Getting Rid of Gnats
Gnat is a common name used to refer to several types of small, winged pests, including various types of midges (often, biting midges), black flies, hair flies and fruit flies. These small flies often congregate in swarms around rotting materials both inside and outside of the home. They may be pests for a variety of reasons, and depending on the type of insect they will feed on different types of material. Some, such as biting midges, are carnivorous, and bite humans. Other types of gnats eat plants and fungi.
How you should eliminate gnats will depend on the type of insect and where they are causing problems. For outdoor gnat problems, start by making sure that you don’t over water your garden — wet, decaying plant material attracts gnats, especially those that feed on fungus. Light also attracts gnats outdoors. Installing sodium light bulbs, which cast an orange-colored light, will attract fewer of these pests. Standing water can be a breeding ground for larvae, and while insecticides may be raised as a potential solution, this treatment is generally held to be too aggressive. Better solutions range from eliminating the standing water to using bio-friendly larvicides. If biting midges are your problem, spraying yourself with an insect repellent that contains DEET may be the best solution when you go outdoors.
Common indoor pests include fruit flies and gnats that are attracted to fungi and plant roots. Your first line of defense against indoor gnats is to prevent them from getting into the home in the first place. Inspect your window screens for gaps and tears, and consider replacing the screen with a finer gauge screen with smaller openings. By repairing a few holes in your screens, you may avoid a large scale infestation.
House plants are a favorite target of gnats — many species eat the roots of plants, and others feed off of the fungus found in over watered house plants. Damp, moist soil is also a preferred medium for breeding. When purchasing a new plant, look for one that is healthy, and disease and pest free. Quarantine the plant for a few days from other plants, until you are sure that it is not infested. When watering your houseplants, allow sufficient time between waterings to avoid the growth of fungus.
Fruit flies are attracted to fruit and vegetables left on the counter. It’s not unusual to bring home a bunch of bananas, only to find a healthy population of gnats spring up within a couple of days. They also like to feed and breed in the material sitting in your drain or garbage disposal. You can try to avoid these pests by storing food in the refrigerator, or in sealed containers. Additionally, keep your sink and drain clean, and keep your garbage covered.
For getting rid of gnats indoors, the most aggressive course of action is using a fogger. This will only combat existing gnats, and given the right environment, new ones will establish themselves shortly. Pyrethrin insecticide spray will kill gnats on contact, but requires spraying a good amount of the chemical into the air. Other methods include lighted fly traps to attract and trap gnats; drain gel for gnats breeding in your sink drain; traps that use pheromones to attract fruit flies; and sticky traps which attract gnats. Those looking for a more natural method for getting rid of gnats can try filling a bowl or jar with wine or cider vinegar which will attract, trap, and possibly drown the pests. Using a jar with holes punched in the top is particularly effective because the gnats, once trapped, cannot escape.
Written by O. Wallace
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