What Causes Gnat Infestations & How to Get Rid of Them

The word gnat refers to any small, winged insect. Common gnats in homes are fruit flies and fungus gnats. These pests breed frequently, so it can be hard for homeowners to get rid of a gnat infestation.

Are gnats dangerous?

While it’s correct to say that gnats bite, it’s important to note that the term “gnat” includes several species under one general label. This overly inclusive grouping refers to any small, winged insect such as biting midges, sewer flies, fruit flies, drain flies, and black flies. Some of these tiny pests can bite, but not all types of gnats have mouthparts that allow them to penetrate the skin.

Are gnats dangerous to humans?

Male gnats feed on plant nectar, while female biting gnats prefer to feed on blood as they need it to produce eggs that will develop properly. By using their specially-designed cutting teeth to puncture a host’s skin, gnat bites are different from bed bug or mosquito bites. When a gnat bites a human host, it injects an anti-clotting agent to prevent the wound from closing before they get an entire meal. Due to the way in which a gnat bites, it can be more painful than bites from other common pests.

Gnat bites commonly occur on exposed, uncovered skin. In general, bites from gnats are itchy, red, and may swell. While some cases of gnat bites are known to transmit infectious diseases that typically affect livestock, continuous scratching can lead to open sores that are susceptible to a bacterial infection, which can cause other health issues. To prevent infection, use an anti-itch cream and monitor for any worsening symptoms.

How does a gnat infestation in the house start?

Fruit flies can enter homes through open doors and screens, or as eggs and larvae on produce. Once inside, they eat and develop in over-ripened fruits and vegetables. Other likely places for fruit flies to develop are:

  • Poorly cleaned drains

  • Trashcans

  • Moist places containing decomposing organic matter

Fruit flies can lay up to 500 eggs at once, so infestations are common and may linger for a long time.

Attracted to damp soil, fungus gnats usually get into homes by flying inside or from infested houseplants brought inside the house.

Fungus gnats infest soil and feed upon decaying or damaged plant roots as well as fungi found in the soil. While not dangerous to humans, a fungus gnat infestation can be a nuisance indoors, as clouds of these tiny pests swarm and settle repeatedly.

How to Prevent Gnat Infestations

Prevention of fruit flies involves three basic steps to make sure they don’t become problems inside the home:

  1. Employ exclusion methods such as effective screening to keep them outside.

  2. Discard or store fruit and produce in a manner that makes it unlikely that flies will infest foods. Keep products in the fridge and inside sealed containers.

  3. Keep all food containers, sink drains, and trashcans clean so that flies don’t have sources of food and development sites.

When it comes to fungus gnats, avoid overwatering plants so that plant roots stay healthy and soil fungal growth is minimal.

Another important recommendation is to periodically inspect any open bags of leftover potting soil to ensure it is gnat-free.

Do gnats eventually go away?

If you’re experiencing a gnat infestation, it’s best to understand the measures you can take to help get rid of gnats in your house. Depending on the climate in which you live, gnats in the house may go away on their own, but waiting for extreme heat or cold can be a frustrating game. In the meantime, you’re able to help get rid of gnats by trying these at-home remedies:

Sticky Traps

Place these traps in areas of high gnat activity. These traps usually last for a few months and use a solution to attract gnats to the traps.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Traps

These DIY traps attract gnats and then block their exit, leaving them stuck inside the vessel. Here’s what to do:

  • Fill a small container with a couple of tablespoons of ACV

  • Add one or two drops of liquid dish soap

  • Cover container with plastic wrap

  • Poke a handful of holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick

  • Replace the solution every other day to maintain its effectiveness

Use Fruit

Since gnats are often found circling overripe fruit, use that fruit to attract them to a container trap. Instead of creating a trap with a homemade solution, place slices of the fruit in a container that’s covered with plastic wrap (like mentioned above). If you know they’re already interested in the sweet, decaying fruit nectar, they’re bound to get trapped inside the container.

Sanitize Drains

Drains and garbage disposals are often common areas of gnat activity. To eliminate drain flies from feeding on decaying material in your pipes, try pouring these at-home solutions down the drain:

  • One cup of bleach, diluted

  • Equal parts of at least a half cup of salt, baking soda, and vinegar — then rinse with boiling water

  • Plain boiling water, twice a week

How to Get Rid of a Gnat Infestation

There are several popular home remedies and traps that may reduce gnat infestations in homes:

  • Yellow sticky traps - These glue-coated, adhesive paper traps attract gnats with their bright color and then trap them as they land.

  • Fruit traps - Some homeowners use a jar of rotting fruit covered with perforated plastic wrap to lure and then trap gnats.

  • Red Wine Traps Vinegar - Similar to a fruit trap, this option uses the gnats' attraction to these pungent liquids to trap them inside a jar.

While these methods may thin the pests' numbers, they are not a permanent solution. Traps only catch adult gnats, which limits their effectiveness since a new generation will soon emerge to begin the infestation again.

The best option to remove a gnat infestation in the house is to contact Orkin. These trained pest specialists can create a plan for safe and effective control.

Keeping gnats or flies out of your home is an ongoing process, and Orkin Pros are trained to address any current gnat infestation, as well as implement solutions to help prevent future issues.

As with most pest control and management, it’s best to rely on a trained Orkin Pro to help get rid of a gnat infestation. The most effective gnat repellent and control methods require positive identification — which is best conducted with the assistance of an Orkin Pro, as they are experts in identifying different types of gnats and flies.

Since every home is different, the Orkin Pro will design a unique treatment program. Through a specialized approach to pest control, Orkin can help protect your home with a plan suited to your specific needs. We can provide the right solution to keep gnats away and out of your home.

To learn more about how to get rid of gnats and protect your home, contact your local Orkin branch.

Resources

Dig Deeper on Gnats

Fungus Gnats in Houseplants | Gnats in Potted Plants

How to Control Gnat Infestation in Backyard

Gnat Infestation

Where Do Gnats Breed?

What Do Gnats Eat?

Gnats in Kitchen

Gnat Eggs

Gnat Lifespan

Black Gnats

What Do Gnats Look Like?

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