The Q&A Archives: Black flea-like bugs on indoor plants/flowers

Question: I have many herb plants and flowers growing indoors on both my east and west facing windowsills this summer. Recently I have noticed little black flea-like bugs flying around my plants and flowers. Sometimes I see them crawling on the soil surface,and other times emerging from below the soil surface. I have tried to spray water on them and the leaves of my plants, but they just keep coming back- they crawl and fly so quickly, you just can't catch them! Please tell me what these bugs might be and how I might get rid of them. I think they are slowly eating the leaves of my plants. Although I have not seen any holes in the leaves of my plants. There seems to be several yellow and white spots as though the leaves are wearing thin. I had the same problem with my parsely plants last fall. Please Help, I don't want to lose my plants.

Thank you,

Answer: It sounds like a fungus gnat infestation. These are little flying insects that look a lot like fruit flies. They live in moist soil and breed at the soil surface. The best way to control them is to allow the top layer of the soil to dry completely between waterings. If the plants need a moister soil and thus more frequent watering, you could put a barrier on the soil surface to keep the pests from feeding and breeding in the soil. Try a layer of sand or some decorative rocks, or for a temporary barrier, seal the top with plastic wrap. Anything to keep the adults from laying eggs in the potting soil. This will eventually eliminate the pests. If it's any comfort, the adults don't live very long. In the meantime, yellow sticky traps will also help to control the adults.

Best wishes with your plants!

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