Gnats Scientific Name: Tephritidae

All About Gnats

Gnats is a common name given to a host of small, irritable flies that present themselves in warm, humid climates. They have many different names which may vary upon regional dialect. These pests may or may not bite, depending on their genus, but are most accurately described as fruit flies, which are harmless, fungal gnats. These insects are sometimes attracted to house plants.

Gnats may swarm from time to time if there is a great number within any given location. They can usually be found in smaller groups and are particularly persistent and annoying, though harmless. These flying creatures can sometimes be viewed across agricultural lands in great numbers due to an abundance of food. These swarms are known as ghosts and can cover a range of many miles. The gnats within a swarm are called Tephritidae; a specific name when used in the context of a pest.

Gnats Habitat

These tiny creatures inhabit almost every part of the world. They have an abundance of population and are very adaptive to the climate they live in. Gnats typically favor warmer locations with high levels of humidity due to their preference for dead or dying fruit or crops that grow more commonly in these conditions. They usually thrive in temperatures that range between 75-80 degree Fahrenheit (but can survive almost any temperature above freezing).

Gnats can be a common problem in cities, especially where poor waste management or rotting organic materials are readily available. Once inside the home, they can take up residence and lay eggs in food or fruit that is left out in the open. These insects have incessantly high rates of reproduction, and if the source of the problem is not resolved, they can infest a home within days or weeks. They will live anywhere that they can locate food and will travel once their food source has been depleted.

Life Cycle of Gnats

There are four stages in a gnat life-cycle, which is common for most Diptera species: egg, larvae, pupa and adulthood. The female will typically lay her eggs in a food source, such as a fruit or other food item with a short shelf life. This will ensure that a meal will be available when the eggs hatch. These tiny eggs may take as little as 24 hours to hatch. The larval stage is also notably short and as such, an infestation can occur within days if not treated immediately.

Eggs hatch into larvae, also known as maggots. In the first days of their lives, larvae feed as much as they can in order to gain enough energy and nutrition for the third life-phase – the pupa stage. If maggots are found within the home, pest control and sanitation action should be taken as soon as possible.

The pupa stage is the third stage in this life-cycle. During this time, the freshly-fed larvae will produce a cocoon-like cast in which they will emerge in a matter of days or weeks as fully mature Tephritidae. These gnats may live from a few weeks to a few months depending on their species. It is unlikely they will live to a year.

Gnats and Humans

Anyone who has left fruit out for a few days will be familiar with these micro-flies. Tiny, yet persistent, fruit gnats are particularly annoying in the home. They come inside to seek food sources and may stay if there is a hospitable environment for reproduction.

Tephritidae may be used as a form of pest control, where noxious weeds are prevalent. Gnats will eat the weeds and thus be praised for their presence. However, due to their fast reproduction cycles, they can quickly become a pest when uncontrolled. Positive effects include the ability to help pollinate plant life, but they can also destroy entire crops just as easily, particularly olive trees.

In some cases, certain gnats bite. This is similar to the bite of a mosquito, and may cause reasonable inconvenience or irritation to the victim. As with other blood sucking critters, there is a risk of this creature spreading unwanted germs, though the risk of any major disease contraction from this species in uncommon.

Pest Control for Gnats

Tephritidae, or gnats, may become a problem in the home but are easily controlled. The best way to remove them from your home is to alter the conditions in which they thrive. House plants may present themselves as an ideal space to live, but this doesn’t mean they need to be thrown away. The same goes for fruit, which should be correctly stored.

Here are some simple preventative measures you can take:

  • House plants: Identify which plants fungal gnats are attracted to. If the plant has wet soil, allow it to dry out completely before the next time you water it. You should try to limit how frequently you water house plants as over-watering can increase molds and fungal growth which attract these pests.
  • Cleaning: You should try to maintain a good level of sanitation. Dead bugs act as another food source for gnats, and therefor should be wiped or vacuumed away. This is also worth repeating after pest control methods have been applied.
  • Fruit and other food: Should be kept away at all times. Often, the tiny fruit eating creatures will indulge, causing it to spoil faster, and thus, attract more bugs. Rotten fruit is also an ideal place for females to lay their eggs.

If these steps do not resolve an infestation, insecticides may be used cautiously. Please note, they can be harmful to pets and children instructions should always be read and followed. Professional extermination is also available, though is not usually required unless larvae, or maggot, populations are found in excess.

Other methods for the occasional unwelcome guest may include:

  • Fly swatters: These are a quick fix and a traditional method of killing stray gnats.
  • Insect traps: These devices are also easy to obtain. They use light to attract and electrocute gnats. Sticky tape may also be used as a green alternative.

Gnat Entomology

Gnats Scientific Name: Tephritidae

Tephritidae fall under the diptera species and account for only one of over 240,000 creatures in this category. They are closely related to mosquitoes and certain types even share the same desire for blood meals. Diptera simply means “two wings.”

Gnats are categorized under the animalia kingdom and belong to the arthropoda phylum. They are Insecta by class but belong predominately to the Tephritidae, or Tephritoidea super-families; this name is specific to fruit flies and fungal flies which are common pests.