Gnats (or going by their official name, "fungus gnats") are the same general size as fruit flies (which are tan) or whiteflies (which are, of course, white), but are black. They don't bite or even hurt the plant (except for really young plants and roots) or anything like that, but they're super-annoying because like mosquitoes, they like to buzz in your face and your houseguests' faces at the most inopportune times.
For the past week, I've been obsessing with getting rid of these critters, so I've searched high and low on the Internet for answers. I suppose solace is to be taken in the fact that if these things are bothering you, you're certainly not alone.
Here are some tips for getting rid of them.
- First and foremost, get them at the source. Gnats love to lay eggs in houseplants, especially houseplants that are overwatered and have decaying matter in the pots. Here are some basic things you can do short of throwing your houseplants out:
- Let your plants dry out completely between waterings. This will kill any eggs and larvae that managed to slip in. Your plant will wilt, but it'll survive, but the fly eggs and larvae won't.
- Clear out any dead foliage in your plants. Gnats love decaying plant material.
- Repot your plants with clean soil.
- Consider piling a bunch of sand on top of your soil.
- Consider using saran wrap or aluminum foil to cover up the top of your flower pot so the soil is not exposed and flies can't get in.
- Use cinnamon. That's right, cinnamon. Buy a huge jar at BJs or Costco, and dust a whole lot of the powder onto your houseplants' surface. Any flies on there will scram, because they hate the smell. And they'll never lay their eggs there.
- Get a handheld vacuum cleaner (I like the Dyson Handheld Vacuum). When you see one, suck it up. Not only do you get rid of one more gnat, you get the enjoy the satisfaction of seeing them buzz around in the canister instead of in your face like some kind of odd science fair experiment.
- Make your own trip. Just get a jar with a tight lid. Fill it with a substance that gnats can't resist, cover the lid, and poke holes in it. The gnats will fly into the jar but they won't be able to fly out, so in a bit of poetic justice, they'll end up drowning in the very concoction they so greedily tried to get. There are a million suggestions of what to add into the jar, I've heard people say the rind of a lemon, white wine, apple cider vinegar, an old piece of a banana peel or lemon.
- Invest in some Yellow Sticky Traps from Gardener's Supply Company. These worked like a charm with whiteflies before, and they seem to be working like a charm with the gnats. The critters are attracted to the bright, very sticky yellow paper and will fly right into them to their demise. As a bonus, they'll act as a "fly detector" too...put them around your Aerogarden and around your houseplants, and the one with the most flies stuck to it will provide a hint as to where the bugs are laying their eggs.
- Make sure there's no standing water or rotting food in the house. If there are, gnats will find them before you do.
- If nothing else, you have a chance to practice your "Mr. Miagi". You don't have to use chopsticks, but it's definitely in your best interest to use your kung-fu skills to smack them with your hands as soon as you see them. An adult can lay 150-300 eggs at a time, so you need to eradicate them as soon as you see one. They are rather quick--there was one the other day that I couldn't get no matter how quickly I clapped my hands, so it ended up sounding like I was giving it a round of applause.
- Now, where your Aerogarden is concerned, gnats love moisture, and they WILL find the hole in your seed pod. And there is nothing quite as revolting as seeing a bunch of little white larvae in your seed pods. Once your plant is mature, consider taking a little aluminum foil and covering up the hole, and constantly checking the leaves and the waters for critters.