Thursday, November 4, 2021

Easy (Not Pretty) Remedy for Soil Gnats

Before I blog about any more of the excursions my daughters have taken me on, I want to write about a discovery I made.  I love the outings and I have written about most of them, but I have not published all of them.  I will eventually and they will be included in my blog books.  As much fun as they are for us, it probably isn't that interesting to read about.  You all know how it is looking at thousands of other peoples vacation photos.  

Although this problem may be well known to gardeners, until recently I have never had any experience.  It all started in the fall of 2020.  It may have started years before, but I didn't notice or make the connection.  The problem is soil or fungus gnats that hatch in the soil.  I always thought they were probably fruit flies even if I didn't know the source.  I was wrong. 

I love putting my house plants outside for the summer.  They thrive much better with fresh air, natural humidity and sunlight.  The downside is that some plants get infested with various insects like aphids, leafhoppers, or in my case soil gnats.  These gnats look like little tiny mosquitoes or fruit flies.  It seems that last year my lemon trees were infested the worst.  I'm not sure why.  So far this fall, I have very few so it may be connected to weather conditions during the summer.

These gnats are not very harmful to the plant, but they are very annoying when they fly around, although they stay pretty close to the plant during the day.  I did notice they are attracted to light because I see them at night when the reading lamps are on or sometimes in a sunny window.  These gnats lay eggs in the top 2-3 inches of soil.  I have found the drier you can keep the top soil, the less gnats.  

There are remedies.  You can re-pot the plant in fresh sterile soil,  there are insecticides which is never my first choice, or sticky strips to catch the gnats as they fly around.  The sticky strips can be bought from a garden center or online.  There are several brands to choose from and they work fairly well.  

These are small yellow sticky strips.  They come with a small clip and are placed in the flower pot.  As the gnats fly around and land, they stick.  The more you catch, the better because they can't lay more eggs and start the hatching process all over.  These sticky strips don't contain any poisons so they are safe for pets, although getting the sticky strip off a dog or cats nose may be problematic.

The only problem I have found is availability.  I ended up ordering them online.  Before I discovered these strips, I used another sticky strip that worked well.  Last fall when I realized I had a gnat problem, I had to come up with a solution fast and didn't have time to shop around.  I went into our storeroom and discovered a package of sticky mouse traps.  I think we picked it up at a liquidators store for pennies, but we never used them.  I thought it was inhumane, and I didn't want to dispose of a mouse either dead or alive stuck to a board. 

I took one of the 5 x 8 inch sheets and cut it into strips.  I then folded the strip in half, peeled the protective paper and clipped it to a pinch clothes pin.  

As an experiment I tried both the yellow strips and the glue board strip.  They both work.  I caught one gnat so far on this plant but I just put it out a couple days ago.  I do know that if the gnats show up, I will be ready.  It isn't a pretty solution, but it is an easy inexpensive solution to an aggravating problem.