A gnat infestation is a common problem for many homeowners. Gnats are small, slender insects with long legs and lengthy antennae. You may have noticed gnats flying around your house by themselves or in a group.
Keep reading to learn about different types of gnats and how to get rid of them.
Table of Contents
Types of Gnats
Fungus or Houseplant Gnats
There are many species of black gnats, and the most common is the fungus gnat. These gnats are also known as winter gnats and are 1/16 of an inch in size. Adult gnats are grayish-black and have long gray wings with visible veins, and their legs are also very long. These tiny insects feed on the roots and fungi of plants.
The fungus gnat’s eggs are hardly visible and are shiny white, smooth, and semi-transparent. Fungus gnat larvae are thread-like and legless. They have a black head and grow up to ¼ inch in length. Also, the pupae form silk-like cocoons in the soil.
These tiny insects live up to a month and reproduce in places with warm interiors and climates. The females lay around 250 eggs on most soils and fly around lamps and windows because they’re attracted to light.
Drain flies are 4-10mm long with no eyes or legs in their larvae stage. The larvae have a dark breathing tub and stripes on the dorsal area.
These flies fold their wings over their bodies and grow up to 5 mm long. They live in drains and sewers and can block pipes by collecting filth. You’ll notice them if you have clogged drains and other plumbing issues. They can reproduce in drains and sewers or anywhere they find decaying organic matter. The larvae take up to three days to mature.
These gnats come in large numbers. Although they spread germs and bacteria, they don’t usually cause diseases in humans.
Midges bite and extract blood from humans and other animals. These types of gnats live in swampy areas and resemble mosquitoes. The adults are gray and less than 1/6 of an inch in length. The females have segmented antennae and long proboscis to extract blood.
Midges are found in aquatic habitats such as deep lakes and fast-flowing streams. They can hibernate and suspend development during fall and winter. Adult midges feed on nectar and sugary substances and die within six days. In warm weather, their full life cycle lasts less than three weeks.
These gnats are popular for their sandy color and grow up to 1/10 of an inch. They have thick hair on their legs and have big black eyes. Females feed on blood before laying their eggs and eat sugary nutrients from plant nectar. Some gnat species feed off reptiles and mammals.
They thrive in humid environments in a dry area, protecting their eggs. The entire lifecycle lasts between 20-40 days, with 1-2 weeks needed for the eggs to hatch into the larval stage. Pupae develop into adults within eight days.
Many people get red rashes around the bite areas, and some also get a fever. Viral infections passed on by sandflies include Punta Toro Virus and Chagres Virus.
The unique-headed bugs include 130 species. These small gnats grow up to 4 mm long. Their elongated head is tight and narrow, inspiring their unique name. You can find unique-headed bugs under leaf litter, rocks, and they sometimes live in sunny patches of woodlands.
These gnats have unusual membranes lacking a thick basal area. Their antennae have four joints, while their front legs are designed to grasp prey. Not many people know about these unique insects, but most gnats have less than three weeks lifecycles.
Culex is a genus referred to as the common house mosquito. The pale-colored bands on their abdomens can distinguish Culex pipiens from other types.
Buffalo gnats are also called blackflies or turkey gnats. These gnats can grow to 1/8 of an inch long. They appear in late spring or early summer. While the females suck animal blood, the males feed on nectar. Buffalo gnats are drawn to sweat, carbon dioxide, and dark objects on the move.
They are tan, gray, or green and breed in fast-moving rivers and streams. Luckily for people and livestock, buffalo gnats live only 2-3 weeks and disappear in the warm summer months.
These gnats are a nuisance to people working or playing outside. They often bite around the neck and head and are very aggressive. Sometimes chickens may die of suffocation if the gnats clog their respiratory tract. Also, wild birds can die of toxic shock from the saliva left behind by black flies.
Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat
The dark-winged fungus gnat is a small, gray insect that grows to about 1/8th of an inch in length.
This type of gnat lives for about a week, and the female gnat lays about 150 eggs during this time. This species prefers fungus and is devastating to mushroom colonies and other plants as they feed on their roots.
Gall Gnats inject larvae into plant sap to receive nourishment but cause abnormal plants growth. These small insects are delicate and look like mosquitoes. But they don’t bite. They have multi-jointed antennae with whorls of hair. The wings have one cross-vein with multiple longitudinal veins. The hair on the body, legs, and wings rubs off easily.
The eggs hatch into larvae with tapered ends. They are brightly colored with light yellow shades. The silk cocoon contains the pupa. Adult gnat females eat animal sweat, pus, sebaceous secretions, and blood to gain proteins for egg production. They can produce up to 300 eggs in 3 days.
Phorid flies look very similar to fruit flies. They range from tan to dark brown, but they don’t have the red eyes of fruit flies. The most distinctive feature of the phorid flies is the humpbacked thorax.
Adult phorid flies are most active during the hot summer months. Like other gnats, they breed in moist decaying organic matter found anywhere.
