Gnats – The Complete Guide To Gnat Bites and Prevention

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Gnats are one of the most annoying pests you will probably ever encounter. Several questions like where do gnats come from and do gnats bite are often asked by homeowners and people who are dealing with them. If you have found yourself with a gnat issue, you will like want to know how to get rid of gnats the easiest and quickest way possible. Below you will learn everything you need to know about these pests from what they are to how to prevent them from coming back n the future.

What are gnats?

gnat up close

Gnats are small, two-winged insects. There are several species of these pests, some more annoying than others. Some bite while others are more of a bother than anything else. Often these pests are mistaken for mosquitoes but the two are not one in the same. Gnats are full grown when you see them flying about, though they are often mistaken for babies. Their legs are almost longer than their bodies, making them a little obscure to look at.

Common household gnats

If you have found gnats in your home, you are probably wondering where do gnats come from and how did they find their way into your personal space. The good news is that the gnats generally found inside your home don’t bite and are nothing more than a slight inconvenience. Below are the three common species found in your home and a little bit of information on each of them.

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  • Fruit fly. This is the most common type of gnat and also the most well known. It also is sometimes called the vinegar fly or the pomace fly, depending on who you ask and what part of the country you are located in. Fruit flies usually are found around fruits and vegetables toward the end of summer. Bananas in your home may attract these gnats, as well as other over-ripe fruits in the fruit bowl. Their bodies are gray or tan, with their abdomens having stripes on them. Fruit flies always have bright red eyes.
  • Drain fly. You probably can guess where this gnat gets it’s name. Also called the moth fly, these gnats generally aren’t bothersome. They hang out around the walls where they have been attracted to drains. They are generally found in the basement, bathroom, or kitchen areas of the home. Their black, fuzzy appearance helps to identify them when needed. Because they are triangular shape, they are one of the more odd varieties of gnats.
  • Fungus gnat. These are the more aggravating pests of the three. Fungus gnats will have you asking how to get rid of gnats right away. While similar to fruit flies, the fungus gnat hold it’s wings prominently off to the side and their bodies are more slender. These gnats are identified by the “Y” shape on their wings. They generally hang around houseplants that are over-watered because they provide ideal breeding conditions.

Life cycle of gnats

GnatsLike most insects (beetles, bees, and mosquitoes included), gnats have four stages to their lives. The eggs are laid by the mated females. When they hatch, they are considered larva. When the gnats are at the larva stage, they are classified as maggots. They then move on to the pupa stage and after that, they are finally adults. That is when the life cycle begins all over again with mating and reproduction.

The breeding generally occurs when swarms of gnats get together. The females then lay their eggs in the environment they see fit, usually wet soil or mud and water. The entire life cycle can occur over the course of two to three weeks during the warmer months. Mating repeats over and over again until the cold sets in, and then the gnats go dormant in the larva and egg stages. They will begin to finish the life cycle again the following spring when the temperatures become more stable. In the warmer states, gnats can reproduce all year long.

Where do gnats come from?

The general answer is that gnats come from eggs. There is no rhyme or reason to why they are here, just that they are. Depending on the species, their locations vary. These are some of the various places that gnats come from and why they choose these places.

  • Soil around plants. The moisture in the soil provides a prime environment for fungus gnats to reproduce. The females lays the eggs, and the larva can grow without anything disturbing them. There are no predators when house plants are used for reproduction.
  • In plants. The gall gnats actually lay their eggs on the plants. The plant then develop “galls” which is where the name comes from. This will affect the health of the plants and many will die as a result of the gnats using them to reproduce.
  • Fresh water. Midges love fresh water sources and will lay their eggs directly in a pond or river. Sometimes they will even use standing rain water if there isn’t another source better suited.
  • Mud or sand. Midges that bite or “biting midges” tend to use sand or mud to lay their eggs in. Sometimes they will also use decomposing plant matter, but generally stick to the first two options for the privacy issue.

Do gnats bite?

When encountering gnats, you may be wondering whether or not they bite. The answer is that some gnats do bite while others are just annoying insects that hang around. If you suspect you have been bitten by a gnat and may be having a reaction, you will need to get checked out immediately. There are specific species that are classified as biting gnats and they will be explored in more detail below.

