How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Your House and Plants for Good

Fungus gnats derive pleasure in causing big problems for houseplants. Read on to learn how to recognize and eliminate these pests from your home.
By
Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
Research Writer
Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
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Chas Kempf
Chas Kempf
Expert Consultant
Chas works in a professional pest control company and knows all the nuances of this job. Also, he’s a fantastic tennis player and loves to organize BBQ parties for his fam read more
Last updated: January 28, 2023
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Due to the inconvenience that Fungus gnats pose to both humans and plants, knowing how to get rid of fungus gnats is handy.  Fungus gnats love to hang around plants. If you want the best for your precious plants, you need to know how to get rid of fungus gnats in your plants.

Fungus gnats may not bite like the mosquitoes they look like, but don’t leave them to thrive in your home. Once they infest your home, you’ll be frustrated. And your dear plants will take the biggest hit. This article will discuss fungus gnats, identification and how to get rid of them.

What are Fungus Gnats?

How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Your House and Plants for Good

You would have probably caught a glimpse of fungus gnats if you lived in a tropical or temperate environment. These pests can’t be problems for potted plants, houseplants indoors, and commercial greenhouses. Organic matter and plant roots in soil and fungi are where their larvae get nourishment. And these tiny flies always source organically decomposed materials, container media, and potting soil for their infestation.

The adult ones love to come out more during spring and summer. The warmer temperatures often send them an invitation to come out from indoor plants. The indoor species of this pest are known as fruit flies, but some people also refer to fungus gnats generally as fruit flies. The adult ones are weak fliers, and they look pretty much like mosquitoes. These adult ones are quite distinguishable. They have smaller heads but longer antennae and long legs. More so, they have grayish and clear wings.

Types of Fungus Gnats

It’s important to know that the name “fungus gnats” may not be used to refer to just one kind of insect. Fungus gnats are a broader category that houses six diverse insect families, including Keroplatidae, Diadocidiidae, Bolitophilidae, Ditomyiidae, Mycetophilidae, and Sciaridae.

More so, it’s not all of these species that can damage your gardens. The notorious ones that you should ward off immediately are the ones that belong to the Sciaridae family. Particularly the ones associated with the Bradysia and Orfelia species.

Although there’s no lasting damage usually caused by adult gnat larvae, it’s still necessary to be aware of how to get rid of fungus gnats on human skin. Besides, their larvae are always in constant search of foodstuffs. And in the process, you might spot them during one of their activities. These adult gnat larvae can rain death in large quantities on your plants through their wilting, yellowing, and hole-chewing activities. If you don’t know how to get rid of fungus gnats on weed plants, the Sciaridae can take things further by spreading disease.

The fungus gnat adults, however, are usually mistaken for  mosquitoes Trusted Source Mosquitoes are seeing red: Why new findings about their vision could help you hide from these disease vectors | UW News Beating the bite of mosquitoes this spring and summer could hinge on your attire and your skin. www.washington.edu .

Even though they have the same shape as mosquitoes, they’re smaller. They’re so tiny that even the larvae can outgrow them. It’s usually very difficult to spot the fungus gnat larvae themselves. This is because they often unwind under the surface of the soil. And it also explains why the knowledge of how to get rid of fungus gnats in the soil is essential.

Nevertheless, when these fungus gnat larvae have infested a plant heavily, it’s possible to notice them through the shiny trail they leave on the surface of the soil.

How to Identify a Fungus Gnat

The proper identification of fungus gnats is important in the process of eliminating them. Even though they may come in different types and belong to different families, they have similar traits you can use to identify them. This identification will cut across three things, which are their size, appearance, and activity.

Size

How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Your House and Plants for Good

Fungus gnats are always very small. The adult ones can be between 1.5 to 3mm. In length, they’re around 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch. The larvae also share almost a similar size, and they can be close to 1/8 of an inch in length.

Appearance

The adult ones have see-through wings. And these wings can also be gray-colored. Although they usually have a general grayish-black color. They feature a mosquito-like appearance with their long antennae and long legs. But unlike mosquitoes, they’re quite smaller.

Their longer antennae and longer legs, and thinner bodies are also used to distinguish them from other look-alike flies.

The larvae also have a see-through or white body. A thin body and a small, black head identify a larva.

