Your bedroom looks amazing with all those potted succulents lining the windowsill.
Two of your favorite succulents are the light pink candy-colored Dragon Fruit with its beautiful fruits and the Aeonium Kiwi that resembles a full-bloomed rose.
You have cared for them for five years, and they have been doing great.
However, last week, there was trouble in paradise. When you came back after two days from your parent’s home, you saw that your succulents’ fruits were missing bits and pieces.
It looked like they had been bitten off. Upon closer inspection, you saw these tiny insects that looked like flies.
Let us enlighten you if you don’t know what you are dealing with. These tiny insects are called gnats and can be the bane of your succulent’s existence.
The good news is that you can easily get rid of them. If they have already damaged your succulent, you will have to trim the leaves, remove the rotten fruit and repot the plant in new soil.
Nobody likes pests! Succulents are vulnerable to insects for several reasons, such as overwatering, underwatering, root rot, fungus, etc.
When it comes to gnats, they can be a little hard to spot because they mostly hide in the soil. Many people cannot spot the infestation until it’s too late.
Always check the soil first for positive sightings so you can take the appropriate steps to eliminate gnats.
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What are Gnats?
Gnats, also known as Sciarid Flies or Fungus Gnats, are the most common type of gnats that appear on your succulents every few months.
They look quite similar to fruit flies and have the same habits. The one thing that separates gnats from fruit flies is that the latter love soaked soil and the former are after rotting fruit.
If your succulent is not planted in well-draining soil and the pot does not have a drainage system, you will see gnats flying around it and settling into the soil.
In the soil, you will find gnat larvae as well. A soil mixture with coconut coir and peat moss is what attracts gnats.
If you look closely, you will see that a gnat larva looks similar to a mosquito, without the proboscis (the appendage they use to pierce the skin and feed) and with six legs.
The decomposing plant parts in the soil feed the larvae, and soon, they fly up to feed on the leaves and fruits.
Types of Gnats
There are different types of gnats that affect your indoor succulents. As we said, they are primarily found in soil.
Examine the soil using a flashlight to ensure they are the root of the problem. Move the soil around with your finger or cotton swab and inspect it closely with a magnifying glass.
After making a positive ID of these culprits, the next step is identifying what type of gnats you are dealing with.
Fungus gnats measure between 1/16 and 1/8 inch. They have translucent wings and are grayish or black in color.
These gnats lay ovular eggs that have smooth surfaces. For fungus gnat activity, look for their cocoons or white eggs in the soil.
Gall gnats resemble mosquitoes. Gall gnats are red in color and have a flattened larva with tapered ends. They are hairy and have transparent wings, each with a cross vein.
You will be glad to know that they don’t bite you. They feed on the succulent sap, hindering the plant’s growth.
Buffalo gnats are around 1/8 inch long. Buffalo gnats are grey, green, or tan in color and have tiny rounded wings.
Male buffalo gnats feed on the succulent’s flower nectar, and the females feed on blood. So, if you have buffalo gnats flying around your succulent, your beloved plant is unsafe.
Getting Rid of Gnats
Gnats reproduce in wet and warm conditions. They lay eggs in the soil and then feed off the succulent to grow.
Even though gnats have a lifespan of a well, they reproduce rapidly, which is why they stay around for a long time.
So, if you think to “wait them out,” the sun will never come out. Each gnat survives in different conditions.
For example, fungus gnats love humid conditions, buffalo gnats prefer water and less heat, and gall gnats are usually found outdoors.
Still, an open window with your succulent in sight gives them the necessary invitation.
Now that you know how what gnats are attracted to and how to spot them, let’s take a look at a few natural ways to get rid of them:
Use Gnat Traps
The first and most obvious solution is using a gnat trap. Fungus gnats eat everything, which means once they are in your house, you will find them circling your succulents and the trash can.
To kill adult gnats, use flypaper or chemical gnat traps. However, these might lessen the aesthetic appeal of your house.
The second option is an LED rechargeable insect trap that combines fans and colored lights to draw gnats in.
This trap will also take care of common house flies and mosquitoes. You will be taking care of many insects with one stone.