How do gnats bite

Gnat bites are similar to mosquito bites. They both use similar methods when attacking their victim, though the gnats are more intense. They have mouth cutting parts which allow them to cut through your skin and as they begin sucking, they are pumping anti-clotting agents into your blood system. This process allows the gnats to continually suck blood without your body’s response to begin clotting. Gnat bites often hurt more than mosquitoes and the victim loses way more blood than the victim who was attacked by a mosquito.

Where do gnats bite humans?

If you have ever been bitten by a gnat, you will know it. There is a distinct difference between them and mosquitoes. Sometimes pain is associated with the bite site, and allergic reactions can develop from the anti-clotting juices the gnats pump into your body. Below you will find the places humans are likely to get bitten by gnats.

  • Arms. If you are prone to wearing tank tops or short sleeves, gnats will easily be able to bite your arms.
  • Feet. Wearing flip flops and going barefoot leave you open to gnat bites, especially in the sandy beach areas.
  • Face. If you get bitten on your face, you should be looked at immediately. Usually your face is uncovered, which is why it is appealing to gnats. Sometimes the gnats will even bite your eyelids, which could be bad news if you’re allergic.
  • Any available skin. Being unaware of the gnats, you may be susceptible to bites on any area of your body that is uncovered. Gnats aren’t particular about where they bite you, which makes any exposed skin fair game.

Signs of a gnat bite

Once you have been bitten, you may not even know what bit you or be sure that it is even a bite you are dealing with. You will need to consider your symptoms and possibly seek a medical professional’s advice to determine what has happened. Sometimes bed bug bites are mistaken for gnat bites, so be sure about what you are dealing with before treating anything. These are some signs that indicate you may have been bitten by a gnat.

  • Red pin prick at site location. If it looks localized and like you were pricked with a straight pin, it may be a gnat bite.
  • Itching. Gnat bites will itch, but they won’t swell up like a mosquito bite. You will itch and itch and itch with no relief. Redness may occur around the bite but if it begins to spread, you should seek medical attention.
  • Pain. Because you are actually getting bitten by this insect, you may feel pain. Tylenol is usually effective in reducing it but if the pain remains for longer than a day or two, you should be checked out by your doctor.

Keep in mind that allergic reactions can occur with gnat bite. If you are having any abnormalities with the bite or feel like something just isn’t right, you should definitely get checked out by your doctor. Allergies to gnats aren’t usually discovered until a bite occurs and then action needs to be taken immediately to avoid any complications. If you are handling the bite well, you can treat it like you would anything else. Tylenol for the pain is recommended and you may use Neosporin if you want to as well. The majority of the population is not allergic to gnat bites, and many people don’t even notice they have been bitten unless there is multiple bite sites or there is an allergic reaction.

Species of gnats that do bite

You may be wondering what type of gnats bite. Because so many people ask something along the lines of do gnats bite, there has to be awareness of which species actually will feed on humans or livestock. Below is a list of the biting species, and where you may find them.

  • Sand gnat. Sometimes these are also referred to as sand flies. You will typically find these in the sand. The southern states often have issues with sand gnats and humans being bit while on the beach. It is especially common with tourists.
  • Biting midges. These are not to be mistaken with the non-biting midges. While they both look similar, they are very different when it comes to what they feed on. You will find these gnats around the water like ponds, lakes, and rivers. Typically this happens to swimmers and sunbathers. This species will also bite livestock and pets if made available in any instance. They are also worrisome because they suck so much blood and the possible transmission of diseases is elevated. It is best to watch yourself if you know the biting midges may be present in the area.
  • Black gnats. Found pretty much along the water and near mud, black gnats are part of the biting family. You may also have heard them referred to as buffalo gnats or black flies. This species will not only bite humans, but livestock as well.

How to get rid of gnats

If you have found that you are dealing with gnats, the next step is removal. Gnats do bite and will cause havoc in your home if they are not dealt with. You will need to find the place where gnats are coming from and begin the removal process from there. These are the steps you should take in the removal of gnats from your home.

