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    How To Get Rid of Gnats in Plants: Comprehensive Guide!

    blog post authorVera Kutsenko
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    Fungus Gnat macro on a leaf

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    You love your garden and all the plants in it. But suddenly, you see little flying insects everywhere. You might be thinking that it’s some kind of pest attack, and you’re right. Those tiny flying bugs are gnats, also called plant flies or fungus gnats. 
    They are commonly mistaken for fruit flies, but these two pests have different characteristics. There is nothing creepy about these small flying insects – they don’t hurt humans or plants. However, their larvae, found on top of the soil, is more dangerous as it can munch on the plant’s root system. They don’t do any permanent damage to your plants unless there’s a severe infestation, but they can be extremely annoying. Gnats tend to appear when the soil is too wet and there’s not enough light or air circulation in the area.
    In this article, we will tell you how you can get rid of gnats in plants easily and fast. Read on to find out more on gnat pest control…

    What are Fungus Gnats?

    Fungus gnats (Bradysia species or Orfelia species) are tiny, mosquito-like flying bugs that are attracted to wet and moist soil. They are usually harmless if there are only a few, but the challenge is that the infestation can quickly spread because fungus gnats proliferate rapidly laying up to 200-300 eggs during their short, 7-day adult life.
    Adult fungus gnats will lay eggs in the soil. Once the eggs hatch into larvae (white-looking worms barely visible to the eye) will feed on the organic matter in the soil like algae, fungi, and plant roots. If the infestation is severe, larvae can really do damage to your plant’s healthy root system.  Larvae will develop and turn into fully grown adult fungus gnats in two to three weeks.
    They will then pupate on the medium and adults will emerge one week later. They are weak fliers, typically flying in short, erratic patterns. They have a short lifespan of just 7-10 days, but they lay up to 200 eggs!! This is why a fungus gnat infestation can quickly become severe. Soil with high amounts of peat moss is particularly attractive. The ideal room temperature is 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit which is why they can thrive in most common home environments.

    Fungus Gnats vs. Fruit Flies

    We can all agree on one similarity between these two: they are both quite annoying! Fungus gnats can be confused with fruit flies, but these two pests have very different characteristics. Fungus gnats are attracted to moist and wet soil. They have no interest in fruit or garbage, unlike fruit flies. 
    Fungus gnats are typically dark gray or black while fruit flies range from tan to black. Fungus gnats have dangling, long legs and long bodies more similar in shape to a small mosquito. Fruit flies have a rounded silhouette like a smaller version of a house fly.
    Close up photo of a fruit fly and a fungus gnat for comparison.
    Image Source:Photo by Credit:Heather Broccard-Bell on GettyImagesFungus gnats have a much more mosquito like body when compares to fruit flies.

    Fungus Gnats Quick Treatment Card

    Stunted Growth, Plant is Wilting, Leaves Turning Yellow, Leaves Dropping, Flies Surrounding Plants, Root rot
    1. Quarantine your plant.
    2.Inspect for eggs, larvae.
    3. Let soil dry.
    4. Follow any treatment method for 3-4 weeks.
    Repotting with fresh soil, top-dressing with sand, spray with dish soap or insecticidal spray, hydrogen peroxide, neem oil solution, cinnamon, diatomaceous earth,
    Vinegar Traps (Apple Cider Vinegar, White Vinegar), Carnivorous Plants, Yellow Sticky Traps
    Raw Potato Slices, Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bti), Beneficial Nematodes
    Symptoms
    Pre-Treatment Steps
    Treatment: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    Treatment: 🪰 - destroys only adult fungus gnats
    Treatment: 🪱 - destroys only larvae
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    How to identify Fungus Gnats on Plants

    There are many species of insects that can be found in your houseplants, but if you have a lot of small flying insects, it’s likely they are fungus gnats (also called phorid flies, melon flies, or soil flies). 
    They are very small (around 1/8 of an inch), and they have a distinct “Y-shaped” pattern on their forewings. Fungus gnats will lay eggs that turn into larvae which are wormlike and translucent with a black head capsule.
    They are usually located in the top 1-3 inches of soil depending on moisture level. They feed on decaying organic matter, but larvae will feed on plant roots and any leaves that are resting on the soil’s surface. Fungus gnat infestations tend to be more noticeable in the fall and winter.
    You can identify a gnat problem in your plants by the following symptoms:

    01

    Small flies flying around your plant. The most obvious symptom is if you're seeing small flies around your plant. They tend to gather around the soil or light sources near the infested plant.

