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Fungus Gnat

Fungus gnats – also known as dark-winged fungus gnats, are small, mosquito-like insects often found in homes and offices, usually in the vicinity of houseplants. They are considered a nuisance when present in noticeable numbers, but the adults are harmless insects that do not bite. Fungus gnat larvae develop in the growing medium of houseplants and are considered minor pests of houseplants.

fungus gnat biological control

Fungus Gnat

Adults are 1/8 inch long, delicate, black flies with long legs and antennae. There is a distinct “Y-shaped” pattern on the forewings. The larvae are wormlike and translucent, with a black head capsule, and live in the gorwing medium of houseplants.

Fungus gnats are most damaging to seedlings, cuttings and young plants. As fungus gnat larvae feeding on tender young roots, this feeding injury provides an entryway for pathogens. Larvae also feed on the developing callus of direct stuck cuttings, delaying rooting. Fungus gnats are general feeders. Plants with succulent stems, such as geraniums, sedum, coleus and poinsettias, are especially prone to injury and suffer serious losses. As the young feeder roots and stems are damaged, affected plants wilt. Leaves may turn yellow and drop. In laboratory studies, adult fungus gnats carried spores of Pythium, Botrytis, Verticillium, Fusarium and Thielaviopsis as they moved from plant to plant. Spores have also been found in their droppings. It is unclear how important this disease transmission is in commercial greenhouses.

life cycle:The fungus gnat’s life cycle from egg to adult may be completed in as little as three to four weeks depending on temperature. Eggs are laid in cracks and crevices in the media surface and mature in four to six days. Fungus gnat larvae feed and develop for about two weeks at 72oF. Pupation occurs in the soil. After four to five days, adults emerge. Overlapping and continuous generations make control difficult.

Fungus gnats

Fungus gnats Larvae

Management:The most important strategy to minimize fungus gnat problems associated with houseplants is to allow the growing medium to dry between watering, especially the top 1 to 2 inches. The dry-growing medium will decrease survival of any eggs laid and/or larvae that hatch from the eggs as well as reduce the attractiveness of the growing medium to egg-laying adult females. In addition, it is recommended to re-pot every so often, particularly when the growing medium has “broken down” and is retaining too much moisture. Furthermore, be sure to remove any containers with an abundance of decaying plant matter such as decayed bulbs and roots, which provide an excellent food source for fungus gnat larvae.

The most effective treatments are those that are persistent; killing adults for up to three days.The larvae in the growing medium will not be directly affected by any insecticides applied to kill adults.

fungus gnat biological control

Fungus gnats Life Cycle

How can we get rid of Fungus gnats

Inspect plants carefully before purchase for signs of insect infestation. Always use sterile potting soil to prevent introduction of fungus gnats. Overwatering, water leaks and poor drainage may result in buildup of fungus gnats. Allowing the soil to dry as much as possible, without injury to the plants, is effective in killing many maggots.

Houseplants taken outside during warm weather may become infested with insects before being brought back indoors. Inspect plants carefully and discard if heavily infested and unable to save. Remove all old plant material and debris in and around the home. Practice good sanitation. Electrocutor-light fly traps will attract and kill many adults at night.

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