Small Tiny Flies & Indoor Plants

Gnats breed in the moist soil of houseplants.

Fungus gnats are tiny flying insects about 1/8 inch long that breed in the soil of houseplants. When you disturb the plant pot or pour water on the soil, the tiny black or gray gnats fly up from the soil surface. They are harmless, if a nuisance, but their larvae, which are clear or cream-colored with black heads, feed on plant roots as well as decaying plant material. Does this Spark an idea?

Keep Soil Dry

Gnats breed in moist soil, so letting your plants dry out between waterings can help. Some growers recommend topping plants with sand, but larger grit, such as No. 1 chicken grit, or small stones, such as pumice, seem to work better. Place a 1/4-inch layer of grit atop the soil in all your plants to deter egg laying. Keep the pot clean by disposing of dead leaves and dropped flowers. Every few years, repot the plant in fresh potting soil after carefully washing the old potting soil off the roots.

Insectivorous Plants

Cape sundews attract and eat gnats.

Another method is to place insect-eating plants near the gnat-infested plants. Plants such as butterworts and cape sundews attract the gnats to their sticky leaves. These plants’ native habitat is boggy soil, so they need to sit in a saucer of water at all times.

Use Sticky Traps

You can buy yellow sticky cards to trap flying insects. Or make your own by smearing petroleum jelly on a bright yellow piece of poster board. Make the traps in strips about 1 inch wide and place them horizontally across the top of the pot of your plant.

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Attract the Larvae

Deter gnat larvae by placing slices of potato on the potting soil. The slices should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Remove and replace the potato slices every three days until you detect no more activity.