‘Most effective’ tip to stop black flies ‘damaging’ your houseplants

Monstera: Houseplant expert details how to remove pests

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Fungus gnats can be identified as small flies that live in the soil of your indoor plant and fly around your houseplant. The unfortunate nature is these tiny insects feed on plants outside in gardens so finding plants inside our homes will attract them. The type of pests you have can depend on the houseplant you grow. However, the good news is you can get rid of them. According to the plant Pros at Happy Houseplants, owners must first identify what type of pest they are having trouble with. 

They said: “Most common pests are small black flies called fungus gnats which are often mistaken for fruit flies. 

“The differences here are that fungus gnats live in plants such as succulents that have moist soil whereas fruit flies live near fruit, particularly decaying fruit. These can be damaging for your plant as they lay eggs in the soil of your plant.”

The experts suggested six effective methods plant owners can try to get rid of these pests.

1. Try sticky traps

Using fly sticky traps can prove to be effective by trapping the adult fungus gnats, “preventing them from laying eggs and breaking the lifecycle”, claimed the pros. This can be down using lip balm such as Vaseline.

They instructed: “Hang the sticky trap on or near your affected houseplant and ensure it is on soil level. 

“You can purchase fly sticky tape online or make your own. Using a card, yellow highlighter, wooden stick, and Vaseline, highlight the stick.

“This will attract the flies and the Vaseline will trap the fungus gnats, breaking their lifecycle.”

However, it must be noted that although owners may drive away the flies, leaving the houseplant without water for a period can damage it. They said: “Cacti as an example will be able to withstand dry soil but other indoor plant species may not.”

Another option is watering less often. The experts explained: “As fungus gnats need a damp compost to survive, watering the plant less and allowing the soil to become dry out in between watering will create uncomfortable living conditions, driving the fungus gnats away.”

2. Use neem oil

The pros said: “One of the most effective and natural ways to remove pests, especially fungus gnats, is to consider using neem oil. 

“Happy Houseplants always recommends natural remedies and neem oil from the neem tree is a great option for getting rid of pests.”

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To use this oil, simply dilute it with water to create a solution and water the houseplant and even spray the leaves too. For those who are trying to eliminate whiteflies, a pro tip the experts give is to “spray the solution underneath the leaves”.

3. Add gravel mulch

The majority of composts are sterilised, which is great news as they will not contain fungus gnats’ larvae. 

The experts recommended: “Cover the top layer of compost with a thin layer of gravel mulch or pebbles. We recommend this because it will prevent flies from laying eggs in your houseplant.”

4. Add dry soil or water less 

As the majority of fungus gnats flies are known to enjoy living in moist soil, the pros suggested adding a thick level of dry soil on the top of the houseplants bedding will allow the soil underneath to dry out naturally, “driving them away”. 

5. Give insecticidal soap a go

For those who are having no luck removing black flies with the above methods, a common solution is using insecticidal soap or spray also known as horticultural soap. 

The experts said: “You can make the soap yourself or you have purchase options online or at your local garden centre. 

“Once you have your horticultural soap, simply apply, or spray the houseplant leaves and around the plant later in the day once the sun is down to avoid your houseplant becoming sunburnt. This should help deter those pests.”

6. Repot the houseplant

If all else fails, the houseplant gurus noted that the “best cause of action” is to repot the plants.

The pros suggested sanitising the plant by removing contaminated soil that has many eggs embedded in the soil and repotting the houseplant in new and fresh soil without disturbing the roots. 

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