Gnats! Hardly there exist any more annoying insects than them. We are positive that you have immediately thought of a familiar situation of having a terrible irritating swarm of buzzing gnats hovering near your face. However, it turns out that all kinds of insects are called “gnats”. How do you not get confused? Most of the web sites respond to “How to get rid of gnats” query with fungus gnats and fruit flies articles. But this is not correct, as we have counted at least 11 different kinds of gnats, even though the omniscient Wikipedia concisely names only mosquitoes to be such. What should you do then?
We have carried out a full-scale investigation and found out for you who the gnats are. What should you do if your house is infested with gnats (and are they really gnats?)? How to get rid of them in the house, kitchen and outside (this is most crucial)? What kinds of DIY pest control products are effective and cope with the task most efficiently? Get ready, we’ll figure out the solution to your problem step-by-step.
5 FAQ, the Answers to Which You Should Know Before Getting Rid of Gnats
What are gnats?
A gnat is a general term which defines small annoying Diptera insects, similar to mosquitoes, but of a smaller size. They can be both biting and non-biting. Most often they fly in large flocks resembling clouds. There are so many types of them that even the various US universities scientists have not yet figured the matter out and are not unanimous as to which bugs are considered to be gnats.
Thus, the University of Kentucky entomologists consider only the non-biting flies to be gnats while the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, classify fungus gnats in addition to non-biting flies as gnats. Certain universities also distinguish eye gnats: the Smithsonian Institution describes them as “non-biting flies, no bigger than a few grains of salt, are attracted to fluids secreted by your eyes”.
Are gnats only the non-biting bugs?! Of course not! University of Georgia claims that there exists a biting kind of gnats, which is a black fly (buffalo gnat). The scientists even compare the painful and vicious bites of the black fly with the fire ant bites. Meanwhile, the North Carolina State University entomologists explain that a widely-spread type of biting flies which are called biting midges also belongs to the gnats species: “Biting midges (Culicoides sp.) are small, sometimes barely-visible, blood-sucking flies more commonly known in many areas as biting gnats, sand flies, biting midges, punkies or “no-see-ums”. We really hope that your head is not spinning yet, is it?
Commoners and most of the web sites only classify fruit flies and fungus gnats as gnats, and such an approach is gravely mistaken. That’s why we’ve decided to elaborate on ALL (!) existing types of gnats.
Go ahead and check out the chart below which consolidates all the types of gnats and briefly describes their treatment. Scroll down to read about their elimination in detail and to find the review of the best gnat control products.
How to get rid of it?
|Non-biting gnats (flies):|
non-biting midges (chironimides, “blind mosquitoes”, “fuzzy bills”)
Destroy favorable habitat conditions; get rid of larvae (with the help of B.t.i.), use insecticides, foggers and zappers for killing adults non-biting midges (temporarily effective).
|eye gnats|| |
Only prevention methods: use protective nets & DEET-based repellents.
|fruit flies|| |
Destroy any food sources and use fruit fly traps.
|Remove favorable breeding environment, kill larvae with B.t.i. and eliminate adult gnats with sticky traps. Read “How to get rid of fungus gnats” for more information.|
Biting flies, no-see-ums, sand flies
Chemical controls (ULV, fogs, mists and sprays)used against adult mosquitoes are temporarily effective against adult biting midges, but more adults rapidly invade the treated area after the spray has dissipated. Repellents will protect you best.
Black flies (buffalo gnats)
Buffalo gnats control methods are aimed at destroying their larvae with the help of B.t.i. and by eliminating favorable for breeding environment. Prevention methods include repellents, nets.
We have devoted the following separate articles to certain types of gnats, namely mosquitoes and fruit flies:
Where do gnats come from?
All gnats need water to lay their eggs and feed their larvae, that’s why a lot of mosquitoes are found in marshy areas, in in the woods, near the decaying organic matter dumps, in wet basements, running water, swimming pools, ponds, all sources of standing water etc. Some species, such as fungus gnats breed in overwatered soil, while the black flies need running water and wet grass to lay their eggs.
What attracts (causes) gnat?
As we’ve already mentioned, gnats need moisture that’s why it is the Southern states population which suffers most from them, as the climate there is hot and humid. The environment is perfect for breeding! Gnats are rather predictable and most often they would appear in sweltering weather, especially in the evening and at night or early in the morning. A strong long-lasting rain, wind, fog and freezing, on the contrary, reduce or stop all gnats’ activities.
