‘Effective’ solutions to stop fungus gnats destroying your houseplants

Monstera: Houseplant expert details how to remove pests

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Fungus gnats are identifiable by their long legs, transparent wings, and affinity for nutrient-rich, moist soils. Gardeners might notice these tiny flies buzzing around houseplant containers, but they won’t see them munching on the plant’s foliage directly, like some more harmful pests do. They will, however, notice them in the soil, feasting on plant root hairs and other organic matter. Make no mistake, if left untreated these bugs can still cause a considerable amount of damage.

Plant experts at Plant Perfect advised that natural control methods should “always be your first step when dealing with any pest”.  

They explained: “While chemicals are sometimes a necessary second line of defence, natural and organic solutions are usually the least harmful and disruptive to your plant and home. Luckily, most populations of fungus gnats can be prevented and eradicated naturally if they’re identified and treated in time.”

Avoid overwatering

To do this, allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering houseplants. 

The experts said: “Not only will this prevent fungus gnats from choosing your plant as their ideal new home, but it will also disrupt their reproductive cycle and help to lessen populations that have already moved in.”

Use sticky traps

According to the plant pros “they’re not just for mice” as sticky traps are simple solutions to a lot of pest problems. They will also catch aphids, leafminers, white flies, shore flies and thrips

Gardeners will find that these sticky traps are typically yellow because gnats are naturally attracted to yellow things.

Place them directly on the surface of the soil, and gardeners will catch gnats that are on the move. 

Remove them from the trap or dispose of and replace the trap often, usually every two to three days to intercept their egg-laying. The plant pros added: “Yellow traps are especially effective at attracting these insects.”

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Make cider and vinegar traps

Similar to how you might trap fruit flies, mix equal parts of cider and vinegar in a shallow dish or can. Place the trap near the affected plant or even on the soil surface inside the container. 

The professionals said: “The pests will be attracted to the mixture but will drown after they land in it.”

When all else fails, there are always insecticidal products and sprays available to control pest populations. There are plenty of products that target either the larval stage or the adult stage, but either is fine. 

The plant experts explained: “As long as you effectively target one stage of their life cycle and reapply frequently, you should be able to eradicate these nasty plant flies in just a few weeks.”

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a great insecticide to use as it will kill pests but leave houseplants unharmed. The experts said: “Hydrogen peroxide is a quick and effective way to get rid of larvae, killing them on contact. 

“Mix four parts water with one part hydrogen peroxide and soak your soil with the solution.” Reapply the solution once a week until these pests are gone.

Gopi, a gardening enthusiast from Pinch of Seeds, agreed that hydrogen peroxide is an “effective” method of getting rid of these pests.

She said: “This foaming liquid is the most effective method to control fungus gnats, and it will not harm the plants or growing medium.

“This process will instantly kill the larvae and help flush the tiny dead carcasses out of the growing medium.”

Neem oil

Neem oil is efficient in killing fungus gnats by controlling their populations. Since fungus gnat adults often live and lay their eggs in the moist soil of plants, neem oil works when applied as a soil drench or a spray.

Neem oil prevents fungus gnat larvae from growing into adult gnats, meaning they don’t lay any more eggs and therefore, this insect pest’s life cycle breaks. Neem oil prevents adult gnat larvae from feeding, leading to a prompt demise.

Pure neem oil is best used as a soil drench since it may burn if applied undiluted to the plant’s leaves due to its high concentration of potent active ingredients. Because the plant consumes the neem oil from a soil drench, it functions as a systemic insecticide.

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