Tag: gnats

Buffalo Gnats

Lately, when trying to work outside in my garden, I am plagued with small insects that swarm around my head, get into my eyes and bite my ears, painfully I might add. They bother my dog so much, she won’t even come outside with me and my neighbor told me they killed one of his chickens. What are these and what can we do?

Most of these flies are 1/8-inch long or less and their second body region or thorax is very convex giving a humped appearance, hence the nickname “buffalo gnat.” Only the females bite looking for a blood meal in order to lay her eggs. They require moving water to breed and develop as the water movement provides them with oxygen and food. The female will fly 7 to 10 miles looking for a meal and then will return to the water to lay her eggs where the larvae attach themselves to submerged objects, feed and molt six times before emerging from the water as adults. Females can live from a few days to more than 3 months until conditions are right to mate.

Yard fogging or spraying is not recommended or effective for several reasons. Black flies feed during the day, a time when fogging or spraying is the least effective and it does nothing to control the pest because it doesn’t destroy the larvae at its source. There is a natural control, Bacillus thurgiensis israeliensis (Bti), which can successfully reduce populations of larvae when applied to moving water sources, but needs to be done on a larger scale than homeowners can accomplish.

To protect yourself and your animals it is important to understand the way these bugs work. The flies are attracted to us or our animals by the carbon dioxide and moisture we exhale, dark colors, and perspiration. They prefer calm, sunny days and will not fly at night or on windy days. They are daytime, outdoor feeders so the best form of protection is avoidance. If you do venture outdoors to work in your garden wear light colored clothes and long sleeves and a hat with netting like beekeepers use to further protect your face and neck. Repellents such as DEET and vanilla extract or vanilla scented sprays can offer some relief against them, but the effect is usually only temporary. Pets are at a much lower risk of being bitten if kept indoors during the day, even if the building is not fly-proof. For chickens and other livestock, keep them inside in a darkened barn during the day and use fans to prevent overheating and simulate wind.

Fungus Gnats

How does one get rid of gnats in houseplant soil? I have also heard these gnats called fungus gnats. They are over running my house! PLEASE help me!

I can sympathize with your situation. I recently moved a potted plant into my office and have been dealing with fungus gnats ever since! It is a common problem during the winter when houseplants are moved indoors.

To combat the fungus gnat it is good to know a little about them. The adult gnat lives for about 1 week, mates and reproduces. Outdoors they can be found in compost bins, around rotting wood, and in leaf piles. They thrive on decaying organic materials and fungi. Indoors they are attracted to similar conditions found in moist potting soils that have a high organic content.

The females will lay her eggs on top of the soil. The hatched larvae feed on plant roots and root hairs in the top inch of the soil. They also feed on fungi on the surface of containers and potting benches.

Fungus gnats only eat during the larvae stage of their life cycle. To eradicate the problem, you must eliminate them at this stage.

First, isolate the plant or plants where the gnats are living. Next, cut back on water to make the soil less attractive to the adult female gnat. You don’t need to stop watering completely, just allow the soil to dry out between watering.

If you catch the problem early enough, cutting back on water may be all you have to do. However, if the problem is more severe you should take the additional step of removing the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil. This can be done with a fork or a spoon. Do this gently to prevent damaging the surface roots of your plant. Now, just add a new layer of soil. It is important to buy new, sterile potting soil for this.

Now, if you change the soil and you still have a problem, I suggest applying an organic pest control containing Bacillus thuringiensis, or BT. You should be able to find a product at your local garden center. Select one that is water-soluble and drench the soil with the mixture. To work, BT must be consumed by the gnat larvae. So apply your mixture to any containers you suspect may be harboring the pest.