Apart from proper weather, humans themselves or, more precisely, the exhaled CO2, body heat and lactic acid smell – i.e. all the fluids accompanying human life processes also attract gnats. They are quick to notice exposed body parts and react to sweet perfume which will lead to a bothersome swarm around you,
Why do gnats fly in your eyes?
If small gnats swarm near you eyes and strive to fly into them, then most likely you have encountered eye gnats. They seem to be the most annoying, but in fact they are much more harmless than other gnats. These gnats are drawn by the liquids exuded from human and animal eyes, nose and ears. They do not bite, but they can be carriers of diseases.
It is the cattle and those who take care of it that suffer most from such gnats. The residents of Southern states, where the soil is sandy, have the biggest chance of suffering from eye gnats as they inhabit this tilled soil, mixed with hay, grass and other organic matter. Eye gnats are also strongly attracted to cattle manure, and the livestock and farm workers are therefore adversely affected.
When does the biting gnats’ activity peaks?
In fact, the appearance of these biting bugs coincides with the mosquito season start, which is at the end of spring or in early summer. Biting midges typically rage all summer long, while the black flies attack humans intensely only until July, and then they disappear, as confirm the Purdue University Department of Entomology experts: "Adults emerge in the spring and they can be aggressive biters, especially on exposed skin (e.g., arms , neck area, legs). They are often seen in swarms hovering together. They are usually active for a 6 to 8 week period in late spring and early summer ".
Floods in summer can also provoke the emergence of biting gnats.
How to Get Rid Of Gnats Outside
Getting rid of gnats outside is more complicated than you initially thought because as a rule you would find no signs of regular invasion. Their attacks are largely dependent on climate and in the availability of any damp gnat breeding sites in the neighborhood, such as ponds and marshes, forests, farms, organic waste dumps.
The first step to take is to eliminate favorable gnat breeding conditions (to prevent them from laying eggs).
This is the most essential initial measure to be taken, since mosquitoes cannot breed without moisture. Being in swampy woods, you will not be able control the gnat population, but once they fly on your site, take the following measures to prevent them from laying eggs:
- Drain standing water pockets if possible;
- Eliminate mold, should there be any
- Drain overwatered soil (especially if it is sandy)
- If you have cattle farm buildings, take out the manure more often, as the gnats will always breed near fertilizer
- Get rid of decaying organic matter, keep your trash cans away from the house
Gnats do not fly very well, that’s why they would rarely leave the spot where they breed. After you have done everything possible to eliminate the favorable gnat environment, proceed directly to getting rid of them.
How to Kill Biting Gnats (Black Flies (Buffalo Gnats), Biting Midges (No-See-Ums, Sand Gnats, Punkies) & Non-Biting Midges
We won’t get your hopes up as it’s impossible to completely get rid of these insects. Speaking of biting gnats, the Purdue University scientists ascertain that “Because of the varied semi-aquatic to aquatic habitats they will breed in control is not feasible”. This feature distinguishes them from mosquitoes breeding in standing water exclusively. Biting midges can breed in a WHOLE BUNCH of spots including standing and running water, pond banks, landfills, swamps, mud, and they can be found even in the mountains! The black flies are a bit easier to handle as they prefer to breed in pure water with swift current. Is there anything to be done with the rivers? And as for the non-biting midges, they are found in copious amounts (over 4,000 larvae / sq ft.) in water rich in food, as well as large and small rivers, ponds, lakes and stagnant waters. In order to treat such volumes of water, measures need to be taken at the federal level.
As you can see, it is the vastness of the above mentioned gnats’ breeding area that prevents them from being eliminated in a single house. Still, things are not that bad, as certain limited impact measures bear fruit. Once you have done everything possible to destroy the gnat breeding environment, you need to take up the destruction of both larvae and adults. The treatment methods are virtually the same as the ones used to control mosquitoes.
How to Get Rid Of Gnat Larvae with Larvicides
To prevent gnats from growing and biting you, you need to get rid of their larvae. Use bioinsecticides based on live B.t.i. bacteria as larvicides. The WHO experts proved in 2009 that they can be safely used in drinking running water sources for various purposes including the effective elimination of black flies.
