"Gnat" is a term that is used interchangeably to describe any number of small flying insects. It is important to properly identify exactly what type of insect you are dealing with so that a proper pest control program may be chosen. To identify an insect, several adults should be captured and dropped in alcohol. Next your local Cooperative Extension Office should be contacted for information on insect identification in your area.
In this article we will be discussing the "fungus gnat" that commonly invades homes. Fungus gnats in the home are often introduced when infested house plants are brought in or when a water leak goes unnoticed. This type of gnat does not bite and is a nuisance only by its presence. Fungus gnats believe it or not can actually provide a service. By the presence of these small flying pests you can be alerted to a potential moisture issue that you may not have been aware of.
Adult fungus gnats are about 1/8 to 1/10 inch long, fragile grayish to black flies with long, slender legs and thread-like antennae. These gnats have one pair of wings that are clear or smoky-colored with no pattern and few distinct veins. Eggs are almost invisible to the naked eye, oval, smooth, shiny white and semi-transparent. Larvae are clear to creamy-white with black head capsules and can grow to about 1/4 inch long.
The life cycle of a fungus gnat is about four weeks, with continuous reproduction in homes where warm temperatures are maintained. Generations overlap, with all life stages present during the breeding season. Females lay up to 100 to 300 eggs in batches of 2 to 30 each in decaying organic matter. Eggs hatch in 4 to 6 days. Larvae of the fungus gnat not only feed on decaying matter but also on stems and roots under the soil, causing stunted growth in some plants.
For the most part fungus gnats do not cause damage in the home environment. Some greenhouses and plant nurseries may experience damage issues when fungus gnats go unchecked and a large infestation occurs. Larvae of the fungus gnat feed on plant roots and in large numbers can cause significant damage. Since fungus gnats do not bite humans or pets they seem to bother folks by buzzing around their heads and generally just by being there.
Preventing fungus gnats from entering your home is quite simple once you know how. Inspect all new house plants before bringing into your home. Always use sterile potting material. Do not over water plants. Inspect any plant that was taken outside and brought back in. Discard heavily infested plants.Identify and repair any water leaks as soon as possible.
If you have fungus gnats present in your home there are several steps you may take to get rid of them. First you must find the source of the gnats. Inspect all house plants for infestation by placing insect glue board traps above the plant to monitor for adult activity. If activity is present you may let the soil dry out and this may effectively kill all the larvae or remove the plant from your home. Plants may also be treated with Talstar to get rid of larvae and adults. Plants should be moved outside prior to treatment and allowed to fully dry before bringing back indoors. If plants do not seem to be the source of infestation search for water leaks or damage from water leaks. These areas must be repaired and properly cleaned to stop the breeding cycle and eliminate the population that is infesting your home.
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