They are so small in size, they cannot easily be seen with the naked human eye.
Fungus gnats are associated with microscopic fungi and thus, you will mostly find them near mushrooms and home plant pots. They are also attracted to light. Generally, these gnats do not bite.
● Black flies / Buffalo gnats
These have a dark-colored appearance. They are also characterized by their humpbacked feature and short legs. They are known to eat flower nectar but will also bite humans. Females lay their eggs near water bodies such as lakes or streams and are known to cause river blindness.
● Eye gnats
Eye gnats are also known as grass files. They feature the colors yellow, black, and green. They have no hair growth on their bodies and as such their bodies look shiny. They are commonly found near the grass.
The name ‘eye’ gnat came about due to their attraction to secretions from the eyes. Although they do not bite, they are known to be a vector for diseases and conditions such as conjunctivitis, streptococcal skin infection, and rabies.
These are mostly found near sandy areas. They have exact same color as the sand and it is therefore difficult to see them. They have dangerous bites which can cause serious infections.
● Gall gnats
These gnats have their larva in plant saps for nourishment. This results in abnormal growth of the plant and infections.
The female gnats have biting mouth parts unlike their male counterparts. The scissor like mouth is what they use to cut into the skin and suck out the blood. The bite is very painful and results in itches and swelling for a number of days.
In case of the symptoms, you should visit a doctor to check for any infections. Treatment will usually include antiseptics that are topically applied, disinfectants or pain relief tablets or creams.
How to control gnats
● Clean your kitchen regularly, making sure you do not leave any dirty dishes in the sink overnight. This is because the food scraps attract the gnats.
● Cover your bins and garbage cans. When the cans are left open, gnats will find their spot there and soon you will have an infestation. Also, be sure to clean out the indoor cans as regularly as possible.
● Do not over water house plants. The conditions around the plant are an ideal breeding place for gnats.
● Use fly screens if you notice a lot of gnats outside your home to prevent them from coming in.
● Ensure you have no damp areas in the home that would attract the gnats. You can do this by drying out any damp corners in the house.
● Destroy any breeding spots to prevent development of the larvae to adults. This will mean draining any stagnant water, eliminating mold, draining over watered soil and getting rid of any decaying matter.
● To kill gnats in your drains, you could use ammonia or bleach solution.
Simply pour a dose of the of the solution into the sink. Ensure you leave it for several hours for it to dilute before using the sink again. This is because the chemicals can be quite toxic to human beings. You could also put a few tablespoons of baking powder into the drain then follow up with a cup of white vinegar. The mixture should be left to sit for a while before you can run water down the sink.
● Apple cider vinegar trap.
For this, you will need a jar. Fill it the with apple cider vinegar then seal the lid and create small holes where the gnats can enter through. Leave the can in the gnats’ common habitat such as the kitchen. As they are attracted to the smell of the vinegar, they will fly into the jar but will not be able to come out. An alternative to this is chopped or sliced bananas.
● Wine and soap trap.
This is another homemade trap that works effectively. You will require a small container such as a glass. Pour in the red wine up to three quarter the glass and add a drop of the dish soap. Stir the mixture and leave it out. Gnats will be attracted to the wine but will fall and drown due to the soap which breaks the surface tension.
● Lemon scented dish soap homemade spray.
You can make a gnat spray for your plants by mixing lemon scented dish soap with water in a spray bottle. Spray the plant and leave for about one to two hours to effectively kill the gnats. Follow this with plain water spray so that the chemicals do not destroy your plants.
If making solutions at home feels like a whole lot of work, you can purchase ready made products from Amazon. They come in the form of traps, sprays, and larvicides. You can also get repellents to prevent the gnats from biting you.
1. Gnat traps
These attract the gnats to themselves and then trap them. The most effective ones come in the form of sticky stakes or bug zappers. Recommendable products include the Safer Brand Houseplant sticky stakes and Aspectek insect killer and bug zapper.
These are a convenient solution for not only gnats, but also other flying insects that disturb normal growth of your houseplants. The stakes are peeled off and placed directly into the houseplant. Their yellow color and the glue on them attracts and traps the gnats in large numbers. Although this does not control the larvae, the breeding cycle is hugely curbed. The product is all natural, containing no hazardous chemicals.
This is an electronic product that works by zapping any insects. The gnats are attracted to the UV light coming from the bulb inside the metal grid. A high voltage of up to 2800 is emitted by the grid to kill the gnats. The trays of the killer are washable and the bulbs can be replaced when they burn out.
2. Gnat sprays and repellents
These are sprays that are used on the environment or on the body to keep the gnats away. Examples include:
This is a horticultural oil that kills and repels a number of insects including gnats. It does not contain synthetic toxins that would cause a threat to you or the environment. When used on plants, it leaves a shiny luster to the leaves. It is also an ideal solution for powdery mildew on the plants.
This is a natural mosquito/insect deterrent and repellent that contains essential oils. It safe for use on the environment and can also be used on human beings, including babies as well as pets. It works effectively and smells great.
These are products intended to destroy the gnats in their larval stage. This breaks the development cycle. Examples of larvicides you can find on Amazon are such as GNATROL WDG Organic BTI fungus gnat control granules and the Mosquito Bits.
This is an effective product for elimination of fungus gnat larvae. It is applied on bulb crops, bedding plants, and vegetables sets. When the larvae take in the Gnatrol ingredients, they become paralyzed, stop feeding and then die within 24 hours. The product does not leave residues and is therefore safe to use.
Although this product is intended to be used in killing of mosquito larvae, it has been found to be effective with gnats as well. The active ingredient, BTI, is a naturally occurring bacterium that is deadly to the larvae. It is applied on the potting soil into house plants, or in standing water bodies such as ponds, swimming pools or water gardens.
Rather than wait until the gnats are in large numbers and almost impossible to control, you can get rid of them when they are still few by using any of the homemade or ready products. This way, you can avoid bites, diseases or infections that come with gnats. Taking the preventative measures to avoid dealing with this problem completely are a better alternative.
The Dark Winged Fungus Gnat at top of page is provided by: James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster [CC BY-SA 2.5