    02

    Tiny, larvae on soil surface. If you see small, translucent larvae in the top layer of the soil, then this is a sign of an infestation starting to grow.

    03

    Your plant is wilting. Once your infestation starts to become more severe, you will start to see your indoor plants start to wilt. This is caused by fungus gnat larvae feeding on the plant's root system depleting the nutrients. This causes them to wilt and stunts their growth.

    04

    Stunted growth. Yellow Leaves. Dropping Leaves. If you're seeing leaves starting to turn yellow or dropping off the plant, this may also be a sign of fungus gnat infestation especially when combined with the other symptoms above. Leaf drop and yellow leaves are sign of improper watering, root rot, or root stress (caused by larvae munching on them).

    Why do my houseplants have gnats?

    Fungus gnat infestations are primarily caused by too much moisture in the soil. Fungus gnats are attracted to wet, moist, and high-humidity environments because they are attracted to the organic matter in the soil. Fungus gnat larvae feed on the plant root system slowly degrading it over time.
    Adult female fungus gnats are attracted to peat-based soil as it tends to retain more moisture. Although peat can be very beneficial, we only recommend using it in high quantities for plants that require consistently moist soil.
    Plants that are susceptible or easy to overwater are also more vulnerable to fungus gnats. High moisture content creates a perfect environment for these pests to survive and reproduce.
    This is why it’s important to plant in well-draining soil and make sure you’re following a proper watering schedule. Waterlogged soils can also cause root rot which is further aggravated by a fungus gnat infestation.

    How to get rid of fungus gnats on indoor plants?

    If you find gnats in your plants, it’s best to act quickly to prevent serious damage to the plants. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get rid of gnats in your plants. Lets dig into all of steps you'll want to take once you spot a fungus gnat infestation.

    Pre-Treatment Steps

    Take these steps before applying any of the treatment methods.

    01

    Quarantine your plant. You will want to quarantine your plant to prevent spread of the infestation to neighboring plants. This is critical for moderate to severe infestations.

    02

    Figure out why your plants have gnats. This way, you can take the appropriate action and prevent it from happening again. For example, if you see gnats in your houseplants and your soil is too wet, you should change the watering schedule for your indoor plants.

    03

    Inspect your plants for eggs, larvae, and pupae. If you find any of these, you should remove them and clean your pots, soil, and the surrounding area. We cover all the different ways you can get rid of fungus gnats on your indoor houseplants below including how to naturally rid of fungus gnats.

    04

    Let your soil dry. Fungus gnats thrive in soggy and moist soil. If your infestation is in the earliest stages, you may be able to get rid of these gnats by letting the top 2-3 inches of soil dry. However, this won’t be effective for moderate to severe infestations. It can take a few days for gnats and larvae to die. We usually recommend this as a preventive measure than a treatment measure.

    05

    Follow a combination of treatment plans below. Follow one of the treatment plants below depending on your access and budget. You will want to follow these for at least 3-4 weeks to appropriately rid of an infestation.

    Fungus Gnats Treatment Methods

    Once you're ready to apply a treatment to your gnat problem, you can use any of the following methods below. Different methods work on different life cycle stages of fungal gnats.
    Some methods like raw potato work for larvae while yellow sticky traps work best for flying, adult fungus gnats. Read through and apply one of a mixture of methods below comprehensively over a span of a couple of weeks to address your infestation.

    1. Repot your plants and refresh your soil.

    Repotting a plant.
    Image Source:Photo by Bogdan Kurylo on GettyImagesRepotting a plant is more drastic, but guaranteed way to get rid of fungus gnats.
    Destroys: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    One of the best ways to rid of fungus gnats is to completely refresh your potting soil. This is the recommended method especially for severe infestations. In this process, you’ll want to completely sterilize the plant, soil, and pot.
    Throw the old soil away. This is your time to make sure you’re using the fresh, well-draining potting mix in order to prevent future infestations. You can use a commercial houseplant potting mix with perlite, vermiculite, or sand to increase drainage. 
    If you don’t have access to fresh soil, you can bake your soil to sterilize it! That’s right.
    Pro Tip Icon
    Pro Tip: Supplement your soil with Diatomaceous Earth to prevent future fungus gnats.
    We talk about Diatemoceous Earth as a treatment option below. If you are repotting with fresh mix, you can supplement with DE to help prevent future infestations. We also recommend you add perlite or sand to encourage better drainage.

