Small Flies Indoors During the Winter? Check Potted Plants

Fungus gnats are nuisance pests that occur indoors throughout the winter months. They breed and develop in overwatered potted plants. Many people do not realize plants take up less water in the winter, continue to water regularly, thereby creating a suitable habitat in the soil for the fungus gnat to complete its life cycle.

fungus gnats on dime

Fungus gnats are very small, often mistaken for fruit flies.

Adults are grayish-black, about 1/8-inch long and have one pair of wings. At first glance, they may appear similar to fruit flies, but they complete their development in top layers of soil. Females lay 100–150 eggs in moist potting soil and the larvae feed and develop on the fungi and organic matter. Fungus gnat larvae are white, slender, legless maggots with translucent bodies and dark heads. Larval feeding sometimes includes gnawing on the roots and stems of plants.

fungus gnat

When magnified, fungus gnats have dark-colored body, long antennae and Y-shaped wing vein.

In warm conditions, overlapping generations may occur, producing large populations which can cause spotting, curling, yellowing or plant death. After pupating in the soil, they emerge as winged adults, bothering people by flying around faces, lights, windows and food items.

In order to eliminate a fungus gnat infestation, the life cycle must be broken. This can be done by removing the fungus in which they breed, while simultaneously reducing the number of breeding and egg-laying adults. A non-chemical approach is to reduce the topsoil moisture by less frequent watering, drying out the soil and changing the plant medium to provide better drainage.

fungus gnats in jade plant

Fungus gnats breed in the moist soil of potted plants.

To catch flying adults, yellow sticky card traps are available at garden stores and placed at the soil surface. In addition, there are biological control products such as the microorganism, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is applied to the soil to kill larvae after ingestion. Bti (subspecies israelensis) is selective to insect fly larvae, non-toxic to humans, pets and contains no harmful residues. A product labeled to control fungus gnats in plant beds or pots include Mosquito Bits® by Summit Chemical Company.

Check out our guide to help identify other common pesky flies that may be bugging you in your home. For help with vinegar flies or fruit flies, check out this blog post.screen shot 2019-01-22 at 10.13.35 am

Confessions of an Extension Entomologist: I have two plants in my home that have to get dry and droopy before I water them. I do not have a green thumb.

Keep calm and respect the critters,

Jody

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Sticky situation: Using glue boards to monitor pests

by Jody Green, Extension Educator

IMM stuck to Pheromone traps

Pheromone traps use a natural chemical compounds from female moths to attract males to a sticky glueboard. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

Now that it is winter, some may think the critters that bugged us through the spring, summer and fall are gone due to the cold weather. Unfortunately for homeowners and apartment residents, many insects and other arthropods remain quite active indoors during this time, where they become unwelcomed house pests.

Protecting your home

There are simple, non-toxic and cost-effective tools that can be purchased to monitor the presence of pests in your home. If something is caught, it should be identified to determine whether it is of concern and whether control measures are required. It is important to understand that while these monitors may catch pests in your home, they may not be enough to control or eliminate them completely.

Trapping

Sticky traps, glue traps or glue boards are inexpensive, disposable, non-toxic cardboard or plastic trays with special glue on one side to capture pests. These can be purchased at local hardware and grocery stores and may be labeled for insects, spiders and/or rodents, but a variety of crawling pests are likely to get caught on these traps if pests are present.

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Parenting information when you need it

Reading to young childrenAre you expecting your first child? Do you have children or grandchildren? Finding reliable parenting information and advice on the web can be overwhelming! How do you know what you can trust? Just in Time Parenting e-newsletters from our eXtension partners are reliable and relevant resources – and they are free!

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Visit Just in Time Parenting – https://jitp.info/

Here’s to a terrific 2019!

Soni

Responsive. Innovative. Trusted.
Nebraska Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

NEBLINE Newsletter. Available free online.

If you don’t live in Lancaster County, Nebraska, please make sure to check out your local extension office too. Your extension office has resources for you, your family and community. To find your local office, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/office/locate.shtml (nationwide listing).