Activity

Fungus gnats love to fly close to drainage holes and around the outer edge of the pot. But even so, their activities are usually around the potted plants’ soil surface. These insects tend to fly only in short bursts. They walk more along the soil. And this is simply because they’re not super strong fliers. When flying, they also tend to act more like mosquitoes. They fly slower and have an erratic flight.

How Dangerous are Fungus Gnats? 

Fungus gnats are insects that can be very annoying. Whether in small or large numbers, they can be quite frustrating to deal with. The problem starts when they start multiplying.

There’s no proven evidence that they can harm people.

If this infestation continues and becomes widespread, your plant roots will likely suffer. Because the larvae will keep feeding on them. If you have seedlings or any young plants that do not have strong roots, you must protect them. Because once these fungus gnats get to them, they’ll be the most vulnerable ones. Additionally, these  insects can spread diseases Trusted Source Vector-borne diseases Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by pathogens and parasites in human populations. WHO works with partners to provide education and improve awareness so that people know how to protect themselves and their communities from mosquitoes, ticks, bugs, flies and other vectors. www.who.int to your plants and cause several of them to die. This is why it’s important to know how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants. When fungus gnats attack your plants, you may begin to notice something like root rot. The plants may stop growing. And in some cases, they may experience growth retardation. Some of the leaves below will start falling. And those on the lower side may start changing color to yellow. In a terrible situation, the whole plant could wilt. And, if there’s extreme damage done to the roots, the plants can die.

Step-by-step Process to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats can prevent your plants from thriving. Imagine that you wake up to water your houseplants. Instead of doing this activity peacefully, you find it difficult to do so because several insects fly up your face. You’ll desire to know how to get rid of fungus gnats for good. Not just for you but for the health of your houseplants. Here are simple steps you can follow to do so;

Step 1: Keep infected and isolated plants isolated.

If you just bought a new houseplant, don’t be carried away by the excitement. Do isolation for a few weeks. Keep this new plant in another room to ensure it’s not carrying any pests. Particularly these fungus gnats.

If you notice any insect, safely distance the container from where your other plants are. Now, it’s time for you to confirm if the spotted insects are fungus gnats. This is where your knowledge of identifying fungus gnats will come to play. And thankfully, details on the appearance and distinction of these pests have already been shared.

Step 2: Before your next watering, dry out the soil.

How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Your House and Plants for Good

These insects know that gardeners would naturally want to water their plants more during summer and winter. They use this opportunity to expand while they lay their eggs in damp soil.

Now, before you proceed to water those pots, ensure that the soil has dried. Nevertheless, make sure you don’t allow the soil to be dry because you may end up causing the death of your plants yourself.

Step 3: Before you spray an insecticide, think twice. 

If you know how to get rid of fungus gnats with hydrogen peroxide or with other chemicals, you may be quick to apply. But before you do, slow down. For instance, if you have pets, you have to be careful with what you spray. If you go for these natural insecticides called pyrethrins and you have pets around, you might put the lives of those pets in danger. But if you don’t, a pyrethrin solution well-sprayed on your soil’s surface and plants will do the trick.

Some plants can also be stripped of their waxy coating if you use any dish-soap solution—especially the ones that contain properties that remove grease.

Newly emerging bugs can be very stubborn to control. You need  frequent applications of these insecticides Trusted Source Insecticides | US EPA This page includes an introduction to the insecticides module,lists of insecticides as candidate causes, ways to measure insecticides, simple and detailed conceptual diagrams for insecticides, and insecticide references and literature reviews. www.epa.gov to check them out completely. Most times, it’s best advised you combine soil drenches with sticky traps.

Step 4: Add sticky traps. 

How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Your House and Plants for Good

These traps are very effective and easy to use.  They can catch both emerging freshly pupated and adult gnats. All thanks to their super glue coating. All you have to do is to place them strategically around your plants.

When you’re buying traps, you’ll find different sizes and shapes. There are also some traps with loopy and goopy leaves that look like very small trees. Depending on your budget, get one that works best for you. What’s more important is that you should continue placing traps until all coasts are clear of these pesky insects.

Step 5: Use a mosquito dunk drench or a neem-based insecticide

If you’re focused on treating fungus gnats larvae that are still in the soil, you cannot use a sticky trap. Because it’s not effective. For this purpose, you’ll need to get a mosquito dunk drench or a neem-based insecticide.

A drench with azadirachtin does an excellent job in killing these larvae in their small and large quantity. Prepare your solution by mixing a gallon of water per one tablespoon of azadirachtin. Once you’re done, use it to treat your soil, and the larvae will die. Another option that can work for you is to use a mosquito dunk.

