How to get rid of little flying bugs in potting soil

Written by axl j. amistaadt
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Those pesky little flying bugs that seem to materialise from nowhere are common fungus gnats. They have a keen interest in the fungus created by rotting plant material in your potting soil, where they wish to rear their young. Adult females lay their eggs in the moist soil, allowing them to hatch into hungry larvae with an abundant food source conveniently nearly. Fungus gnats are far too tiny to kill with a flyswatter or rolled up newspaper. You can, however fight back ferociously, and you already have an effective arsenal in your kitchen cabinet.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Repurposed plastic bag
  • Sealed package of sterile potting soil
  • Perlite
  • Peat moss
  • 3x5 index cards
  • Yellow crayon or marker
  • Wooden craft stick
  • Tape
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Disposable plastic cup
  • Beer, wine, fruit juice or vinegar
  • Liquid dish soap

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  1. 1

    Remove the affected plant from its pot. Scrub the container with very hot, soapy water, rinse well and air dry thoroughly. Use a sealed package of sterile potting soil. Combine equal parts soil and perlite; repot the plant. Dispose of the used potting soil, which by now is probably infested with little flying bug larvae. Seal it up in a repurposed plastic bag and dispose of it. Don't toss the material on your compost heap.

  2. 2

    Cut off any parts of the plant that are dead or dying above the soil line. This is what the flying adults are feeding upon.

  3. 3

    Mulch the plant with peat moss. A layer about ¼- to 1-inch deep will keep soil surface dry enough to render it inhospitable to flying potting soil bugs.

  4. 4

    Eliminate excess moisture from your potted plant. This will make the flying bugs unhappy, and lack of water will quickly kill their offspring in the soil. Reduce watering to the point of allowing the plant to dry out as much as possible without harming it. Make sure the container provides excellent drainage. Drain the plant in your sink until you don't see any more water running from it. Get rid of that saucer the pot has been sitting in. It collects water, which invites bugs.

  1. 1

    Make an irresistible larvae bait with a raw potato. Cut it into small cubes and set several of them on the plant's soil. The baby bugs will be drawn to feed on the bait in a day or two. Seal the potato pieces with larvae attached in a repurposed plastic bag and dispose of it in an outdoor receptacle.

  2. 2

    Catch little flying bugs with sticky traps. Make your own by colouring both sides of a 3x5 index card with yellow crayon or marker. Attach it to a wooden craft stick with tape and coat all surfaces of the card with petroleum jelly. Stick the trap into the soil. Soon flying bugs will be hopelessly trapped in the gooey jelly.

  3. 3

    Make a trap for flying bugs with a disposable plastic cup. Pour ¼-inch of beer, wine, fruit juice or vinegar into it and add a drop of liquid dish soap. Bugs will go for the fermenting sugar; the soap will cause them to drown in the liquid when they touch down on it. Apply clear tape over the opening of the cup, and cut a 1/8 inch hole near the centre of the tape. The hole lets bugs in, but their aim isn't the best and they'll stick to the tape if they try to make a run for it. Set the trap near your plant and you'll soon have a cupful of bugs conveniently packaged for handy disposal.

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