08 February 2013

Ahh - I got Gnats in my plants!

Fungus Gnats, in my houseplants to be specific...

Fungus Gnats are tiny flies that usually live in houseplants. There are 100's of other tiny flies that we call Gnats, most of them living outside. Sometimes Fruit Flies get inside too and are also refereed to as Gnats. These Fungus Gnats can be seen walking on the top of the potting soil of houseplants. They are a common problem.

They eat the fungus that is breaking down decomposing matter in the soil. They also eat the decomposing matter and if there is a lot of them, they might feed on the plant's roots. They can damage the plant if they are there in large numbers. Generally they do no harm other than being an annoying little pest that buzz around in your face. These Gnats don't bite.

When potting or re-potting plants try to pick a potting soil that drains out fast and drys quickly. One that is not over loaded with organic materials, like wood.

Allow the plant to dry out between waterings. Remove and discard any decorative foil wrapping from around the pot.

There are several tricks to reducing their numbers, I suggest trying them all at the same time.

You can top your potting soil with a layer of sand creating a barrier between the good stuff and the outside.
You can also put out sticky yellow cards that the adults will go to and stick on.
Try a small glass of red wine - a little for you, a little for Mr. Gnat! They are attracted to the fermentation smell and drown in the liquid. Apple cider vinegar might work as well but red wine is still better for the gardener!
Finally, try a thin slice of potato on the soil's surface. This attracts the larva out to to die. The larva are little tiny white maggots. Toss the potato into the trash when its done. Believe me, tiny dead maggots in your house plants - your guests won't even notice. Gnats swimming in guest's red wine, might embarrass you.
There are also chemical products that you can buy at the garden center. For one that is natural look for BT. It has to be BT labeled for Gnats. BT for mosquitoes or caterpillars will not do the job.

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