This type of gnat is also called the dung fly. It feeds and breeds in animal manure. These small gnats are black and grow to reach approximately 1/8th of an inch long. The first segment of their tarsi is larger than the rest of their body.
The best way to defend homes against these flies is to remove their breeding source. If you have drains on your floors, you must clean them frequently and treat them using a bio drain gel. Once you remove the breeding source, try a gnat spray or pyrethrin treatment to kill the lingering adult Sphaerocerid flies.
These are also called biting flies because of their painful bites. These flies target lower legs and ankles, and their bites usually feel like a needle stab.
Stable flies are about a ¼ inch long and are resemble the house fly. Fortunately, stable flies rarely stay inside homes and prefer feeding and breeding outside near stables, kennels, and along the seashore.
Blowflies are common worldwide and breed around dead animals. They are larger than house flies, and their bodies are metallic blue or green. They range from ¼ to ½ inch in length and have wide heads and strong bodies.
Adult blow flies feed on plant sap, flower nectar, and other sugary food. The female fly lays her eggs on the body of deceased animals, and they hatch quickly.
Hessian flies damage wheat crops every year because they live in wheat during the larval stage. Once fully grown, these insects feed on the seed and emerge from closed florets. They wriggle out of wheat plants until they fall to the ground and form ovular cocoons. Particles of soil stick to the cocoon and effectively camouflage it. The pupa emerges within ten days as a Hessian fly adult.
‘Grass flies’ is another name for eye gnats. These tiny insects feed near the mouth, nose, and eyes of animal victims. They want to feed on the secretions from these cavities. Because of their feeding habits, they often give people pink eye. Also, they live in areas of loose, sandy soil.
Their life cycle varies based on the food, temperature, and moisture available. Generally, they can live 3-4 weeks on average. Adult females drink blood, animal sweat, secretions, and pus to make a protein reserve for the pupa and larval stage. Females can lay up to 400 eggs in 2-3 days.
Sand gnats refer to any species of flying, biting, blood-sucking insects found in sandy areas. Adults are about ¼ to 1/8 of an inch long and yellowish. They also have black eyes and hair bodies, legs, and wings.
What Attracts Gnats Inside Homes?
Gnats are attracted to humid environments, organic material, and moisture. That’s why you’ll notice more gnats during hot and humid summer months than during the winter. They enter homes looking for food and a place to breed.
Gnats gravitate towards decaying organic material, such as leaves or rotten fruit and moist areas inside homes home.
Here are the causes of gnats inside your home:
Moist grounds where gnats procreate include:
- Food spillage.
- Potting soil.
- Garbage cans.
- Overwatered grass or plants.
- Garbage cans.
- Puddles in kitchen or bathroom.
- Leaky pipes under sinks.
- Condensation around vents and windows.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruit flies emerge when you leave produce out in the open, especially sweet fruits. Also, they’re attracted to fallen or rotten fruits in your garden.
Decaying organic material
Fungus gnats feed on rotting plants and flowers. They extract nutrients from mold, fungus, moss, and compost. They live in potting soil, where they can feed on root rot or decaying leaves.
Common household gnats are attracted to sweat, body heat, mucus, tears, and carbon dioxide. They also like sweet-smelling perfumes, lotions, hairsprays, and detergents, so avoid fruity fragrances if you have a gnat problem.
Gnats can’t fly well in the dark, so they fly around light fixtures and lamps.
Getting Rid of Gnats for Good
Here, we share simple methods to wipe out existing gnats and prevent further infestation.
Remove the Source
Keep your home clean, seal your drains, and replace your potting soil.
For fungus gnats
These gnats live and breed in the potting soil of indoor plants. If you suspect fungus or mold, replace the pot liner and soil. If the plant root has rotted, consider replacing the plant.
For fruit flies
Remove overripe or rotten fruit from your kitchen and dispose of any organic foods outside. Also, properly close trash bins to prevent gnats from breeding inside the trash can.
For phorid (drain) flies
If you see insects in your kitchen that aren’t fruit flies, they are most likely phorid flies. These types of insects can only breed in moist areas, such as drains or where there is leakage. Fix any leaking pipes, and keep your kitchen and bathroom dry.
Making Gnat Traps
Apple Cider Vinegar Trap
You can use apple cider vinegar to make a gnat trap. This is a natural and homemade way to kill gnats without using harmful chemicals. And it works on all types of gnats.
- Pour apple cider vinegar and dish soap into a jar and mix it thoroughly. The smell of apple cider vinegar will attract gnats like crazy, and the soap will prevent them from flying. That way, adult gnats will drown inside the cup.
- Cover your jar with plastic wrap and poke holes in it with a pencil. The holes allow gnats to crawl into the jar.
- Dump out the jar contents after two days, and start fresh. Do this consistently until you no longer see gnats inside the jar.
