The sweet aroma of the basil plant not only attracts humans, but can also attract bugs. The Sciarid fly, also known as a fungus gnat, is attracted to the basil plant, and can carry a serious fungus with it that is detrimental to plant health.
The Sciarid fly ranges in size from 2 to 5mm in length. They are small black flies, with long slider bodies, overlapping wings and long legs.
The Sciarid fly prefers warm, humid environments. In conditions where temperatures are warmer than 24 degrees Celsius they will reproduce rapidly and continuously.
The small black flies lay between 50 and 200 eggs after mating. These eggs hatch after about three days, and mature over the course of about three weeks. The total life cycle ends almost immediately after mating, around four weeks of age.
Gnats are not attracted to the basil itself, but to the rotting tissue and moist soil around the basil plant. Populations can be kept to a minimum by watering less often and allowing the soil around the plant to dry out between waterings. Also, it's helpful to remove dead leaves and other tissues from the area so that there is no tissue for the larvae to feed on.
Although larvae do not feed on live tissue, they may bite into the root or stalk of a plant and cause damage to the plant's vascular system. This allows fungus to enter the plant, create infection and cause damage. Because fungus gnats live in a moist environment, they often spread fungus between plants.
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