Fungus gnats are tiny flies that will take up residence in the soil of your houseplants. Many people consider them to be pests, but they usually do little or no harm to mature healthy plants unless their larvae exist in large numbers. From all I’ve read online, the adults do not feed and only live long enough to mate and lay eggs. Actually, it’s our fault that they are attracted to our indoor plants. Those of us who tend to over-water are setting out a banquet of delights for these innocent creatures in search of nurseries for their youngsters.
Fungus gnat larvae feed on a variety of decaying plant matter and fungi along with root hairs, leaf mold, algae and decomposing organic materials. They seem to be especially drawn towards potting soil containing peat. In large numbers they can be a serious problem in greenhouses because they can kill seedlings and young plants by chewing on their tender roots. But, when they are living outside in my beautiful wildlife garden they aid in the decomposition of decaying plant matter. One way to discourage the adults from laying eggs in your houseplants is to cover the soil with a half-inch or more of sterile sand so they can’t reach the soil. Of course, the most important thing is to keep a healthy watering schedule for your plants – allowing the top inch or two of soil to dry out between each watering.
Fungus gnats have four stages in their life cycle – egg, larva, pupa and adult. They undergo a complete metamorphosis like butterflies. According to some sources, the adult gnats that live outside help to spread mushroom spores.
I think it’s safe to say that the presence of fungus gnats indoors is a pretty good indicator that our plants may be in trouble – more from us than anything else. And since I took all of these pictures from my own little infestation, it’s time for me to learn to be a better houseplant mommy!
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