How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies Breeding in Plant Dirt, Home Guides, SF Gate

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies Breeding in Plant Dirt

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies Breeding in Plant Dirt

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Finding tiny fruit flies, or fungus gnats, loitering just above the surface of potted plant dirt is a common nuisance for indoor gardeners. These pests feed on the decaying organic matter and fungi in potting soil, although they do not cause any damage to plants. Fruit flies depend upon rotting organic debris to complete their life cycles, which is why you may also find them in the kitchen as they zero in on overripe fruits. The good news is that they are easy to get rid of without chemicals, so you won’t need to invest a fortune in pest control products.

Spread a layer of aquarium gravel or very coarse sand over the top of the infested dirt in the plant pot. Pick a color to accent your room décor. Fruit flies lay their eggs in topsoil, where the young hatch. The gravel or sand particles will prevent newly hatched larvae from climbing out of the soil. They soon die and interrupt this cycle.

Color both sides of a 3-by-5-inch index card solid yellow with a highlighter. Glue or staple one end of a wood craft stick to one side of the card to create a plant stake. Smear enough petroleum jelly on each side of the yellow card to coat it thickly and evenly. Poke the stake into your potted plant’s dirt. Fruit flies are attracted to yellow sticky traps.

Pour about 1/4 inch apple cider vinegar, fruit juice or beer into a disposable plastic cup. Add a drop of liquid dish soap, and stir to blend thoroughly. Cover the cup loosely with plastic wrap. Secure with a rubber band. Poke some holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick.

Set the trap near the infested plant. Fruit flies are attracted to fermentation and cannot resist these traps. The bugs enter the holes, touch down on the liquid and drown. Even though the critters are light enough to walk on water, the soap in the solution breaks the surface tension and prevents their escape.

Monitor your watering practices carefully. You may be loving your plants too much. Give just enough water to keep them from wilting. Fruit flies are attracted to damp dirt. Eggs and larvae present in soil cannot survive if it doesn’t remain moist at all times.

Empty plant saucers immediately after watering to prevent moisture from accumulating in the area. The dirt in the pot will also tend to dry out a little, further discouraging fruit fly infestation.

Things You Will Need

Aquarium gravel or very coarse sand

3-by-5 index cards

Glue or stapler

Wood craft stick

Apple cider vinegar, fruit juice or beer

Disposable plastic cup

Liquid dish soap

References (1)

About the Author

A full-time writer since 2007, Axl J. Amistaadt is a DMS 2013 Outstanding Contributor Award recipient. He publishes online articles with major focus on pets, wildlife, gardening and fitness. He also covers parenting, juvenile science experiments, cooking and alternative/home remedies. Amistaadt has written book reviews for Work At Home Truth.

How Kill Little Black Flies in Houseplant Soil

How Kill Little Black Flies in Houseplant Soil

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The little black flies in your plants are called fungus gnats, and although they will not harm you or your plants, they multiply rapidly and can be a nuisance. They are related to fruit flies, which are larger, and sewer flies, which thrive in the bathroom. The entire life cycle of a fungus gnat, from egg to larva to pupa to adult, lasts four weeks and takes place in fungus rich, moist topsoil, such as that in which you grow your plants. Fungus gnats are weak fliers and will not stray far from your plants. They are not difficult to control.

Keep the Soil Dry

It is crucial to make sure that you keep the soil dry as the larvae cannot survive in dry soil. Another option is to use high concentrations of perlite or vermiculite in the soil instead of organic materials such as peat moss as both of these are good at keeping the soil dry.

Use Insecticide

It is important to treat the soil with an insecticide to kill the larvae. Consider pyrethrin, one of the safest out there. It is derived from chrysanthemum flowers. However, you can also use BT/Bacillus thuringiensis based larvae killer. You can purchase either product at most garden centers.

Take Them Outside to Treat the Soil

Make sure to take the plants outside to treat the soil container, and saturate the surface of the topsoil. Do not forget to leave the plants outside for about a day before taking them back inside. Repeat the treatment every seventh day for four or five weeks to make sure that no more viable eggs are present in the soil.

