Have you ever observed tiny flying insects hovering around your face, small plants, or fruits? And wondered, “Are gnats flies?” They resemble flies in appearance, but you don’t know if they are the same. This article will discover the surprising truth about gnats and flies.
What are Gnats?
Gnats are small, two-winged flying insects that belong to the fly family, Diptera. They are tiny, measuring one to seven millimeters long, and vary in colors, from black and brown to yellow and orange. They lay their eggs in moist soil, rotting vegetation, or standing water, making them common around homes, gardens, and parks. Gnats are mostly attracted to sweet, ripe, or fermented fruits and plants.
Do Gnats Bite or Sting?
Many gnats do not bite or sting humans, but some species have mouthparts adapted for piercing, then sucking the blood of animals or humans. These include sand gnats, buffalo gnats, and midges. They are known to cause itching and skin irritation, allergies, and transmit diseases like the West Nile virus, Zika virus, and malaria.
Are Gnats and Flies the Same?
No, gnats and flies are not the same. Although they belong to the same family (Diptera), they have different characteristics that distinguish them. Flies typically measure larger than gnats, have a more robust body, and fly in a straighter line than gnats. In contrast, gnats have a slender body, longer legs, and fly erratically, often in groups. Additionally, flies do not have a clear division between their head and body, whereas gnats have a well-defined neck.
Types of Gnats
Fungus gnats are tiny, dark-colored gnats that often appear in large numbers around moist soil, plant bases, pots, and garden beds. They typically feed on fungus, decaying organic matter, and plant roots. They do not transmit diseases or cause harm to humans, but their larva can cause damage to plant roots by feeding on them. They are known as a garden pest and cause plants to wilt and die if left untreated.
Eye gnats are tiny, non-biting gnats that are attracted to the moisture and secretions around the eyes, nose, and mouth of humans and animals. They often gather in swarms, causing irritation and discomfort to the host. They are common around areas with poor sanitation, livestock, and waste disposal sites.
Buffalo gnats, also known as black flies, are a type of biting gnat that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They are typically found near streams, rivers, and lakes, and are most active during the day. They can cause skin infections, allergic reactions, and transmit diseases like tularemia and river blindness.
Types of Flies
House flies are medium-sized flies, measuring about six to seven millimeters long, known for their oval-shaped, flat body, and reddish eyes. They are attracted to rotting and decaying organic matter, including waste, manure, spoiled foods, and garbage. They can spread diseases like cholera, typhoid, and food poisoning by landing on contaminated surfaces or food.
Fruit flies are tiny, one to five millimeters long flies, known for their bright colors, and large compound eyes. They are common around ripened fruits, vegetables, and fermenting food, and are attracted to sweet, sugary odors. They do not pose a health threat to humans but can be a nuisance when they infest households or food industries.
Blow flies, sometimes called carrion flies, are large, metallic-colored flies that feed on decaying animal matter. They typically lay their eggs near or on the dead animal body, and their larva feeds on the decomposing flesh. They are essential in forensic science in determining the time of death for a victim based on the stage of larval growth.
How to Get Rid of Gnats and Flies
- Keep your home clean and dry.
- Dispose of trash and food waste properly.
- Do not let standing water accumulate inside or outside the house.
- Store food in sealed containers and refrigerate or freeze what is needed.
- Seal any cracks and gaps in windows or doors to prevent entry.
Natural Repellents and Traps
- Essential oils like lavender, peppermint or citronella can repel gnats and flies.
- Sticky traps made with apple cider vinegar and dish soap attracts and traps gnats and fruit flies.
- Insect growth regulators prevent the larva of gnats and flies from reaching maturity.
If the infestation is severe, pesticides are an option for getting rid of flies and gnats. Pyrethroid-based sprays or insecticides with BacillusThuringiensis (BT) israelensis as an active ingredient are effective against gnats and flies. Consult with a pest control professional before using insecticides.
Despite the confusion between gnats and flies, they are two distinct types of flying insects. Gnats belong to the Diptera family, like flies, and come in different types. Gnats are mostly harmless to humans, while some flies like the housefly can infest homes and cause health problems. However, preventive measures, natural repellents and traps, and insecticides can help control their infestations.
- Q: What are some natural repellents for gnats and flies?
- A: Essential oils, like lavender, peppermint, or citronella, can repel gnats and flies.
- Q: What is the difference between gnats and flies?
- A: Although they belong to the same Diptera family, gnats and flies have different characteristics that distinguish them. Gnats usually measure smaller than flies, have longer legs, and fly erratically, while flies have a more robust body and a more direct flight.
- Q: Can gnats be harmful to humans?
- A: Gnats are mostly harmless to humans, except for some species that have mouthparts adapted for piercing and sucking the blood of humans or animals, like buffalo gnats and sand gnats. They can also transmit diseases like the West Nile virus, Zika virus, or Malaria.
- Q: What causes a gnat infestation?
- A: Gnats are attracted to moist soil, decaying organic matter, standing water, and sweet, ripe, or fermented fruits or plants. So, an unclean environment, poor sanitation or waste disposal, and overwatering plants can cause a gnat infestation.