How To Treat Plants For Fungus Gnats

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How to Treat Plants for Fungus Gnats

Growing plants in the home or office is a hobby for many people and a living for others. People who don’t have large open spaces to grow gardens make do with keeping some plants indoors. These plants are mostly those that require little care to be grown, and homeowners are usually happy with their presence in their homes.
However, growing plants indoors can also attract the problem of pests – which with the proper care can be easily remedied. Plants that require humid conditions to grow are the ones that tend to attract the most pests. One of the most common issues that torment plant-loving homeowners are known as Fungus gnats. They belong to the families Mycetophilidae and Sciaridae, and are present mostly in spaces that have a high moisture content in the air.

Description of Fungus Gnats

The adult fungus gnats are pretty harmless, but their presence in the house can be highly frustrating. Very often confused with a fruit fly, they are a flying species, which causes them to be a complete nuisance.
The adult pest looks like a mosquito, is about 1/8th of an inch long, and has long legs and a pair of wings. The adult fungus gnat is delicate and gray in color, and doesn’t fly very strongly. The problems, however, are caused by the larvae.
The larvae are half the length of the adults, with black heads and long bodies that are translucent. These are mostly found in damp soils that are abundant in organic materials like fungus.

The Life Cycle

The good news is that the adult pests live for only a week. The bad news, however, is that during that week they can lay up to 300 eggs in moist soils. It takes only 4-6 days for the tiny larvae to take birth from these eggs, which then feed on the plants’ roots during the two weeks before they go into the pupal stage. In about 3-4 days, adults emerge from the soil and the cycle continues.
This relatively short period of time that each generation has is what makes getting rid of the fungus gnats so hard. Plants can have multiple generations of the pest present at the same time, which means only killing the adults at a particular might not be enough to get rid of the pest altogether.

Treating Plants for Fungus Gnats

So how does one know that there is a fungus gnat infestation on a plant? The first step is to notice if there is any wilting or yellowing of leaves taking place. Fungus gnats also inhibit plant growth, so that might be another giveaway of an infestation.
If you find any of these symptoms, look for the larvae in the upper layers of the plant’s soil by turning it up carefully. If you see the white, translucent larvae in the soil then it is time to take some defensive measures to prevent permanent damage to your plant’s roots.

The phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’ fits here squarely. As mentioned before, once a fungus gnat infestation takes place it can be difficult to get rid of. The best way to prevent it from happening is to avoid over-watering your plants. Fungus gnats thrive in damp soil with organic matter, so keep the soil only as moist as your plants’ requirement. If the Gnats do not have a suitable place to live, there will not be any Gnats..
If you do have to face an infestation, here are some ways to treat your plants:
• The easiest way is to let the upper two inches of the soil dry between watering times. The larvae cannot survive without moist soil, and this is an easy to way to get rid of the eggs as well as the larvae. This also makes the plant less susceptible to future infestations. Females will not be attracted to the soil to lay eggs either.
• Use sticky traps, preferably yellow in color as fungus gnats are attracted to the color, to capture the adults before they can lay eggs. This is an easy way to remove the adult pests from the soil.
• If you have to use pesticides, use those that are safe for plants. There are some pesticides that contain chemicals which act selectively on the larvae without affecting the plant at all.
• You can also use nematodes to kill the larvae. Nematodes are worms, microscopic in size, which can kill the larvae by penetrating into their bodies and releasing certain bacteria inside the body. The nematodes are safe to use around pets and children, and don’t pose any harm to the plants.
If you are looking for a less expensive way to get rid of the eggs with the materials you have lying around in your house, then dish soap is your answer.
• Turn up the soil around your plant and take out all decaying plant matter from it.
• Leave the soil until the top two inches of it are dry.
• Take some liquid soap and vinegar, and add 1 tablespoon of each to the water that you are going to use for your plants.
• When you water your plants with this mixture, leave the soil to dry every time before watering again. This will kill all the eggs as well as the larvae in some time.

Fungus gnats are an unsightly pest to have flying around the plants in your home. The adults just take all the attractiveness away from your indoor plants and the larvae can cause a lot of damage to your plants. Taking precautionary measures against their infestation is always better than having to deal with it once generations of the pest have settled on your plant. This can happen in a matter of mere weeks, and can be a pain of get rid of. Follow the tips mentioned here and keep your plants safe from fungus gnats. If your plant is already affected then act as swiftly as you can before the pest grows in number and gets out of control.

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