Use Traps

Another great way to fight the little black fly problem is to kill the ones that fly around so that they do not continue to lay eggs. It is possible to do this by saturating pieces of yellow construction paper with sticky material, such as a thin layer of honey, and spread them around the room to catch the flies while the larvicide is working on the soil. If this sounds like too much work, another option is to buy manufactured fungus gnat traps at a garden center.

Remember that in most cases drying out the soil should kill the flies. It is important to only use an insecticide as a last resort when all else has failed, because it also kills beneficial organisms.

Tips For Rose Midge Control

By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District

In this article, we will take a look at rose midges. The rose midge, also known as Dasineura rhodophaga, loves to attack the new rose buds or the new growth where the buds would normally form.

See also:  How To Get A Racoon Out Of Attic

Identifying Rose Midges and Rose Midge Damage

Rose midges are similar to a mosquito in shape, emerging from pupae in the soil, typically in the spring. The timing of their emergence is nearly perfect to the timing of the onset of new plant growth and flower bud formation.

At the early stages of their attacks, the rose buds, or the ends of the foliage where the buds would normally form, will be deformed or not open properly. After having been attacked, rose buds and new growth areas will turn brown, shrivel and fall apart, with the buds typically falling off of the bush.

A typical symptom of a rose bed infested with the rose midges is very healthy rose bushes with lots of foliage but no blooms to be found.

Rose Midge Control

The rose midge is an old foe for rose gardeners, as reports indicate that the rose midges were first detected in 1886 on the East Coast of the United States, more specifically New Jersey. The rose midge has spread across North America and can be found in most states. The rose midge can be very difficult to control due to its short life cycle. The pest keeps reproducing faster than most gardeners can make the needed insecticide applications.

Some insecticides that appear to help with the control of the rose midge are Conserve SC, Tempo and Bayer Advanced Dual Action Rose & Flower Insect Killer. If the rose bed is truly infested with the midges, repeat spray applications of the insecticides, approximately 10 days apart, will likely be required.

It appears the best control tactic is to apply a systemic insecticide to the soil around the rose bushes, using a systemic granular insecticide listed for the control of midges early in the spring is recommended where midge problems exist. The granular insecticide is worked into the soil around the rose bushes and is drawn up through the root system and dispersed throughout the foliage. Water rose bushes well the day before the application and again after the application.

How to tackle houseplant flies

We show you how to tackle houseplant flies, also known as fungus gnats or sciarid flies.

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It’s not uncommon to see tiny brown or black flies hovering around your houseplants. Take a closer look and you’ll see them scuttling over the compost too.

These are fungus gnats, also known as sciarid flies. Adult gnats cause little or no harm to plants, but they can become a nuisance in the home. Their tiny worm-like larvae live in the top 5-8cm of compost, where they feed on algae, fungi and plant roots. Healthy house plants usually tolerate this minor root damage, but the larvae can seriously harm seedlings or weak plants.

Getting rid of fungus gnats is easier than you might think – here are four of the best ways.

Fungus gnat larvae prefer damp compost, as this is where algae and fungi thrive, on which the larvae feed.

You Will Need

  • Houseplants
  • Yellow sticky traps
  • Grit mulch
  • Biological control for fungus gnats
  • Sundew plant
  • Systemic insecticide

Step 1

Fungus gnat larvae prefer damp compost, as this is where algae and fungi thrive, on which the larvae feed. Let the compost dry out between waterings and you’ll greatly reduce the gnat population. Not only that, but plant roots exposed to too much water are likely to die off, so cutting back will benefit the plants too.

Step 2

Most commercially available composts have been sterilised, so they don’t contain fungus gnat larvae. If you cover the surface of the compost with a 1cm-thick mulch of gravel, grit or ornamental glass pebbles, this will stop flies from laying their eggs. Avoid using home-made garden compost indoors, as this can be a source of fungus gnats.

Step 3

Sometimes the traditional methods are still the most effective. Yellow sticky traps are organic and pesticide free, and they work because the colour is very attractive to fungus gnats. Simply hang up a trap near affected plants, or attach it to a bamboo cane inserted into the compost. Keep the trap near soil level, as gnats rarely fly far from the compost. The traps will also capture whitefly, aphids and bluebottles.