    2. Top-dressing with sand

    Destroys: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    You can apply a ½ to 1 inch layer of sand on top of your soil. You will want to make sure you cover the entire surface area of the soil with your sand. Sand is not moisture retentive so adult gnats will be less likely to lay more eggs on the surface. While the eggs that become larvae won’t be able to exit through the sand layer. This method still allows you to be able to water the plants at the same time.

    3. Spray with Dish Soap or Insecticidal Spray

    Destroys: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    Insecticidal soap is typically made with potassium salts of fatty acids used to manage infestations of many types of pests including fungus gnats. Fortunately, insecticidal soaps do not harm most plants. However, we recommend you test your insecticidal soap on a small portion of the plant first before widespread use. Most houseplants will tolerate insecticidal soap, but ferns can be more sensitive.
    Pro Tip Icon
    Pro Tip: You can use DYI Soap mixture.
    You can also use DIY natural soap mixtures. You can use soap like Dr.Bronner’s, Ivory Liquid, etc to help. Mix 1-4 tablespoons per gallon of water and add into a spray bottle.
    Using a mixture of dish soap and water, you can spray your plant soil every couple of days until the gnats infestation is done. We recommend mixing between 1-4 tablespoons of soap per gallon of water and using it immediately.
    Fill up a spray bottle with your new insecticidal soap mixture and spray your plant. This is one of the simplest and easiest ways to rid of your infestation.

    4.Hydrogen Peroxide Solution

    Destroys: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    Sometimes you don’t want to completely repot your plant. You can always use a hydrogen peroxide solution to sterilize your existing soil. 
    In order to create  DYI Hydrogen Peroxide solution, mix the following:
    Pro Tip Icon
    Pro Tip: Mix 1 part 3% Hydrogen Peroxide and 4 parts water
    We recommend you use 3% Hydrogen peroxide and mix that with either 3 or 4 parts water. Place in a spray bottle or water your plant with this solution.
    You should only water with this when the topsoil is dry. Water your plant with this solution. Once peroxide has killed the larvae, it will start to break down the soil. Repeat watering with this solution every 7-10 days as the topsoil dries out. 
    Use this with caution because hydrogen peroxide not only kills the gnats and larvae, but also nutrition in the soil. If you’re using this, we recommend you repot as well and you refresh nutrition in your soil with fertilizer when the plant has been nursed back to good health.

    5.Sticky Fly Traps (Yellow Sticky Traps)

    Fungus gnat yellow sticky trap in soil.
    Image Source:Photo by Pixelbender36 on ShutterstockYellow sticky traps are an effective way to manage adult fungus gnats. You will want to combine this with a method that kills larvae as well.
    Destroys: 🪰 - only adult fungus gnats
    You can also use yellow sticky trap cards to catch adult fungus gnats on your houseplants. This unfortunately won’t get rid of the larvae that are in the soil, but it can help control the flying adult gnats around the houseplant. If your infestation is severe, sticky traps can help control some of the infestation. 
    The reason why these sticky traps are yellow is that they reflect light rather than absorb it. Fungus gnats are attracted to light, hence yellow sticky traps work best. Do not get other colors as they will be less effective.

    How to get rid of gnats on indoor plants naturally?

    There are many ways to get rid of fungus gnats in your plants. You can use natural products that are safe for both humans and the environment. Apart from being safe, they are also very effective in killing gnats in your garden. You can make your own gnat spray using dishwashing soap, garlic, and warm water.
    If you don’t want to make your own product, there are many ready-made products on the market that are very effective. One of the best ways to get rid of gnats in your plants is to repot them in fresh soil.
    This way, you get rid of the fungus gnat larvae and eggs that are in the old potting soil. You can repot your houseplants at any time of the year, but the best time to do this is in the spring.
    Here’s how to repot indoor plants: Make sure to clean the top of the plant’s root ball. Also, sterilize the top of the root ball with a 10% bleach solution or a commercial plant disinfectant. Let it dry completely. Next, put fresh potting soil into the pot and water it thoroughly. You can get fresh soil for your houseplants at any garden center.

