If you have indoor plants at your home or office, chances are high that you have dealt with a case of gnats! If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, you probably will at some point! The good news is that you can use household products such as vinegar to help eliminate fungus gnats around the home.
So what’s all the fuss about fungus gnats?
Well, they aren’t dangerous to humans or pets. They don’t bite or sting. They are just REALLY annoying. For that reason, let’s talk about what they are, how they reproduce and most importantly: how to get rid of them.
What Are Fungus Gnats?
Fungus gnats look a lot like fruit flies and can also be mistaken for mosquitos. They are small, black insects that fly and irritate you and your family. They can’t bite and are not known for spreading diseases, so they are not considered dangerous to humans. Although let’s be real: anything that flies from one object to another could be transferring germs.
However, fungus gnats tend to fly around your head and face because they are attracted to carbon dioxide. Since we exhale carbon dioxide, they especially love our mouths and noses…. Yuck!
These littles pests are also attracted to damp soil. This is why they often grow in the soil of houseplants. If you water your plants frequently as most of us do, the soil stays damp. Have you every ripped open a fresh bag of potting soil and had something fly out? It was very likely a fungus gnat. Any damp soil allows these little buggers to grow.
Like fruit flies, fungus gnats are also attracted to anything that is rotting or fermenting. For example, overripe fruit that is sitting on the counter or food scraps in open trash receptacles. Since vinegar is fermented, they are also attracted to it. Later on in this article, we will discuss how to use this information to your advantage!
What Causes Fungus Gnats?
The typical scenario goes something like this:
The adult female gnat lays her eggs in the damp soil of a potted plant in your home. She can lay anywhere from 40 to 200 eggs at a time! The eggs only take about 24-48 hours to mature. When the eggs hatch, the larvae that come out then feed on the root system of your houseplant. They also feed on fallen leaves that are still lying in the soil.
Once the larvae are full-grown, they fly out of the pot and into your face. These adults are now capable of laying more eggs, which can make the problem even worse.
How Do I Get Rid of Fungus Gnats?
Alright, let’s get on with it…
There are many different options when it comes to getting rid of fungus gnats. Since there are multiple problems associated with this issue, we will discuss multiple solutions. The two main situations we need to address are: adult gnats and larvae in the soil.
Let’s start with the larvae.
How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnat Larvae:
Here are some very simple ways to get rid of those larvae.
Let Your Plants Dry Out. This seems like a terrible idea, but it works. Since the larvae thrive on damp soil, it is important to let your soil dry out in between waterings. You don’t have to go for weeks without watering your plants, but let the top few layers of soil dry out. Since this is where the eggs are larvae are, this should do the trick.
Add a Teaspoon of Vinegar. Each time you water your plants, add a teaspoon of white or apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dish soap to the water. This will take time, but it will eventually kill the larvae that are feeding on your plants.
Remove Dead Leaves. When dead leaves fall from your plant onto the top of the soil, the larvae feed on these, as well. Be sure to remove dead leaves or other organic materials from your soil. This can be a daily or weekly task, depending on how many plants you have and how often they lose leaves.
Put a Layer of Diatomaceous Earth On Top. Sprinkle a layer of food-grade diatomaceous Earth, (D.E.), over the top of your soil if the plant is already potted. If you’re good at planning ahead, you could mix the D.E. into the potting soil when you pot the plant. This will eliminate an infestation before it even starts. Be sure to wear a mask, eye protection and gloves when handling D.E.
Re-Pot Your Plant. If all else fails, you can always just re-pot the plant in new soil. Carefully remove the plant from the pot and get rid of as much of the existing soil as possible. Mix your new soil with D.E., or purchase soil that has already been treated for fungus gnat infestations. Wash and disinfect the pot before replacing the soil and plant. Put the old soil into a sealed plastic bag and throw it away. Don’t try to reuse it elsewhere.
How to Get Rid of Adult Fungus Gnats:
Since the adult gnats are already out of the soil and flying around, it won’t do much good to treat the soil. Instead, you have to set traps to catch the adults.
Vinegar Trap: Take a few tablespoons of apple cider or white vinegar and pour them into the bottom of a plastic cup. Add a few drops of dish soap and mix it up with your finger. Put tape over the top of the cup, but leave one or two small openings so the gnats can fly into the cup. Since they are attracted to the vinegar, they will fly into the cup, but won’t be able to get out.
A variation on the vinegar trap is to add a little bit of sugar to the mixture, as well. Fungus gnats, like fruit flies, are attracted to sugar, so this can help speed up the process of attracting and trapping them.
Make Your Own Vinegar Spray. Mix a cup of water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Put the mixture in a spray bottle. When you see gnats flying around, spray them. This mixture is non-toxic and safe for humans, pets and plants.
Fungus gnats are harmless but annoying. The adult gnats don’t live very long, so you could just wait it out. However, doing so will give them time to lay more eggs which will only help the problem progress.
There are a variety of pesticides on the market that you could use to eliminate them, but vinegar really is the safest. Whether it’s red, white or apple cider vinegar, the fungus gnats will be attracted to it.
Set a few traps around your infested houseplants and put a few drops in the water when watering those plants and your problem should go away. I prefer to use these vinegar solutions because they are natural and non-toxic.