Step 4

If you have lots of houseplants, it may be worth applying a biological control. To tackle fungus gnats use the nematode Steinernema feltiae, predatory mites or rove beetle larvae, and apply according to the pack instructions. These are available from online suppliers. While nematodes can be used in the home, the mites and beetle larvae are best used only in the contained environment of a greenhouse or sealed conservatory. If you’ve only got a few houseplants, try growing a sundew (Drosera) nearby, as these sticky carnivorous plants are very good at trapping fungus gnats.

The best way to get rid of gnats in houseplants

Gnats in houseplants are annoying. Known as fungus gnats, they are actually small flies, about 1/8-inch long, that are drawn to moist potting soil and decaying plant material at the base of houseplants. While they look similar to mosquitoes, they don’t bite.

Gnats in houseplants typically result when potting soil contains too much moisture.

Fungus gnats lay eggs in the houseplant soil. The eggs become larvae, which feed on fungi in the soil of plants, hence their name. The fungus gnat larvae are around 1/4-inch long with a shiny black head and an elongated, whitish to transparent body. In addition to fungi, they also like organic matter and will sometimes eat plant roots or seedlings, leaving plants wilted. A slime trail that looks like traces of slugs or snails across the top of the soil is another telltale sign there are gnats in your houseplants. The gnats also like light, so you may notice them on your windows, particularly if houseplants are nearby.

The first indication of gnats in houseplants is a sign to take action. While it may be tempting to spray the adult fungus gnat, that’s often a short-term fix. More adults will appear from the larvae in the soil. A better approach is to target the larval stage of their life cycle. Because gnats lay their eggs in the moist soil around houseplants, reducing excess moisture is a key to getting rid of these nuisances. Avoid overwatering your houseplants and make sure they have good drainage. Allow the soil to dry between regular watering — not to the point that your plant begins wilting but enough that the soil isn’t continually moist. The eggs and larvae usually die in dry soil. Remember to drain any excess water that may have accumulated in saucers.

If drying out soil does not seem to help, you might try a product such as Gnat Stix, which are yellow sticky traps. Place the trap near your plants to trap the adults and thereby reduce the number of eggs the fungus gnats lay. Be careful to avoid touching the plant leaves with the sticky paper. Check the traps every few days and replace when they become covered with gnats.

Fungus gnats are often more noticeable in the fall. It may be that they hitchhike on houseplants when they are brought indoors at the end of summer. Before bringing plants inside, check them to make sure they are free of insects. Before you purchase new plants, examine them to make sure there are no insect infestations. Use a sterile potting mix when planting or repotting.

How to Get Rid of Gnats in Plants

You may love all the potted plants that you have around your home, but you don’t enjoy all the plant bugs that you always find yourself swatting away from your face. Dealing with gnats in plants can be incredibly frustrating because it seems like you can never honestly get rid of them. The good news is you can learn how to get rid of gnats in plants with a few household products and keep them at bay with a few simple changes to your environment.

Getting rid of fungus gnats doesn’t mean you have to rid your home of potted plants. You can control fungus gnats, both inside and outside with a few simple solutions. Fungus gnats are attracted to the moist soil of your houseplants.

The adult female gnats will lay eggs on the top of the ground. When the gnat eggs hatch, the fungus gnat larvae will feed on the plant roots and decaying organic matter until they enter the pupae stage, before becoming adults.

Even though their life cycle is only around four weeks, female adult fungus gnats can lay up to 300 eggs on the top of the soil during their life, quickly leading to fungus gnat infestation if not treated.

How Do I Get Rid of Plant Flies on my Indoor Plants?

If you are dealing with an infestation of plant flies, you can effectively get rid of them without having to get rid of your indoor plants. The first thing that you will need to do to get rid of these houseplant pests is to remove the top two inches of soil from each house plant.

Since fungus gnats like to lay their eggs in moist potting soil, this will remove the gnat problem before the plant pests can hatch. After you remove the top layer of dirt, complete with gnats in plant soil, fill your pots with new potting soil.

If you don’t want to take the time to remove the potting soil, you can also make a soil drench with hydrogen peroxide and dish soap.

