Adult fungus gnats are not direct threats to plants but rather the larval gnats are the ones that cause destruction. As the name implies, these gnats are dependent on fungi. They particularly prefer the fungi found in the roots of plants. The larvae themselves do not directly attack or dependent on the roots as food but they inevitably destroy the roots by feeding on the fungi found on the roots. These gnats are short-lived flies but can reproduce very efficiently, making them pests in some cases. They are of various species classified into six taxonomical families, namely, Sciaridae, Diadocidiidae, Ditomyiidae, Keroplatidae, Bolitophilidae, and Mycetophilidae.
Adult fungus gnats are among the important pollinators in nature. They generally do not pose threats on adult and healthy plants but they can endanger the development of seedlings. They are considered as secondary infestations, which may indicate more serious primary infestation such as fungal infestation of the roots. These gnats are encouraged to lay eggs in soil that are water-saturated and have growing fungal colonies. The larvae inadvertently burry themselves in the soil. This process kills the roots as the larvae eat the fungi in the roots.
Gnat infestation exacerbates the rotting of the roots, eventually leading to the death of the infested plant. One way of preventing gnat infestation is to control the supply of water. Over-saturating the soil or the growth media should be avoided. Adding sterile sand cover on top will also prevent the larvae from burrowing into the roots. Using wood or inorganic mulch may also provide some level of protection. Biological control may also be implemented by introducing Hypoaspis miles mites and/or applying the biological larvicide Bacillus thuringiensis. These organisms can kill the gnats in their larval stage.
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