    1. Use Neem Oil Solution or Spray

    Neem oil with fresh beans.
    Image Source:Photo by Ninetechno on GettyImagesUsing neem oil is a great natural fungicide solution to get rid of fungus gnats.
    Destroys: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    You can use neem oil which is a natural fungicide. Neem oil is made from crushing seeds of the Azadirachta indica tree. Azadirachtin has a chemical composition that when ingested will cause pests to stop eating, fail to grow, and be unable to lay eggs. Neem oil is most effective when it is cold pressed. However, for it to be effective you will want to soak your top 2-3 inches of soil with this solution. It won’t be as effective if you just spray it a little bit. You have to drench your soil with a neem oil solution to kill the larvae.
    Pro Tip Icon
    Pro Tip: DIY Neem Oil Soil Soak
    Being an oil, neem oil will require an emulsifier to appropriately mix. To create an emulsifier, you can mix Dawn/Ivory/Dr.Bronner's dish soap into a gallon of water. Then, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of 100% pressed raw neem oil. Use 2-4 cups per plant and mix directly into soil to let it soak in.

    2. Sprinkle Cinnamon

    Destroys: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    Cinnamon is also another great, natural fungicide outside of neem oil. Cinnamon is great at destroying any fungus (which is food for fungus gnats - duh!). Sprinkle a layer of cinnamon across the top layer of  your soil and let it sit there.

    3. Use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

    Photo of a hand holding diatomaceous earth above a garden.
    Image Source:Photo by :Helin Loik-Tomson on GettyImagesDiatomaceous Earth is made from organic materials and has a fine-grained texture like sand. It cuts larvae and fungus gnats.
    Destroys: 🪰 + 🪱 - both adults, eggs & larvae
    Diatomaceous earth is a natural, non-toxic pest killer. It’s made from organic materials like fossils of diatoms ( a type of microalgae ). They have a fine-grained texture like sand or powder to the touch, but to gnats, it’ll feel like broken glass (yikes!). You will want to use food-grade DE. Apply DE to the top of your soil when the soil is dry. You can sprinkle it directly on the soil – a thin dusty layer.
    Once adult fungus gnats land on the soil surface or larvae attempt to break through the soil, DE covers them in cuts that will kill them.
    This is a very effective, natural way to kill off your infestation, but it will take some time because fungus gnats and larvae have to go through DE for it to be effective. We recommend pairing this with sticky traps for a faster solution.

    4. Use Apple Cider Vinegar Traps

    Destroys: 🪰 - destroys only adult fungus gnats
    If you don’t have sticky traps, but have apple cider vinegar lying around, you can create your own DYI fungus gnat trap. Grab a jar or a saucer and fill it with a few drops of liquid dish soap and a cup of apple cider vinegar (other kinds of vinegar also work) and place the bowl near your plant. Gnats will be attracted to the solution and fall into the trap. This will only capture adult gnats, not the larvae. We recommend using neem or insecticidal soap to water your plant to kill the larvae at the same time.

    5. Use Raw Potato Slices

    Destroys: 🪱 - destroys only larvae
    Did you know you can actually use potato to attract these pests? If you’re using a fresh potato, cut it into 1/2-1 inch thick pieces and stick the potatoes into the soil. The moisture and sugar contents of the potato will attract the larvae and fungus gnats to these potatoes. Potatoes are like sticky traps, but they work well for larvae vs. sticky traps working well for flying fungus gnats. Often times you can combine this method with Apple Cider VInegar and sticky traps to help move the process faster.

     6. Use Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bti) - Mosquito Bits

    Destroys: 🪱 - destroys only larvae
    There are biological ways to control fungus gnats including a bacteria called Bacillus Thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). It's also commonly known as Mother Nature's mosquito control and is found in Mosquito Bits ( a product ). Bti contains spores that produce toxins that specifically target and affect larvae of blackfly, fungus gnats, and mosquitoes. They don’t impact or are not harmful to other organisms. You can buy Bti at a garden center or online and follow instructions on the package. Bti is fast-acting and will kill larvae within 24-48hrs.