Soil Drench to Get Rid of Gnats in Plants

  • 4 parts water
  • 1 part peroxide
  • Several drops of liquid dish soap

Pour it over the potting mix at the plant roots, until it starts to come out of the base of the pot. It is safe to use hydrogen peroxide for plants and will effectively kill adult gnats and their larvae.

Another practical solution that will get rid of gnats in plants in your home is to make a trap using apple cider vinegar. Pour some vinegar into a shallow bowl and add a few drops of dish soap to the mix. Place some plastic wrap over the top. Use a toothpick to punch several small holes in the top of the Saran wrap.

The cider vinegar will attract the gnats to the bowl. When they fly into the liquid, they become covered in the dish soap, which leaves them unable to fly, effectively drowning them in the fluid.

Another way to get rid of gnats in plants is to spray an insecticidal soap solution on your plant leaves. Both homemade and commercial insecticidal soaps contain fatty acids that will dissolve the exoskeletons of gnats while disrupting the cell membrane of the insect.

DIY Insecticidal Soap Recipe

  • 2 ½ tablespoons Dawn liquid dish soap
  • 2 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 gallon of warm distilled water

Combine the ingredients in a large container, mixing well. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and spray the undersides and tops of the plant’s leaves and stems. Spray the mixture around your windows and doors and in any cracks and crevices that might allow gnats to gain access to your house.

Finally, trapping gnats and flies is another option. You can use yellow sticky traps to get rid of fungus gnats from your plants and fruit flies from your kitchen. You can either purchase these from your local store or create your own using colored paper and honey.

Cut medium-sized strips from the colored paper and smear one side with honey. Lay the fly traps near your plants and the small flies will become trapped in the honey.

Are There Natural Solutions to Eliminate Fungus Gnats Outside?

Gnats won’t only cause you issues inside your house, but can also take over your yard, and destroy your tomato plants and other vegetables and fruits in your garden.

An effective way to get rid of gnats outside is to introduce natural predators of fungus gnats to your garden. Beneficial nematodes are often used for organic pest control of a wide variety of pests, including gnats, fleas, grubs, and many more.

There are also several biological pest control methods that you can employ that will rid your garden and yard of fungus gnats. The naturally occurring soil bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis will kill the larvae of fungus gnats, mosquitoes, and black flies.

Best Biological Pest Control Methods

  • Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bti)
  • Hypoapsis Miles
  • Hypoapsis Mites
  • Diatomaceous earth (DE)

Hypoapsis miles and mites are small, brown mites that live in the top ½ inch of soil and are natural predators of the fungus gnat pupae. Diatomaceous earth is a natural pesticide that prevents gnats from laying their eggs and allowing their larvae to hatch. Sprinkling DE in your garden will kill adult gnats before they can lay their eggs.

There are also many plants that you can place around your yard to keep gnats and other plant bugs at bay. Along with keeping gnats out of your yard, these are also the best mosquito repellent plants to have around your house.

Plants that Repel Gnats

  • Lavender
  • Citronella grass
  • Marigold
  • Lemon rose

While the scent of these plants is extremely appealing to humans, gnats and other insects can’t stand the smell and will keep far away from the offending plant.

What are the Best Ways to Keep Gnats at Bay?

Once you’ve taken care of these pesky insects with the above remedies using everyday household items, you’ll want to take the necessary steps to continue to keep flies at bay, so you don’t end up with another gnat infestation. There are several simple pest control measures that you can regularly employ to prevent the pesky fungus gnats from becoming a problem again.

When you purchase new plants from a store, make sure to carefully inspect the plants for plant pests before bringing them into your home. As an added precaution, you should consider repotting new plants with fresh potting mix, as this will keep you from bringing eggs and fungus gnat larvae into your home.

When it comes to the plants that you already have, you want to make sure that you aren’t overwatering the plants. When you overwater your plants, it can lead to the roots, stems, and crowns of your plant to rot. Fungus gnat larvae thrive on this rotting plant matter, which can quickly lead to another infestation of tiny flies.

Finally, to help keep gnats from finding their way inside your home, make sure to seal up any cracks and crevices around your doors and windows, and make sure there are no holes in your window screens. Make sure you don’t keep old garbage lying around your house and don’t let dirty dishes sit in your sink.

