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You might suspect that the annoying, tiny black flies you find hanging around your home are gnats, but other types of flying insects are often mistaken for gnats.
“There are actually three different types of flying insects that [it could be]: the fruit fly, the fungus gnat and the drain fly,” said Dave Burns, president of Burns Pest Elimination.
Whichever type of flies they may be, it’s likely that you want these pests out of your home.
Before figuring out how to get rid of gnats specifically, it’s important to understand what attracts them in the first place.
Why gnats find you, your home irresistible
“Gnats thrive in moist environments, which is why you're used to seeing them in the spring and summer, especially after rainfall or if you live in a humid area,” said Sean Knox, owner of Knox Pest Control.
Gnats tend to lay their eggs in moist soil or on wet fungi or plants, and their life cycles rely on temperature, Knox added. The tiny flies typically prefer temperatures ranging from 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but they’re able to live in almost any temperature above freezing, according to Pestnet.
Outside of your home, you’ll likely find gnats collecting around moist soil near your vegetable garden, fruit trees or flowers. If you overwater your lawn or flowerbeds, you’re providing both moisture and a potential breeding ground for fungus or mold. These serve as primary food sources for certain flying insects including the fungus gnat, according to Terminix.
“Letting standing water collect on your property can [also] provide breeding grounds,” Knox said.
Indoors, gnats will be drawn to moist soil in potted plants, poorly sealed food containers or trash cans, dirty dishes in the sink or fruits and vegetables, he added.
If you’re finding yourself often swatting those pesky flies away from your face, it’s likely because you’re unknowingly attracting gnats with your scent, which is how they find their targets.
“Strong perfumes, particularly sweet scents, can be a draw,” Knox said. “Things like floral-scented shampoos, hair sprays or soaps can leave behind [an attractive smell].”
Moisture in the form of sweat or mucus around your eyes or nose might also draw gnats to your face, he said.
Although gnats can bite, you typically won’t have to worry about catching any diseases from them, experts say. However, gnats can spread contamination to humans by carrying unwanted bacteria from waste or trash to human consumables and food sources, according to Burns.
“Female gnats bite because they need blood to produce eggs that will properly develop, and when they bite, they release an anticoagulant,” said Knox.
This is what makes the bite itch, and scratching the open wound makes you more vulnerable to illness, he added.
How to get rid of gnats, fruit flies
If you're actively taking steps to prevent mosquitoes from swarming near your yard, you're also probably keeping your gnat problem under control, Knox said.
Gnats are repelled by many of the same scents that mosquitoes despise, including pure vanilla, citronella or lemon oil, according to Knox. Experts also recommend getting rid of them by using the scents that attract them as bait.
“A shallow dish filled with apple cider vinegar or wine mixed with a few drops of dish soap can draw gnats in, but the dish soap reduces the surface tension and drowns them,” Knox said.
Knox recommended using DEET-containing products to keep gnats away while you’re outdoors, but warned that these formulas only work temporarily and won’t do much to stop an infestation.
Homeowners might also consider cleaning their drains with a bleach solution and a bottle brush, Burns suggested.
Simply scrub the drain, while paying special attention to the undersides of the drain and screen, he recommended. Then, use a disinfectant to flush the garbage disposal and the dishwasher drain line.
“Gnats can be controlled by using a cap full of flea and tick shampoo, which needs to contain pyrethrum as its active ingredient, in your plant's water,” Burns added. “Lightly mist the plant's leaves, top and bottom, with the same solution.”
To get rid of fruit flies, experts recommend eliminating sources that attract them in and around your kitchen as well as your bathroom and drains.
“While a bowl of fresh, raw fruit on the kitchen counter looks lovely, this is a great target for a fruit fly infestation,” said Joe LaBrie, director of store operations for family-owned retail company, Bug and Weed Mart. “Minimize any fruits and vegetables not stored in the refrigerator.”
LaBrie also recommended purchasing a decorative fly light that plugs into your power outlet and resembles a night light.
“It actually catches flying insects on a replaceable glue paper insert on the back side, where nobody sees what you've caught,” he said.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
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