    7. Use Carnivorous Plants

    Destroys: 🪰 - destroys only adult fungus gnats
    If you wanted to go all-natural, you can use carnivorous plants like venus fly trap. We don’t recommend this method unless you have a light infestation. It’ll take you a long time to rid of any moderate or severe infestation using one or two carnivorous plants. Fungus gnats can lay up to 200-300 eggs in their lifetime, so they are harder to manage with this method.

    8. Use Beneficial Nematodes

    Destroys: 🪱 - destroys only larvae
    Beneficial nematodes are often used for organic pest control of gnats, fleas, grubs, and other pests. You can purchase beneficial nematodes and add them to your watering can. Nematodes are teeny tiny worm-like bugs, often so small that you can’t even see them with your naked eye. They work to penetrate fungus gnats and other insects in their larval stage, releasing bacteria that ends up consuming the pest from the inside out. It’s grim and gross when you think about it, but not as gross as letting gnats kill your precious houseplants!

    How to get rid of gnats on plants outside or on vegetable gardens?

    Getting rid of gnats on plants outside is very similar to indoor plant treatments. You can use soapy water, diatomaceous earth, sticky traps, apple cider vinegar, etc. 
    You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the garden borders to prevent fungus gnats from flying in.
    Outdoors, specifically, you can also use Irish Spring soap bar to help deter pests – including fungus gnats but also rabbits, and other pesky mammals.
    Four outdoors, you can also use electric gnat traps or flame torches to repel most insects including gnats.

    How to Prevent Gnats on Indoor Plants?

    If you want to prevent fungus gnats from attacking your plants, you need to keep them away from your houseplants. Fungus gnats also like light, but so do houseplants, so light is a harder agent to control which is why proper soil and water maintenance is key.

    Keep the plants out of sight

    If you have a few houseplants, keep them out of sight. The fewer plants you have in the house, the fewer chances you have of attracting gnats.
    🛑🛑 We're just joking!🛑🛑

    Use well-draining houseplant potting mix.

    The main thing that causes fungus gnat infestation is moisture which is likely caused by overwatering or poorly draining soil. You will want to grow in a well-draining soil mix. Usually, most commercial houseplant mixes work, however, you will want to supplement with perlite, sand, vermiculite, or other gritty substances to encourage draining. If possible, decrease peat moss which tends to attract female fungus gnats.

    Use Terracotta or Ceramic Containers

    When planting, we recommend using ceramic or terracotta pots with drainage holes. Terracotta helps evaporate water faster keeping your soil dry. Use pots with drainage holes always.

    Consider bottom watering your plant

    Bottom watering prevents topsoil from getting soggy. Because less moist soil surface area, it’s less likely to attract fungus gnats.

    Limit amount of water

    Once your plant is growing in a well-drianing potting mix and container, you’ll want to follow its proper watering schedule. For most houseplants, you’ll want the topsoil to dry in between waterings. However, we recommend you follow the water requirements for your specific houseplant.

    Treat your plant with organic fungicide regularly

    For maintenance and prevention, you can use natural remedies like neem oil and treat your plant every once in a while.
    When you see gnats in your plants, it’s important to take action quickly so that they don’t do any permanent damage. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get rid of fungus gnats using the methods we’ve described above. The key is to identify why your plants have gnats, clean your pots, and change the soil in your potted plants. Make sure to follow these steps, and you’ll get rid of those pesky gnats in no time.

    Fungus Gnats FAQ


    What kills fungus gnats instantly?
    A harsher method that kills instantly is using 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (1 part mixed with 4 parts water) and using this solution to water your plant until infestation subsides. Peroxide will kill gnats and larvae on contact. It may take a couple of waterings. Let topsoil dry between waterings.
    Will fungus gnats go away on their own?
    No, not really. Fungus gnats multiply prolifically producing 200-300 eggs per fungus gnat. Once you spot an infestation, you need to treat this immediately otherwise it'll spread to your other plants.
    How do you get rid of fungus gnats naturally?
    If you don't want to use harsh chemicals, you can use a neem oil soil soak, raw potato slices, sticky traps, apple cider vinegar solution, or a combination of these to address your infestation.
    Does cinnamon get rid of fungus gnats?
    Cinnamon is a great fungicide. Sprinkle a layer of cinnamon on top of the soil to disinfect it. Over time, it'll create an unfriendly environment for fungus gnats and larvae. We recommend combining this with other methods like yellow sticky traps.
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