Getting rid of pesky plant bugs is easy to do. With the help of a few household items, you can effectively rid your home of these tiny flying insects. If you are dealing with a gnat infestation, you can take care of the problem without getting rid of your houseplants, with these simple solutions.

We hope you learned a lot about how to get rid of gnats in plants with the Q&A article. If you found the information useful, please feel free to share it with your family and all your friends.

Keeping Animal Pests Out of Your Garden

As a founding employee of Gardener’s Supply, I wore many different hats over the years. Currently, I have my own company called Johnnie Brook Creative. The gardens around my home in Richmond, VT, include a large vegetable garden, seasonal greenhouse, cutting garden, perennial gardens, rock garden, shade garden, berry plantings, lots of container plants and a meadow garden. There’s no place I’d rather be than in the garden.

What are nature-loving, generally peaceful gardeners to do when voles, woodchucks, squirrels, gophers, rabbits, moles, and other furry little mammals wreak havoc in our gardens? Though the first impulse may be to grab a shotgun like Elmer Fudd and blast them to smithereens, there are some viable alternatives:

  1. Start by identifying the creature that is causing the damage and then learn a little about the habits of that animal. This knowledge is essential for putting together an effective solution.
  2. Make your garden less attractive to wildlife. Eliminate hiding or nesting areas, such as brush piles and tall grass. Seal off access to crawl spaces beneath your porch or deck. Minimize other food sources: covering your compost pile will discourage raccoons, cleaning up birdseed will discourage squirrels, and using Milky Spore and beneficial nematodes on your lawn will reduce grub populations, which are a favorite food of moles and skunks.
  3. Consider some of the following control methods and choose the one(s) most appropriate to the pest and to your particular situation.

Control Measures


Shooting the perpetrator is probably not an option, whether that’s by choice or because of zoning restrictions. There are poison baits that are effective against some pests, but they pose a danger to pets. Smoke bombs and scissor traps kill certain types of pests, but are a gruesome solution.

A more humane and holistic approach is to figure out how to coexist with wildlife; to let these animals to go about their lives as we go about ours.


Scent repellents, such as garlic clips, castor oil and predator urine can be effective temporary solutions but they need to be monitored and reapplied to remain effective. Products made with hot peppers can deter nibbling rabbits. Some types of plants, such as castor bean and fritillaria, are said to discourage rodents. Mothballs are sometimes used as a scent deterrent, but must be used with caution as they are poisonous to pets and children.

Visual and auditory scare devices can be used to repel animals. These include ultrasonic repellers, motion-activated water sprayers, noise makers, and visual scare devices such as reflective tape and faux predators. The effectiveness of these devices usually diminishes over time as pests may become familiar with them. Surprise is the effect you’re after, so plan on changing up your strategies.

The Chicken Wire Cloche protects prized seedlings, lettuce plants and ripening strawberries from nibbling wildlife and curious cats.

Dogs and cats can be a nuisance in the garden, but they can also be useful for keeping furry pests under control. Cats are especially good at catching voles and gophers, and dogs can be good at deterring or sometimes even nabbing furry pests.

Live Traps

These traps, usually made of galvanized steel mesh, come in a number of different sizes. Vegetables, crackers, or some other food is used to lure the animal inside. A spring-loaded door closes, locking them in. It’s quite easy to catch a woodchuck, rabbit, squirrel or chipmunks in a live trap. What’s trickier is figuring out what to do if and when you catch them. Some states prohibit the relocation of wildlife. If it is permitted, it can still be cruel to the animal and probably to the gardeners who live in the new area. For more information: Animal Trapping Techniques.

The soft polyethylene mesh and sturdy plastic poles of the Pest Fence provide a 42″ high barrier around vulnerable plants.


Exclusion is certainly the most effective, long-term solution. A fence can be permanent or can be strictly a temporary, seasonal solution that’s put up and taken down as needed. Mesh fencing can be cut to size and stapled or tied to fence posts. An electric fences is the ultimate solution — especially for woodchucks, rabbits and deer. Though it requires an investment of time and money, it’s the best way to provide complete protection for your crops, while letting wildlife go about their own business. For more information about fencing: Animal Fencing Techniques.

Common Animal Pests

Learn what to do when these animals come between you and your garden.

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