Summit 20-Pack Mosquito Dunk for ~$19.28 and granuled B.t.i. Mosquito Bits for ~$14.49 are considered to be the most effective B.t.i-based products. Both of them top the list of best sellers in the Insect & Pest Repellent category on Amazon.com and have been tested by thousands of users. NB: Never use chemical larvicides in large running water sources to eliminate gnats and other insects, it is very dangerous for the aquatic flora and fauna!
How to Get Rid Of Adult Gnats: Foggers and Bug Zappers
Now that you have poisoned the larvae, you have to deal with the aggravating adult gnats. What should you do with them? American scientists are not too encouraging towards those who attempt to deal with the hordes of various gnats. But they still note in this case the use of propane and electric foggers will have a limited effect. These devices will aid you spray liquid insecticides exclusively outdoors. The limited effect is temporary in this case as after a few hours after the treatment; the poisonous fog will life and the gnats will re-appear.
There are few foggers of high quality available on the market today. The #1 Best selling fogger Burgess 1443 Propane Insect Fogger for ~$47.72, which helps get rid of mosquitoes and midges in over 8 times out of 10, according to over 800 reviews on Amazon.com is one of the products tested by the users. It is strongly recommended that you use Black Flag 190255 Fogging Insecticide to Control Mosquitoes and Biting Flies Outdoors (~$10.37) along with Burgess 1143. Since pyrethroid is its active component, make sure you wear a protective suit and a mask to prevent inhalation of toxic chemical fog droplets.
This is a most effective duo of a fogger and an insecticide for $70. Do you need more options? Then read our review of 4 best foggers.
Bug zappers can also help reduce the number of adult gnat population. For example, the North Carolina experts declare that the so-called "electrocution traps", can attract and kill a large number of non-biting midges. But at the same time, they do not have high hopes for this electrocuting device: “It is doubtful that a single electrocutor trap could kill a sufficient number of midge adults to appreciably reduce nuisance populations. In addition, during heavy adult activity, the trap may malfunction as a result of becoming clogged with midge body fragments.”
It won’t hurt to try, though. The main idea is to find a better proven and more reliable bug zapper which won’t break down because of many bugs to be killed and which is compatible with other control products. The #1 Best Selling bug zapper on Amazon.com is Flowtron BK-15D Electronic Insect Killer with over 5700 customers’ reviews! This thing for ~$36.84 will serve you well in the fight against flying insects outside. All you have to do is turn it on at night and leave until the morning. But the light bulb zapper attracts not only mere gnats, but also flies, bees and other insects so in the morning be ready to collect a "harvest" of a variety of bugs.
Pest Venator Bug Zapper Light Bulb – Adapter Included
A device produced by Pest Venator has 3 modes: bug zapper, lighting, lighting and bug zapper, which can be easily switched depending on your needs. However, its major difference and advantage over other similar devices are that it is the only item with an adapter included for only ~$13.49. This is very convenient: not only can a bulb be screwed into a lampshade but it can also be plugged into a socket. You may exploit Pest Venator 24/7 whether in the house, office, shop or on a patio, terrace, porch, garage and any other rainproof places as well as on a trip. It covers up to 540 sq ft.
Its prime target is gnats, mosquitoes and other flying insects which are naturally drawn by UV light. Pest Venator bug zapper bulb is fitted with a LED bulb making it energy efficient (up to 25 000 hours of operation), tempts insects by light and electrocutes them. The bulb does not come with a container for insects, therefore, it should be cleaned timely so that the killed bloodsuckers do not interfere with the device’s operation. In order to clean it, first turn it off and then use a special brush (included).
It does not contain poisons or chemicals to serve as baits while its metal grid is effectively protected by the plastic case. Combined with the adapter included and an affordable price — it is an excellent 3-in-1 device allowing you to stop thinking about insects in the house for several years to come. It zaps silently and not only mosquitoes but other insects as well. When this unit is on, you can enjoy sitting on the balcony, a patio or backyard without being bitten by mosquitoes.
Price: ~$13.49 Check the current price
Read more about B.t.i, foggers and other ways of gnats control in our complete guide to how to get rid of mosquitoes.
