The Q&A Archives: Houseplant pests

Question: I'm fourteen and I'm the only hands-on gardener in my entire family. I live in Iowa, and in Mid-February its not unlikely here that it snows again, so I'm forced to start plants indoors. To my luck, little bugs always find ways to come with the soil, houseplants, and seedlings, which makes my parents throw them away. Is their any way that I could prevent or fix this problem? I've tried everything!

Answer: What you describe sound like fungus gnats. These pests breed in moist potting soil and you can break the breeding cycle by allowing the surface of the soil to dry out. If you have plants that need moist soil simply place a quick draining and fast drying layer of gravel or sand on top of the potting soil, or carefully cover the potting soil with plastic wrap to act as a barrier. You have to be a little patient with this method because you have to wait through the next generation's maturation before they are gone for good. In other words, once the generation now already in the soil become adults and die off without being able to reproduce, there should be no more gnats. Another method is to use a product called Gnatrol as a soil drench, another is to use an insecticidal soap as a soil drench. Of course, always follow the label instructions carefully. Another way to control fungus gnats is with yellow sticky traps. You can make them yourself. Paint a piece of wood or cardboard yellow and cover with vegetable oil or anything sticky and clear. Suspend above the plants. The gnats are attracted to the color yellow. You should be able to trap out most of the trouble makers! Good luck with your eradication project!

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