What Are Gnats and How Do You Get Rid of Them?


Story at-a-glance -

  • Gnats are small insects that resemble mosquitoes, and can become a major nuisance should they have an ideal breeding environment
  • If your home is currently infested with gnats, there are several safe and natural home remedies you can try

Gnats are a common occurrence in American homes; you may have seen them gather around your porch light at night. They're small insects that resemble mosquitoes, and can become a major nuisance should they find an ideal breeding environment. In some cases, they may even bring disease.

The following information will help you combat gnats and prevent them from infesting your home again.

Keep an Eye Out for These 4 Types of Gnats

There are four types of gnats that can breed and thrive in your home. It's important to know the distinction between each type so that you can formulate an appropriate method to eliminate them:1

Fungus Gnats — Fungus gnats are one of the most common gnats, and you may have seen them before. They measure 2 to 5 millimeters in length, have black-grey bodies and long legs. Their most defining characteristic is their attraction to light, making them prevalent at night time when garden lights are turned on.

As the name implies, the main diet of these gnats is fungus, which grows in highly humid areas, such as overwatered soil or plumbing leaks. Aside from being a food source, humid areas are ideal breeding locations for fungus gnats as well. Female fungus gnats typically lay their eggs on organic soil or decomposing matter.

The larvae consume decomposing matter, but they may also feed on plant roots. After 10 days, they enter the pupae stage for one week, before adult fungus gnats emerge.

Eye Gnats — Also known as "grass flies" or "eye flies," eye gnats are attracted to the fluids secreted by the eyes of humans and animals, hence their name. Due to their unsanitary living environment and tendency to form around the eyes of their victims, eye gnats can transfer bacteria to its victims and cause a pink eye outbreak.

Female eye gnats typically lay their eggs in loose, sandy soil where larvae will hatch after seven to 10 days. Once the larvae mature, they will enter the pupae stage for one week until adults hatch. Interestingly, eye gnats don't bite as they don't have the ability to puncture human or animal skin. Instead, they feed on secretions that are found outside your body, such as pus, blood, sweat and of course, eye fluid.2

Buffalo Gnats — Buffalo gnats (also known as black flies) take their name from their humpbacked appearance. Unlike fungus and eye gnats, female buffalo gnats feed on blood from animals and humans for sustenance, while the males feed on nectar. The ideal habitat of buffalo gnats is usually a large body of freshwater, such as a running stream or a lake, because the females require clean water to lay eggs.

Once the larvae hatch and enter the pupae stage, they take shelter underwater. After six to eight days underwater, the pupae hatch into gnats that float to the surface, where they live for an average of three weeks.

Sand Gnats — Sand gnats are another type of flesh-biting gnat. As the name suggests, the primary habitats of these gnats are sandy areas, such as beaches, however lagoons and tidal flats are possible breeding havens as well. You can identify sand gnats easily due to their brown color, hairy heads and long antennas. They can grow anywhere between 1.5 to 5 millimeters and are typically active during dusk and dawn.

Should you find sand gnats in your surroundings, it's best to take preventive measures right away. Compared to a regular mosquito bite, a sand gnat's bite is larger, causing red, swollen bumps. They're also known to carry diseases such as leishmaniasis, Oraya fever and various viral diseases.3

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Risk Factors That Allow Gnats to Multiply

There are a couple of risk factors that can cause gnats to proliferate in your home. The first one is the presence of damp locations, which gnats use as breeding grounds. Damp areas also breed fungi, which can be used by gnats as food.

Poor sanitation in your home is another risk factor. Having poorly covered garbage bags, dirty rooms and exposed leftovers create the perfect environment for gnats to grow. It's important to keep your home clean at all times, or your risk of a gnat infestation will increase dramatically.

5 Natural Home Remedies to Get Rid of Gnats

If your home is currently infested with gnats, there are several safe and natural home remedies you can try:4

1. Apple Cider Vinegar Trap — This is one of the most common home remedies for gnats. Simply pour apple cider vinegar in a jar and let it do the work. The scent will attract the gnats and once they land on the surface, they won't be able to escape. You can also use a bowl so the vinegar is spread over a larger area. This trap also works well on fruit flies.

2. Banana Trap — If you don't have access to apple cider vinegar, you can use bananas as an alternative. Slice a banana into several pieces and place them in a plastic bottle or cup, then cover the opening with a plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the plastic to let the gnats inside, then dispose afterwards.

3. Honey Trap — Gnats are attracted to bright colors and sweet scents. Since honey has both qualities, you have an instant gnat trap in your hands. You can create a honey trap by applying it on a few pieces of plastic and leave them near nests. The stickiness of the honey ensures that the gnats won't escape.5

4. Yeast Trap — Since gnats feed on fungi, yeast (a type of fungi) can be an effective trap for gnats. Create a yeast trap by mixing a bit of yeast, sugar and water in a bowl. Place the bowl where the infestation is strongest and let the trap do the work.

5. Citronella Spray — You can create a gnat repellent by mixing citronella oil, water and soap in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture around your garden, in the kitchen sink and other areas where gnats can breed. Citronella oil is an effective natural insect repellent, so it should work well in your home.

How to Prevent Gnats From Invading Your Home Again

Once you've taken care of the gnat infestation in your home, it's important to implement new sanitation practices to ensure it doesn't happen again. Some effective prevention methods include:6

Covering Your Garbage Bags Firmly — Garbage bins are a haven of decomposing matter. When they're left exposed, they can attract gnats (not to mention unpleasant smells), causing them to lay their eggs there and multiply. To prevent gnats from colonizing your garbage, firmly secure the bags so waste doesn't spill out, and cover the bin properly.

Cleaning Your Kitchen Drain — Gnats like kitchen drains because, like garbage bins, they're full of decomposing organic matter and microorganisms. You can clean your kitchen drain by squeezing a lemon and then adding a few drops of coconut oil in it. Coconut oil has great antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can effectively eliminate a gnat food source.7

Maintaining the Topsoil of Your Garden Plants — Gnats typically lay their eggs on the top 2 inches of soil. If you have any potted plants, it's best to replace their topsoil regularly to discard any eggs that may have been laid there. If you have old decaying plants, you should get rid of them as well because gnats can use the decomposing matter as food.

Sealing Leftover Food — Cover leftovers immediately because gnats can feed on them, creating a swarm inside your house. Seal your leftovers in airtight containers to prevent the scent from attracting the insects.

Preventing Damp Areas From Forming — As mentioned earlier, some gnats prefer to live in areas with lots of water where they can lay their eggs. It's important that you don't overwater your plants and keep your plumbing in top condition. If you find any leaks, have it fixed by a professional and keep the nooks and crannies in your home dry.