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,


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.


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.

Continue reading

Roasting chestnuts … and what has happened to American Chestnut trees?

American Chestnuts. Photo by Pixabay

American Chestnuts. Photo by Pixabay

So how do you roast chestnuts?

With a sharp knife, make an incision through the smooth outer skin and textured inner skin on the rounded side of each nut. This allows steam to escape and prevents the nuts from bursting during roasting. Roast the nuts over an open fire in a wire popcorn basket or special chestnut roasting pan, shaking periodically, for 15-20 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool slightly before peeling and eating. Chestnuts can also be roasted in the oven after scoring, at 375 ° degrees for 15-25 minutes. Place them in a shallow pan, and turn them over mid-way through the roasting time.

The information on roasting chestnuts was included in the following article written by Sarah Browning, Extension Educator. 

Is Emerald Ash Borer the Next Chestnut Blight?

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose….” We’re all familiar with this popular holiday song, but have you ever wondered how to roast chestnuts? Or exactly what a chestnut tree looks like? Why don’t we see them growing in our neighborhoods?

Once, American chestnut was a major component of eastern forests from Maine to Michigan and south to Alabama and Mississippi. Called the ‘Redwood of the East’ because of the tremendous size of mature trees, American chestnuts made up approximately 25% of forests in the eastern United States. When chestnuts bloomed in spring, the Appalachian mountains appeared covered in snow. The trees were an important part of the rural economy, as a source of highly rot-resistant lumber, and the nuts a major food source for wildlife. Trainloads of chestnuts were sent to eastern cities to be roasted and sold by street vendors during the holidays. However, today the American chestnut has been reduced to merely an under-story shrub in eastern forests.

More…. Read the entire article on the Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County Horticulture website: Is Emerald Ash Borer the Next Chestnut Blight


Cockroaches: Unwanted home invaders

Cockroaches (left–right): American, Oriental, German and brownbanded (Photo by Jim Kalisch, UNL Dept. of Entomology).

Cockroaches are one of the most recognized and unwanted home invaders. They are oval shaped with long, thread-like antennae and running legs. Speaking of running? Why do cockroaches run when you turn on the lights? Here’s what Extension Educator Jody Green tells us: Cockroaches are thigmotatic, meaning they prefer to hide in tight places. They prefer darkness, hiding and breeding in cracks and crevices.

Cockroaches are omnivorous and feed on organic waste such as food scraps, starches, pet food and garbage. Cockroaches transfer bacteria that cause infections including salmonellosis and gastroenteritis. Their saliva, exoskeleton and feces are responsible for childhood allergies and can trigger asthma.

There are plenty of reasons to learn as much as you can about cockroaches! You can access the entire article which includes information about the most common cockroaches you may encounter and their management at

This article also appeared in the 2018 November/December issue of the free NEBLINE newsletter for much more from Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County. Visit

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 (nationwide listing).

Have a great day!!


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

Bed Bugs Don’t Fly…Unless on an Airplane

A recent article last week in Canadian headlines brought attention to the possibility of bed bugs hitchhiking on planes.

Fellow entomologist, Joe Ballenger asked via Twitter how common incidents were of bed bugs on planes. I don’t know the statistics or if there is a document that records this data. From what I know about bed bugs, it is completely possible and frightening to think about.

The following post is a summary and expansion of some of the tweets @JodyBugsMeUNL that took place over the past few days regarding bed bugs and airplanes. Continue reading

Cicada Killers, Cicadas and Cow Killer Ants

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the GRO Big Red Blog, please do! Our colleagues at Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, and our own Jody Green in Lancaster County, regularly share resources to help you GRO Big!

Cow Killer Ant (Velvet Ant). This is not an "ant" but a wasp!

Cow Killer Ant (Velvet Ant). This is not an “ant” but a wasp!

It’s that time of year when cicadas “sing”, and their predators are on the hunt. Learn more about cicada killer wasp, annual cicadas and cow killer ants:

Cicada Killer Season is Upon Us – Jonathan Larson

Video: Cicada Killer Wasp – Jonathan Larson & Jody Green

Annual Cicadas: The Musicians of Summer – Jonathan Larson

Cow Killer Ant: Wrongfully Accused – Jody Green

If you have other pest and wildlife questions, we have resources on-line at or contact your local extension office.

Have a great day!!


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