Note: You can also try using beer or wine instead of apple cider vinegar. But, you may also attract ants, so we recommend sticking to apple cider vinegar.
You can cover a jar of rotten fruit with perforated plastic wrap. The gnats will enter this jar and get stuck in it.
Place a candle in a candle holder and fill it partially with water. Light up the candle and turn off the lights. The gnats will swarm near a flame, burn or fall into the water, and drown.
Sticky Trap or Fly Paper
Flypapers can capture dozens of bugs flying around your house. There’s really no solution more trustworthy than sticky traps made of flypaper. This paper traps flying bugs on its sticky surface. You can either hang flypaper from areas in your house that get a lot of gnat traffic or try window flypaper, covering an entire window in an adhesive sheet.
Gnats will get stuck to the flypaper—just be ready to be grossed out by how many you catch.
Try a bug zapper.
A bug zapper is a good option and works well with larger gnats. Nowadays, many brands and designs are safe to use indoors. These noiseless devices can catch the majority of gnats and flies in your home, and you won’t even have to lift your finger to make the magic happen.
Use diluted bleach down the sink or tub drain.
If you notice gnats near your kitchen sink or bathtub, pour a cup or two of diluted bleach down kitchen drains to kill gnats.
Buy a chemical spray.
If things get worse, you may need a more serious bug killer. An insecticide is a good option, though we caution against using it if you have children around. Plus, you’ll want to follow manufacturer directions for safely using insecticide. This ultra-strong bug killer is one option that targets gnats, in addition to several other household insects. XXXXXX
Hire a professional pest control company.
If gnat infestation is a common occurrence in your home, a professional pest control company can help address this issue. The best pest control companies can treat gnat larvae and adult gnats. Plus, they can create a customized treatment plan for your needs.
Best Pest Control Companies
If you want to save time, you can work with a professional pest control provider to treat the gnat infestation. We’ve evaluated every major pest control company out there and found that Aptive, Terminix, and Orkin provide the best service.
These companies implement a customized treatment plan for your house and educate you on different ways to prevent a future infestation.
Quick Facts About Gnats
- A female gnat lays up to 300 eggs in a single day. Some females bite and can spread infections to humans and other animals. Male gnats can never bite or spread infections.
- Gnats feed on plants, fungus, soil, and other insects.
- Adult gnats are very tiny. They can be dark brown, tan, and yellowish. But, it’s not uncommon to see other color variations.
- You can quickly identify the common gnat in swarms. These are males of the species gathering in mating groups.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all gnats bite?
Gnats can be biting or non-biting, depending on the species. You may notice gnats feeding on plants, fungus, soil, other insects, or even on blood.
Are gnats dangerous?
Fungus gnats don’t sting or bite, but their larvae can cause damage to your plants and seedlings. Other gnat species will bite and feed on the blood of humans, pets, and livestock. Some species of gnats can also spread dangerous diseases, including river blindness.
How long can gnats live?
The growing process from egg to adult takes about eight days. Adult gnats live for about 25 days, depending on the available food and environment.
Where do gnats lay their eggs?
Gnats lay their eggs in unripe fruits. The larvae eat the fruit as it rots and grows into adult gnats. Some gnats also lay eggs near organic matter in a wet environment.
What do gnats eat?
Here are some of the things gnats eat:
- Decaying organic matter.
- Slime in drains, garbage containers, and other sources of waste products.
What are the most common types of gnats found in homes?
The most common types of gnats in homes are fungus gnats, fruit flies, or drain flies.
Why am I getting so many adult gnats in my house?
Gnats enter houses through cracks or holes in walls, windows, or doors. Gnats often infest garbage cans, rotten fruit, and other places where decomposing organic matter exists. They also dwell near drains, sinks, and toilets.
How are fruit flies born?
Female fruit flies can start laying eggs approximately two days after reaching maturity. They may lay up to 400 eggs a time, and these eggs may hatch within a few hours in a conducive environment with plenty of moisture and an organic food source.
A larva will emerge from each egg, and all of the larvae will consume the organic food nearby for four days as they grow. After that period, the larvae will spend four more days in pupation before reaching maturity and repeating the cycle.
What insects eat fruit flies?
Fruit flies are a great food source for larger insects and some types of fowl. Fowl, such as chickens, don’t always seek out the fruit flies as a particular food source. Instead, they consume fruits and veggies where the fruit flies are present. Ants, mites, beetles, wasps, and even crickets may feed on the fruit flies.
Do fruit flies sleep?
Yes. Fruit flies have periods when they are more and less active during the day. They are not drawn to darkness or light, so they are very active twice each day during the transitional periods between daylight and nighttime.
Can flypaper get rid of gnats?
Yes, flypaper is an effective method to kill gnats. However, some flypaper formulas have a bad odor and may not be an attractive treatment option.
Why are there so many fruit flies in my bathroom?
Even if there’s no food in your bathroom, flies are attracted to this area because of moisture buildup and warmth.