Homeowners detest those tiny flies often found inside potting mix, soil, and other planting containers. Those tiny flies are called fungus gnats and are often the source behind a lot of organic decay. The larvae of fungus gnats feed primarily on organic matter and fungi within the solid. However, they also create havoc in nurseries, greenhouses, indoor plantscapes, and potted plants by chewing on the plant roots.
The Fungus gnat is a part of the superfamily of Sciaroidea, which is made up of six of the seven families involved. Sciaridae, Diadocidiidae, Mycetophilidae (the Diptera order), Ditomyiidae, Bolitophilidae, and Keroplatidae.
Description of a Fungus Gnat
Fungus gnat larvae aid in the process of decomposing organic materials by feeding on soil fungi.As an adult, they grow to a length of 2 to 8 millimeters (0.08 to 0.3 inches). They are known for being occasional plant pollinators and mushroom spore carriers. Also known for their potential for carrying diseases like pythium, creating “damping off” which kills seedlings.
Although weak at flying, they are frequently seen walking over soil and plants rather quickly. However, when they do fly they become pests to us by flying into our eyes, noses, and face! Fungus gnats are often confused for being drain flies.
The fungus gnat comes from the Diptera order and insect family Sciaridae. They are tiny flies, known for developing and growing within houseplant soil blends like peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.
Small insects appearing like mosquitoes, often discovered in offices, homes, or greenhouses, wherever houseplants are grown. These flies are black, having antennae and long legs, the forewings are shaped in the distinct pattern of a “Y”. As larvae, they are almost translucent maggots. Their head capsule is black, and they reside in the soil of plants growing in a greenhouse or houseplants. Most commonly greenhouse pests, however, these tiny pests are known for invading houseplants.
Where do Fungus Gnats Come From?
Fungus gnats get into your house via screens and doors that are in poor condition. Once inside, they search for a place that is moist in which to lay their eggs. These tiny pests easily become a pest as they search your house for damp potting soil.
The Life Cycle of a Fungus Gnat
Depending on moisture content, fungus larvae can be discovered in the first five to eight centimeters of the soil. They feed on decaying matter within the soil’s surface, algae, or fungi. However, larvae may find the plant roots or low hanging leaves equally delicious food sources. You might also notice adult fungus gnats infesting a houseplant inside your home.
The lifespan of a fungus gnat is a short week to a week and a half. During this time, the females might lay as many as 200 eggs within the crevices and cracks of the soil. Adult females are attracted to peat moss and other growing media containing a lot of moisture.
Habitat and Where Fungus Gnats are Commonly Found
Fungus gnats are found throughout the United States. They can be noticed running over the growing soil of potted plants, and also in moist piles of mulch, foliage, and compost. A female gnat lays her eggs in moist debris of potting media. The eggs are tiny, and larvae have a black shiny head with a legless, elongated body that is almost clear in color.
Biologically Controlling Fungus Gnats
There are a number of ways to control pests like fungus gnats biologically. For instance, there is BTI or Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis. It is a well-known method that creates the proteins required for killing the larvae of fungus gnats. BTI not only kills adult fungus gnats, but also larvae and even certain insects such as mosquitos. Using this method carries no harm to humans, according to recent reports by the EPA. The U.S. has received BTI approval for agriculture, commercial, and business usages.
Another method that is a known fungus gnat control agent are steinernema nematodes, used in combination with BTI. Parasites like nematodes and feltiae species are used to attack the larvae of fungus gnats during the larvae phase.
In addition, the Stratiolaelaps scimitus species mite once referred to as “Hypoaspis mites,” were also effective in controlling these tiny pests. These mites are natural predators which feed on fungus gnat eggs and their tiny larvae.
Some Do-it-Yourself Methods of Fungus Gnat Control
Homeowners typically try to get rid of pests using do-it-yourself methods first. Some of the ways to get rid of fungus gnats is to soak the soil once a year using some insecticidal soap. Another mixture is some water and hydrogen peroxide. Simply pour one cup of hydrogen peroxide (3% blend) into 4 cups of water. Now pour this mixture directly onto the affected soil.
Here’s a fun fact, adult fungus gnats are attracted to the color yellow! Therefore, you can use yellow sticky traps made with heavy paper or cardstock to trap the adult gnats.
Fungus gnats are feeble at flying; therefore, you can use devices such as fan-based traps to aid in the control of gnats that are free-flying. There are many non-toxic and toxic ways to control the larvae of adult sciaridae. For example, cinnamon in power form is an excellent non-toxic method. You can also try diatomaceous earth as a toxic method, however, be careful if you have small children or pets.
Call A.N.T. Pest Control for Fungus Gnat Extermination
When you have tried all the do-it-yourself methods, and you still have a problem with fungus gnats, call the professionals for fungus gnat control! A.N.T. Pest Control is the expert when it comes to eradicating a fungus gnat infestation. Before we begin any treatment, we take into consideration any children or pets. Please advise us ahead of time if you have either one, we do not want to use a treatment that might put them in danger. We promise you will be pleased with our service. However, due to Mother Nature being a tenacious lady, we cannot guarantee results in one treatment.