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How to Get Rid of Gnats in Your House

As with any pest, knowing what the pest is and what is attracting them is the key to keeping them out – or getting them out. Read on for all the information you need to know about these bugs to help get rid of gnats in your house.

What are gnats

Some species of flies are indeed “gnats” – but people usually use the word gnat to describe any number of small, nondescript nuisance flies. So, when you’re seeing what you think are gnats, it could be a few different kinds of small flies, some of which could bite, but overall are simply annoying to humans and animals. The word comes from a Germanic root related to gnaw and meaning “biting insect.” So, when you ask what gnats are, you’re really asking what kind of small fly do I have.

gnats on a fly sticky strip

What do gnats look like

This depends on the kind of small fly you’re dealing with. In our area, the name is often applied to the black fly, midge, biting midge, fruit fly, and other small flies that hover about the eyes of humans and other animals causing you to swat them away. Some adult midges look similar to mosquitoes, with the same dark brown coloring on their bodies and wings, and bodies that extend beyond their wings. Many biting midges look like stocky flies, with wings that are as long their bodies and wing patterns resembling checkerboards. Black flies are small flies (smaller than house flies), rounded in shape, measuring 1/25″ to 1/5″ in length, and ranging in color from dark grey to black. They feature a distinct hump-like body, as well as noticeably short legs, one set of wings, and reddish eyes. Fruit flies are a very small oval fly with adults growing only to be 1/8″ inch in length. Their thorax is tan, and their abdomens appear to have black and yellow stripes with a gray underbelly. Fruit flies often have red eyes. Some other types of fruit flies appear to be solid gray or black. So, even though the flies people call gnats  may be similar in size and color to each other, they really are represented by several different kinds of flies.

What attracts gnats

fly eating a rotting banana

Since the term applies to several different kinds of small flies, there are a few things that could be attracting them depending on the species. Flies in general like rotting food in excessively moist conditions. They especially like fermenting fruits and vegetables and fermented liquids like beer, liquor, and wine. Attractive odors from fermentation and other decay processes come from dark, moist, and unsanitary environments like drains, garbage disposals, and trash bins where rotting organic matter of all kinds can collect. Adult flies and their immature life stages – among which are maggots – will be present in such areas precisely because of those odors and the food resources it’s creating for them. Other small gnat-like flies are drawn to people because of body secretions or other naturally produced human odors.

Where do gnats come from

Gnats, like any other flies seemingly come from… everywhere! They appear to be all over the place, and it often seems there’s no way to get rid of them. However, if you don’t have what attracts flies and don’t provide them breeding sites, they will move on to the next house that does.

How to get rid of gnats in house

The best way to get rid of gnats in a house is to keep it clean and dry. Sanitation, moisture control, and disposing of overripe produce are your best defenses against gnats. Gnat control comes when you remove what attracts them. Wipe up spills and wet food debris immediately both inside your home and on your deck or patio. Even one open beer can or far-gone apple is enough to attract flies (and yellow jackets!) so discard them as soon as possible. Keep trash cans closed with tightly fitting lids. The good news is, that will help with cockroaches, rats, mice, racoons, and even bears. You know those bananas sitting on your counter that you’ve decided you’ll use for banana bread this weekend? Put them in the fridge. That way, even though the bananas will produce the odors that fruit flies like, they will not be out in the open attracting flies. If the flies appear in rooms where there seems to be nothing to attract them, check for holes in screens or gaps around screen frames. These types of flies are invariably attracted to light so if they show up in a bedroom on a summer night, it’s likely the screens are not completely closed at the tops or bottoms of the windows, leaving gaps the flies can slip right through.

How to get rid of gnats outside

Unfortunately, we can’t help you there. For most flying pests, having a fan outside will help. That’s a great tip for getting rid of mosquitoes outside, too. They are notoriously bad flyers. Fly strips can help, too. But at the end of the day, when you’re outside, you’re in their domain now!

Gnat control doesn’t really mean a gnat exterminator. There are fly strips and lights and things like that, but gnat control comes with sanitation and making sure you don’t have what attracts them in and around your home. And keep in mind – gnats are basically small flies. So, anything you would do to avoid flies will help avoid gnats.

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