This is an excellent solution if you don’t have central air conditioning.
You can also make your own gnat trap at home with a couple of household and kitchen items. Mix sugar, vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap in a bowl.
Place this bowl in the areas gnats usually visit. The smell of vinegar will call to them, and the thin layer of dish soap will act as a trap, preventing them from flying out.
Dry the Soil
Gnats love wet soil. So, if you have been overwatering your succulent, you are the one who sent them the invitation.
Do the Soil Finger Test to find out how deep the moisture goes. If your finger comes out wet, better repot the succulent.
Dry the roots for at least five days and then trim the roots to remove any fungus.
Speaking of overwatering, too much water can also cause root rot and the leaves to become mushy.
If you spot dozens of larvae in the soil, it’s better to use new soil. Ensure the pot has proper drainage so the same problem is not repeated.
Spray the Succulent With Alcohol
Since gnats don’t have a protective waxy coating like mealybugs and other insects, alcohol hits them directly and suffocates them to death within 24 hours.
To make your gnat-killing alcohol spray, mix one part rubbing alcohol (high concentration) with 1/2 part water in a spray bottle. Spray the succulent and soil with it.
If you are worried about alcohol harming your succulent, don’t overdo it. Two spritzes are enough.
Use Dish Soap
Some chemicals will kill the gnats but harm your succulent in the process. Hence, you need to use natural solutions that are not harmful to your plant.
One ingredient that will help you maintain your succulent’s health and keep gnats away is dish soap.
Add five to eight drops of dish soap to a spray bottle filled with water. Spray your succulent and soil generously with it.
You are probably wondering, won’t this keep your soil moist and create a ripe ground for gnats to grow?
Well, soap is toxic to gnats, so it won’t allow them to lay eggs in the soil. Moreover, they won’t be able to eat the fruit and leaves and drink the sap.
Use Diatomaceous Earth
How about using something deadly to kill gnats? Diatomaceous earth (DE) contains diatoms that have various shapes.
These shapes have sharp angles that act like shards and cause much damage. In fact, they can shred gnats to oblivion.
Diatoms puncture gnats on a cellular level, which is why they are great at killing insects that terrorize your succulent.
DE is lethal because it pierces the exoskeleton joints of gnats and shreds them from the inside.
Nematodes are roundworms that invade gnat larvae and feed on them to survive in the soil. They also help kill soil-borne pests such as garden grubs, fleas, etc.
The predatory nature of nematodes makes them safe for your succulent. They make the soil arable and release certain bacteria, which kill gnats from within.
One of the best things about using nematodes as natural gnat killers is that they are safe for your pets, family, and other plants.
Use Neem Oil
Neem oil contains Azadirachtin, which clogs the airways of gnats and suffocates them. Creating a DIY spray with this ingredient can help eliminate gnats in just a few days.
The plus side, it will leave your house smelling fresh. Neem oil is not harmful to your succulent. In fact, it can also help treat root rot.
Add a few drops of neem essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water. Spray it on your succulent soil once daily and watch the magic unfold.
Getting rid of gnats is easy. You just need to be patient and use a combination of the killer methods mentioned above.
We recommend starting with flypaper and LED rechargeable insect traps and moving ahead with DIY sprays if the former methods are ineffective.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do Succulents Attract Fruit Flies?
Yes, succulents attract fruit flies. Fruit flies are attracted to the moisture in succulent pots; the plants are even more attractive to fruit flies when they are overwatered.
Fruit flies are attracted to succulents that have dark, dirty-looking leaves, so it’s important to keep your pots as clean as possible.
Are succulents and alpines the same?
Succulents (from the Latin, ‘soil’) are plants whose leaves store water, allowing a leaf to dry and drop without the plant dying.
In contrast, alpine plants (from the Latin, ‘highland’) store water in their stems, leaves, and flowers, and grow at high altitudes.
Are succulents and sedums the same?
Sedum and succulents are different forms of the same plant. Both are succulents, and both come from the same botanical family.
Both are easy-care plants, both need bright, indirect light and standing water. The main difference is that sedums form fleshy leaves, while succulents form tough, leathery skin with fleshy leaves.