Once you have a fungus gnat infestation, using consistent management and prevention techniques is key to ending it. Further down on this page, we’ve listed a few of the best ways to both get rid of adult gnats and prevent new gnats from emerging.
In small numbers, fungus gnats are more of an annoyance than anything. In fact, the adult gnats don’t actively harm plants nor people. If their population gets out of hand, however, the larvae may start feeding on plant roots, causing notable damage. This is especially bad for young plants, such as seedlings, which have only a few delicate roots. Fungus gnats are also capable of spreading the plant pathogen that causes damping off and the eventual death of seedlings.
Size: Adult fungus gnats are tiny. Their size ranges from about 1/16 to ⅛ of an inch in length (1.5 to 3mm), which is about the same size as a fruit fly. Fungus gnat larvae may be up to ⅛ of an inch in length.
Fungus gnats are completely harmless to humans, since they can’t bite and don’t spread diseases. They can be a problem for houseplants, however, when their population explodes and their larvae starts to feed on plants’ roots. Fungus gnats may also spread Pythium, a group of plant pathogens that causes “damping off” in seedlings.
Sticky cards traps: These traps consist of a yellow note card covered in a sticky adhesive. They are most effective when cut into small squares and placed directly on top of the soil or attached to skewers just above the soil. Adult gnats will fly or crawl onto the card and become trapped. Fungus gnats are attracted to the color yellow, so use the yellow sticky cards rather than the blue ones. Both can be bought at most hardware or garden stores, as well as online.
- To use mosquito dunks: Fill up a gallon jug (or watering can) with clean water and toss in a mosquito dunk. It’s a good idea to break up the dunk a bit before placing it in the water, or you can wait for it to soften before breaking it apart. Let the dunk soak in the water for as long as possible (at least overnight), then remove it from the water (the dunk can be reused) and use this water for fungus gnat–infested plants. The bacteria will have leeched into the water and will now infect and kill any larvae that come into contact with it in the soil. Repeat this process every time you water your plants for at least a few months.
Cider-vinegar traps: Simple and effective, cider-vinegar traps consist of a shallow container with a small amount of apple cider vinegar, water, and liquid dish soap.
Activity: Fungus gnats tend to spend most of their time on the soil surface of potted plants, but they may be seen flying around the outer edge of the pot or near drainage holes as well. They are not strong fliers, so they have a tendency to walk along the soil and fly only in short bursts. Their flight is erratic and they are much slower than fruit flies, acting more like mosquitoes while flying.
Annoyingly, fungus gnats have a tendency to fly into people’s faces and drinks, though they are completely harmless and a few well-placed swats will show them what’s what.
Appearance: Adult fungus gnats are a grayish-black color and have gray or see-through wings. Their long legs and long antennae give them a mosquito-like appearance, though they are much, much smaller in size. Compared to a fruit fly, fungus gnats have a thinner body with longer legs and antennae.
Larvae have a small, black head and a thin, white or see-through body.
Identify, control, and get rid of fungus gnats in your plants with these tips from The Old Farmer's Almanac.