Gnats

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Gnat Facts

  • Gnats are not immature stages of flies, but rather tiny adult flying insects.
  • Most household gnats come from eggs deposited in damp soil, such as over-watered potted plants.
  • Gnats do not sting and only female gnats bite.

What Are Gnats?

Contrary to popular belief, gnats are not immature stages of flies, but are actually tiny adult flying insects in the order Diptera that also includes mosquitoes, crane flies, black flies and midges. Gnats belong to several different families, consisting of species numbering 3,000 in 150 genera or more:

  • Mycetophilidae - the fungus gnat family includes members that are attracted to damp areas, such as over-watered houseplants. Mycetophilidae also includes around a dozen species that display bio-luminescence. This light-producing feature is used to attract prey but also makes these species more vulnerable to predators, as well. /li>
  • Sciaridae - dark winged fungus gnats that resemble mosquitoes cause concern for mushroom farmers and can cause problems for homeowners, as they also infest potted plants in homes.
  • Anisipodidae - wood gnats and window gnats form a smaller family of gnats that can be annoying household pests.

Gnats, fruit flies and midges similar but not the same animal
Gnats, fruit flies and midges are often thought of as the same insect but are actually different in many ways. While most household gnats can be annoying and problematic to control, most household species don’t bite or sting like some midges and most mosquitoes. However, some biting, disease carrying gnats cause river blindness in sub-Saharan areas. No-see-ums, or sandflies, fall into the midge family group of tiny flying insects. Midges and some biting gnats need blood meals to reproduce effectively and some of these biting species cause allergic reactions and transmit diseases. Male gnats sometimes form mating swarms that are known as “ghosts.” These swarming events occur usually at dusk; no-see-ums, however, swarm at dawn and at dusk.

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