These pests, called fungus gnats, love moisture; avoid overwatering your greenery to prevent an infestation.
potted plants on plant stands
Credit: Pieter Estersohn

Welcoming everything from a monstera to a rubber plant into your home can help add beauty to your spaces and purify the air. Your favorite varieties, however, come with some responsibility—and experience a few problems every now and then. One such issue? They occasionally attract some pests. And if you notice small bugs floating around, you might have a classic case of fungus gnats, which resemble fruit flies but nest in moist soil. Beyond the annoyance, their larvae eat roots and can spread plant pathogens, says Melissa Ozawa, the Martha Stewart Living features and garden editor. Here, she explains how to keep these bugs away from your plants.

How Fungus Gnats Cause Damage

Fungus gnats, which also resemble mosquitos, wreak the most havoc on plants when the critters are in their larval stage. The bugs feed in the soil and damage plant roots in the process; they are especially disruptive to flowering plants like carnations and poinsettias, and can cause yellowing, wilting, and poor growth.

How to Get Rid of Them

These gnats love water—they live and thrive in moist environments. So, you'll want to provide ample drainage for the soil and avoid overwatering your houseplants to keep them at bay. As for how to remove these bugs if they are already buzzing around? You can catch the adults with sticky fly traps, but the best way to banish them for good is to go after the larvae: Allow the top inch or inch and a half of soil to dry out fully before watering. But let the plant be your guide, Ozawa adds: "When leaves start to wilt, it's time to give it a drink." Also, if you have a confirmed fungus gnat infestation, consider repotting your plant after cleaning the roots. Doing so will give your greenery a fresh start, no bugs allowed.


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