A Gnat Trap Is the Best Way to Get Rid Of Gnats in the House and Kitchen
If you see flying bugs at home, most likely they are gnat-like insects breeding at home, such as fruit flies or drain flies. They can also be flower inhabitants, fungus gnats, which we’ve described in our guide to how to get rid of fungus gnats. Still, in theory, any other biting and non-biting gnats can fly inside if they have laid eggs nearby.
In order to get rid of these uninvited guests you needn’t look for a special gnat trap. Universal traps, which are used to catch fruit flies, will meet your aim. The #1 Best-Seller among similar products on Amazon.com is BEAPCO 6-Pack Drop-Ins Fruit Fly Traps, which have already collected nearly 1500 customer reviews. According to this feedback, the trap will really help you get rid of gnats, even if you have a huge gnat problem. Customers like the fact that they are effective, cut-rate and, most importantly, that there are so many of them. Once a trap is filled, all you have to do is set up the next one! The traps are helpful straight from the first day (which is awesome for the price of ~$14.54 (6-pack) Check the current price
If you want to learn more about such traps, but every hour is at stake (as you’ve got gnats at home!), don’t waste your time searching. We have already analyzed the market conjuncture of the products which can help trap gnats, and you can find the results in our review of the best fruit fly traps.
If there is still something flying in your house even after you have done everything possible, taken out the trash and rotting fruit, cleaned waste water, drained plant soil and used traps. You can apply the following universal insect repellent which helps keep away many insect species.
Hot Shot 5580 No Pest Strip Unscented Hanging Vapor Insect Repellent
This gnat repellent strip for ~$8.93 per unit has helped many homeowners get rid of various flying insects, including different types of gnats. Despite the fact that this repellent is not recommended for indoor use, many disobey this instruction. Amazon.com customer feedback will help you conclude whether such course of action is effective and safe: “I had fruit flies/gnats for months before I got these strips. The absence of fruit didn't matter. I got these strips & the flies were gone within a week!”
Price: ~$8.93 Check the current price
Comparative Table of 8 Best Gnat Control Products
Summit 20-Pack Mosquito Dunk
Burgess 1443 Outdoor Propane Insect Fogger
Black Flag 190255 Fogging Insecticide
Flowtron BK-15D Electronic Insect Killer
|Outdoor Bug Zapper|
Pest Venator Bug Zapper Light Bulb
|Indoor & Outdoor Bug Zapper (is not waterproof)|
BEAPCO 6-Pack Drop-Ins Fruit Fly Traps
Hot Shot 5580 No Pest Strip Insect Repellent
7 Tips for Gnat Self-Protection
In case of biting gnats taking prevention measures is just as important as destroying larvae and adult gnats. It is particularly vital to be able to defend yourself from eye gnats, which cannot be killed using B.t.i and other means. So how can this be done?
Don’t get outside at dawn and dusk, as this is the gnats’ activity peak in summer.
Wear light clothing as it attracts less attention of the biting bugs.
Are you heading for the woods full of gnats? Cover your shins, hands, shoulders, face as the gnats respond to warm and open body parts.
If possible, drain your pond in winter. This measure will prevent the larvae from becoming a huge army of adult gnats in summer.
Turn off the street lights near your house. If there are many gnats in your neighborhood, discuss the issue of street lighting at night with the local authorities: perhaps you can reduce the number of street lamps or replace the white light lamps with the ones that attract less gnats, such as, high-pressure sodium lamps.
Use special safety nets with fine mesh (protective hats, mesh tents, window nets, etc.). Conventional mosquito nets can also be helpful, but remember that gnats are smaller than mosquitoes.
Use DEET-based repellents such as Repel 100 Insect Repellent for ~$7.19. This product will repel any flying or crawling biting bugs, including gnats, mosquitoes and ticks. It is also deadly due to the fact that it contains 98.1% of DEET – you can’t have any more! We recommend people with sensitive skin to opt for a natural repellent. Read our review of 16 best mosquito repellents to find out more about gnats & mosquitoes & repellents.
Need more info about gnat bites? Find it here.
All of the scientists whose opinions we have studied, agree that getting rid of gnats requires a wide-scale approach, not limited to the the local and individual treatment application. Despite this fact, it is in your power to make your home and yard gnat-free in spring and summer and to escape their bites! Follow our tips for a long time and will forget the phrase «I was bitten by gnats again!" for good.