If you have ever been swarmed by small, biting insects outside or hundreds of small flying bugs in your kitchen, you know what gnats are. The term “gnat” refers to many different small, winged flies that can be a big nuisance when they take over your home or business. These pests tend to travel together in groups of hundreds or thousands, so it can quickly become overwhelming when they get into the home or business. Here we closely examine some of the different types of gnats and what their presence can mean.
- The term “gnats” can refer to many small flying pests often found in large swarms outdoors or inside near soil, decomposing food and fruit.
- While gnats are considered a nuisance pest and will not cause damage to your home or business, biting gnats can spread disease and parasites, while other types of gnats can contaminate food and harm potted plants.
What are gnats?
“Gnats” is a common term used to describe a wide variety of different small, flying insects. While there are specific species that are considered true gnats, such as the fungus gnat or the buffalo gnat, many other small flying insects, such as fruit flies and midges, are also called gnats. These pests are drawn to moisture and decaying organic matter.
What do gnats look like?
Gnats are very small flying insects with six legs, three body parts, and one pair of small wings. On average, they are 1/8th of an inch or smaller in size. Their appearance can vary based on the type. For example, common fruit flies, or Drosophilia melanogaster, has a yellowish to pale brown body with red eyes and antennae that appear feather-like. In contrast, fungus gnats are black in color and slightly larger.
9 Different types of gnats
Here we take a look at a variety of fly species commonly referred to as gnats.
Often referred to as black flies, buffalo gnats are around 1/8th of an inch long and get their name from a small hump on their back, similar to a buffalo. These gnats prefer wet environments and are most often found near ponds, rivers, and other bodies of water. Female buffalo gnats are considered a health risk to humans as they require a meal of blood in order to reproduce. While a bite can be similar to a mosquito bite, it can cause black fly fever, which can cause fever, headaches, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes.
Drain flies, also called sewer gnats or moth flies, are black in color with a vein pattern in the wings. When crushed, these flies are covered in small scales and will leave behind powdery dust. They thrive in areas of high moisture or standing water and are often found inside home drains. They reproduce quickly, and if left untreated, a few flies in the drain can quickly explode into hundreds of these small pests. While they are not considered harmful to humans, their powdery scales can trigger allergies.
Eye gnats are very small in size, measuring less than 1/16th of an inch. They have round, black bodies with lighter wings and legs. They are often found in areas of sand or sandy soil, making them common in coastal areas. As the name suggests, eye gnats are attracted to a specific protein that is secreted from the eyes, ears, and noses in humans and animals. Eye gnats can pose a health risk to humans as they have the ability to spread conjunctivitis, or pink eye, from human to human.
Fruit flies are known for their red eyes, with a yellowish to light brown body color. As their name suggests, fruit flies can be found around fruits and vegetables left outside of the refrigerator. You may also find these pests near garbage cans or throughout areas with food.
Fungus gnats, also known as winter gnats, are small flies that feed on the root and fungi of plants. Indoors, they can often be found swarming around house plants with moist soil. Fungus gnats have long legs and long, slender wings and are black in color. While adult fungus gnats do not damage household plants directly, larvae can damage roots and stunt the growth of the plant. While these gnats only have a one-month life cycle, they will continue reproducing, with females laying up to 300 eggs. They are attracted to light and may swarm lamps in the evening.
Gall gnats are very small in size and are red in color. They reproduce by injecting their larvae into plants, creating a gall that the larvae feed on, significantly affecting the growth of landscaping plants or indoor houseplants.
Hessian flies, Mayetiola destructor, are a species of small flies that can be extremely destructive to plants and crops. They are significant pests to crops such as wheat, barley, and rye. While adult gnats pose no direct threat to crops, large numbers of larvae can quickly eat fields of crops. They are small black flies, measuring less than 1/8th of an inch.
Known as humpback flies, Phorid flies closely resemble fruit flies, with a slight humpbacked shape in the thorax. The main distinction is that the phorid fly does not have red eyes. They feed on decaying organic material and can often be found around overripe fruit, near garbage cans, and inside sink drains and garbage disposals.
Commonly referred to as midges or “no-see-ums,” sand flies are gnats from the order Diptera and are considered biting gnats, though some species is non-biting. These gnats bite and suck blood, similar to a mosquito. As the name suggests, these pests are most commonly found near sandy areas so they can be very common in coastal regions.
Where do gnats come from?
Most gnat varieties that venture inside a home or business are in search of moisture and a food source. This can include everything from fruit sitting out on the counter to a slow drain in the sink. In addition, open garbage cans and houseplants can attract gnats from outside.
How do I know what kind of gnat I have?
Because of their small size and the fact that many gnat species look similar to each other, identification can be difficult. In many cases, you can get a better idea of the type of gnat present by the area they are found. For instance, gnats around fruit are likely to be fruit flies. Small bugs around your shower drain are likely to be drain flies and those swarming your houseplants will likely be fungus gnats.
Why am I getting so many gnats in my house?
Gnats are most often attracted to moisture, so it is common for them to venture indoors during the dryer summer months. They can enter the home by flying in from outside or can be brought in through infected fruits and houseplants. Leaving fruit on the counter will often draw them indoors, as will open or overflowing garbage cans.
No gnat is a good gnat
While it may be difficult to determine exactly which type of gnat is invading your home, understanding what attracts them to your home and what they feed on can help reduce the risk of infestation. Because these pests reproduce so quickly, it is important to get an infestation under control as quickly as possible. Trying to take on these pests on your own can be difficult without a positive species identification and is often best left to professional pest control.
Keeping your home gnat-free
At Arrest A Pest, we understand how these tiny pests can quickly become a huge nuisance. Our technicians are experts in gnat and other identification and can quickly determine which pests have invaded your home and which treatment options will work best to eliminate them and help prevent their return. To learn more, schedule an appointment today.