Step 6: Use apple cider vinegar to lure them out. 

How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats in Your House and Plants for Good

If you have reservations about insecticides, then you may consider this option. It’s very delicate to use insecticides, especially if you have friendly pets that might come in contact with its poisonous touch.

Create a solution that contains a few drops of dish detergent, half vinegar, and half water. Put this solution in a jar lid. You can also use any shallow container you have. Once you’re done creating this solution, place it atop the soil. You can also keep it close to the infected plant. The vinegar will lure the insects into the solution. And their clocks will be cleaned with soap.

Step 7: Prevent future infestations.

Since they fly, there’s a possibility that they may enter indoors. Especially if your yard or garden is not far from your main house, and if you don’t know how to get rid of fungus gnats indoors, you’ll have to deal with that challenge too. Instead of constantly working on riddance, you can start working on preventing future infestations.

You can start by ensuring that your potting soil is sterilized. More so, use a closed container to keep the extra soil. And until your potting soil is assured to be thoroughly sterilized, don’t mix compost into it. You can also do some solarizing to clean your compost or potting soil. Solarizing can take more than a month. And though it’s a natural process that involves the sun, some people don’t have that luxury of time that makes it effective.

To prevent indoor infestation, use new potting soil frequently to repot your plants. Fungus gnats may not be as dangerous as other insects. And though you may know how to get rid of fungus gnats cannabis, it’s important to practice preventive measures. Again, even though complete eradication from your houseplant collection may not be feasible, you can reduce how plentiful they are. And with this, they’ll not be so harmful.

FAQ

1. Can I use a hydrogen peroxide solution to get rid of fungus gnats? 

Yes, you can. This is a very natural solution that works very effectively against these stubborn pests. But to make it effective, you need to use it appropriately. Create the mixture by mixing six parts water with one part  hydrogen peroxide Trusted Source Recent insights into the double role of hydrogen peroxide in plants | Frontiers Research Topic Normal aerobic metabolism (via processes such as photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport chains) in plants yields varied reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as singlet oxygen (1O2), superoxide (O2.¬), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and the hydroxyl radical (OH¬). www.frontiersin.org . Once the mixture is ready, apply it to the soil of your plants. While doing this, make sure the leaves don’t get wet.

2. How do I know if there are fungus gnats in my house? 

The easy way to know if your home is infested with fungus gnats is by identifying them. With their yellow abdomens and small size, you’ll easily recognize them. These insects may be flying around your home and be irritating. But they don’t bite. You may also spot them flying around your houseplant leaves slowly. They may also be encircling your drainage tray or houseplant soil.

3. Do these insects go away on their own? 

Until you do a thorough cleaning, these pests will remain. With their persistent nature, you’ll take more risks if you leave them. Plus, they can multiply very quickly.

Final Thoughts

Fungus gnats have cost the lives of many beautiful houseplants. At a glance, they look incapable of causing great damage. But when you leave them alone to thrive, they can do the worst to your plants.

Now, the question is, how long will you let your plants suffer a terrible fate from these pests? It’s time to take the bull by the horn and free your home from its infestation. Whether you’re a gardener or love your plants as an individual, you can use the right knowledge of how to get rid of fungus gnats to sanitize your home.

More so, always remember to keep to the prevention tips. Most of the time, it’s better to prevent the infestation of these pests than to start struggling to wipe them out.

References

1.
Mosquitoes are seeing red: Why new findings about their vision could help you hide from these disease vectors | UW News
Beating the bite of mosquitoes this spring and summer could hinge on your attire and your skin.
2.
Vector-borne diseases
Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by pathogens and parasites in human populations. WHO works with partners to provide education and improve awareness so that people know how to protect themselves and their communities from mosquitoes, ticks, bugs, flies and other vectors.
3.
Insecticides | US EPA
This page includes an introduction to the insecticides module,lists of insecticides as candidate causes, ways to measure insecticides, simple and detailed conceptual diagrams for insecticides, and insecticide references and literature reviews.
4.
Recent insights into the double role of hydrogen peroxide in plants | Frontiers Research Topic
Normal aerobic metabolism (via processes such as photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport chains) in plants yields varied reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as singlet oxygen (1O2), superoxide (O2.¬), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and the hydroxyl radical (OH¬).
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