  • Check your home for plants with excessively wet soil. If you have a green thumb and are keeping several plants that need water in your home, you will have to inspect each one. As the soil stays wet, the gnats are able to reproduce rapidly. Let the soil completely dry out before watering it again, which will take about two weeks. This will kill the larva and allow the gnat population to die off, leaving you dealing only with the ones buzzing around your home. If you are still seeing gnats after letting the plant dry out, you can use a mixture of lemon-scented dish soap and water to spray on the plant. This will eliminate the live gnats. When all else fails, you can transplant the plant into fresh potting soil which will be larva and egg free for sure.
  • Remove fruit from bowls or counters. Many people allow their fruit (sometimes vegetables as well) to sit on the dining room table or in a bowl for easy snack access. Bananas, grapes, and even oranges can attract gnats as they begin to get overripe. Remove the food immediately and place all the unaffected fruit into the refrigerator. This will deny the gnats access to food and their ability to reproduce.
  • Homemade gnat trap. If you are worried about the number of gnats remaining in your home after you have identified the source, this is the perfect solution. You will need a mason jar and some apple cider vinegar. Fill the jar with the apple cider vinegar about half way and then close the lid. Poke holes in the lid and place it in the area of your home where you normally see the gnats. You will also be able to make another similar contraption using a shot glass, some red wine, and a dash of dish soap. These will be smaller compared to the mason jars, but the gnats will try and sit on the wine but will fall through and drown thanks to the dish soap.
  • Purchase an insecticide. You can use this to directly spray the gnats, killing them on contact. This is best used in conjunction with the first two methods after you can be sure eggs and larva have been killed. Make sure that you read the label to ensure you are getting something that will focus on gnats only, not a generic “kill all” spray. Please note that while the insecticide may work to kill the gnats, it is not the first choice recommendation. You will need to read the label thoroughly to see what the risks of using it are, especially if you have small children or pets in the home as well.
  • Pour ammonia down the drain. For gnats that are hanging around your drains, this is going to be the best fix. This will kill all of the larva and eggs, hopefully eliminating any possibility of future generations coming back. It is also suggested that vegetable oil can be used around the drain to catch the adult gnats. If you plan to use both methods, it is suggested that you wait at least a day between the two.
  • Sticky traps. Most of the sticky traps you can purchase at the hardware store can be cut down to different sizes. These are particularly helpful in the instances where fungus gnats are infesting house plants. You can stick them on the wooden stakes used to hold the plant up. Every few days you can replace them until you notice no gnats being caught. This would be great as a supplement for the dried out plant or plant transfer when the eggs and larva have been killed.

Prevention of infestation

Now that you have learned how to get rid of gnats, you will need to learn how to prevent another infestation. After having to get rid of these pests, you will also have a better idea of where gnats come from as well. These are some suggestions for prevention, which are also good to use before a gnat infestation occurs.

  • Get rid of the gnats’ food supply. Store all of your fruit in the refrigerator. It will not only prolong the life of the fruit, but it will eliminate these gnats from hanging around the kitchen and dining room areas. Another tip is to avoid leaving unwashed or unrinsed dishes in the sink. Any minor scrap of food will attract the gnats. Drain gnats and fruit flies alike will be attracted to a sink full of dishes so make sure they are either washed immediately or at the very least rinsed off so that no food particles will be left to attract the gnats.
  • Manage your trash properly. Make sure you are taking out the garbage nightly and that all of your trashcans have lids. The less food that is openly exposed, the better. You should also wash your cans and their lids at least once a month to ensure nothing is left on the bottom of them or an insect has not laid eggs in the lid. Bleach will kill everything on contact, so a water and bleach mixture would be the best cleaning choice.
  • Do not water your houseplants too much. Overly moist soil will encourage the breeding and reproduction of gnats. Write out a schedule that will allow you to keep track of your watering and reduce the possibility of too much water making the soil soaking wet and not just damp.
  • Inspect your doors and windows. Check your screens for possible holes or gaps that are allowing the gnats to enter. Your doors should all have a weatherstrip lining it to ensure there are no gaps between the door and the floor. Make sure it is intact because if it isn’t, you will need to replace it. Keeping track of possible entry points will help eliminate all pests, not just gnats.
  • Eliminate dampness in your home. Wipe down the shower or tub once it has been used, especially if you are worried about drain gnats. Check your basement for areas that may be damp or moist due to flooding or recent rains. If you discover you have some damp areas, use some bleach and water mixture and spray the areas to ensure they will not become breeding zones until you can get them cleaned up properly.

Dealing with gnats is complicated, especially when you have them in your home. Wondering things like where do gnats come from and do gnats bite is typical, and both answers will affect how you treat the issue and how quickly it needs to be resolved. Learning how to get rid of gnats is easy but the actual process may take some trial and error. If you can’t get rid of them the first time around, don’t get discouraged. Sometimes the removal can take two or three rounds, especially if the infestation was bad.

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