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Indoor Pest Control, Part 2: How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats

indoor pest control fungus gnats sherwood park salisbury greenhouse

Fungus gnats are becoming increasingly common in Edmonton homes due to common errors made by overeager houseplant owners, so it’s worth knowing how to prevent and get rid of them! You may unknowingly be making the soil in your potted plants a prime location for these insects to lay their eggs. When you have houseplants, it’s normal to have one or two fungus gnats hovering around your home, but if you’ve got a whole swarm, then there’s a problem. 

Effective removal means targeting the fungus gnats in all stages of development: egg, larvae, and fly, so their reproductive cycle doesn’t continue. While the mature gnats are more of a nuisance than a real threat, their larvae are actually the ones to blame for injuring your plants. They feed on the roots, so if there’s a whole bunch of larvae munching on your plant’s roots all at once, you gotta take action before that plant bites the dust.

How to Identify Fungus Gnats In Your Home

It’s common for people to mistake a swarm of fungus gnats for fruit flies, but truthfully, they’re quite different. For starters, fruit flies don’t have any interest in houseplants, so unless you have a big bowl of fruit next to your plants, the bugs buzzing around your plants are probably fungus gnats. Fruit flies are also reddish in colour with rounded bodies, while fungus gnats are darker and longer with more straight, pointy wings. 

As we’ve mentioned previously in our pest control series, monitoring your plants regularly will make things so much easier. If you notice pests right as they start to multiply, you can get rid of them before their population explodes. A quick way to check on your plants every day is to give the containers a little tap. If you’ve got fungus gnats, they’ll fly up from the pots, circle around, and return to the plants. 

Mature gnats lay their tiny eggs on the surface of the soil, and they can be tough to spot with the naked eye. The larvae, which are about ¼ inch in length, typically go unnoticed as they stay beneath the soil surface so they can eat the roots of your plant. If you dig around a bit, you might see some wriggling around in there””it helps to look with a magnifying glass! 

root rot on aloe plant

How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats In Houseplants

When you’re dealing with fungus gnats at home, it’s important to examine why the problem is occurring, and not just rely on band-aid solutions. Focusing on cultural controls””that is, the environmental factors attracting fungus gnats””while also employing other controls in an integrated approach will help prevent the problem from recurring. 

Cultural Controls 

One of the most important things to do to prevent fungus gnats in houseplants is to stop overwatering! We totally understand people’s eagerness to keep on feeding their plants and fuss over them like your sweet, doting grandmother. But watering your plants too much leads to fungal growth and rot, and that’s what fungus gnats feed on. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out in your plant pots between watering. Try to find that happy medium of sufficiently hydrating your plant without totally overdoing it and drenching the soil. 

If you’ve got a severe case of fungus gnats, it can be helpful to replace the potting soil with a fresh batch. This eliminates any existing eggs and larvae that were in the old soil. However, it’s important to note that a bad fungus gnat problem could indicate a root rot problem. If there’s considerable mold growing in your pot, not only do you need to scale back on watering, but you should use a hydrogen peroxide solution to kill the mold, as well as the eggs and larvae. Your plant might not be able to bounce back from a bad case of root rot, but if you want to give it a fighting chance, you should definitely use peroxide.  

Physical Controls 

What is the fastest way to get rid of fungus gnats in your house? The answer is definitely sticky traps. While they won’t target the eggs or larvae within the soil, the adult gnats will fly onto the traps and get stuck. This is a great quick fix for if you’ve got company coming over and need to figure out how to get rid of those flying insects ASAP, but it’s extra effective when you take the IPM approach and combine your methods.

A layer of mulch can also work especially well as a physical control because it acts as a barrier shielding the soil’s surface from gnats. If they can’t access the soil, they can’t eat the decaying matter inside. You can use regular bark mulch, or spread a layer of biochar, a clean charcoal material we source from Canada that has plenty of added benefits for your soil.   

fungus gnats on sticky trap

Biological Controls

More folks are interested in how to get rid of fungus gnats and other pests naturally, and biological controls are an awesome route to take. If you suspect you’ve got a high number of fungus gnat eggs and larvae in your plant pots, we highly recommend picking up a Nema Globe. Nema Globes come full of little satchels containing beneficial nematodes that kill the immature fungus gnats in the soil, preventing them from maturing, laying eggs, and continuing the cycle! Simply pop one satchel on the surface of the soil, water it in, and let it do its magic.

Chemical Controls

There are many pesticides you can use to get rid of fungus gnats, but we always recommend using natural ones indoors, so you don’t risk exposing your family or your pets to harmful chemical fumes. Some effective, natural solutions for controlling mature fungus gnats include:

  • Insecticidal soap spray
  • Pyrethrum spray
  • Hydrogen peroxide solution (for killing mold, larvae, and eggs in the soil)

If you’re using a spray insecticide, spritz the surface of the soil and all over the leaves of the plant, top and bottom. Follow up with another treatment in 5″“7 days, and repeat the process until things improve.

spraying houseplant for fungus gnats

How Do I Get Rid Of Fungus Gnats In My Kitchen?

Sometimes fungus gnats like to hover around the kitchen or bathroom, even if you don’t have any houseplants in there. If you’ve been scratching your head figuring out how to locate their hideaway, chances are they’ve been hiding in the drain of your sink! Bacteria can get trapped in the nooks and crannies of our sink drains, and the resulting funk draws in fungus gnats like a magnet. Flushing your drain regularly with bleach or peroxide will help to kill this bacteria, keeping your drain clean and free of fungus gnats.

A pest problem doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your plants, so don’t give up on them the moment you spot a few creepy crawlies! For more help identifying and combating plant pests or diseases on your houseplants in Edmonton, feel free to contact our experts or visit us in store. We’ll be happy to walk you through all the necessary steps to keep your plants safe and healthy! If you missed our previous installments on indoor pest control, check out our blog archives to discover our insider tips for tackling houseplant pests like a pro.

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