Noticing lots of gnats? SLO County's weather is to blame

A surge in the gnat population — unusual for this time of year — has been bugging people around San Luis Obispo County.

The pesky little creatures, in addition to fruit flies, have been annoying residents of late after earlier-than-expected hatches.

Warm weather in recent weeks has created the right conditions for the insects to burst loose from larvae ahead of their normal cycle, said Maria Murrietta, program coordinator with the UC Master Gardener program.

UC Master Gardener is run by the UC Cooperative Extension program as a local research, information and expertise resource for the public, specializing in home horticulture.

In colder years, the insects tend to remain dormant in their eggs much longer.

“A lot of it has to do with the weather that we’ve been having,” Murrietta said. “As soon as the weather started to heat up, they hatched and flew loose.”

Murrietta said the bugs don’t pose any harm and they don’t cause damage to plants. They’re simply “a nuisance,” she said. Her organization has received seven to 10 calls over the past couple of months about gnats, she said.

Warm temperatures and moist soils create ripe breeding grounds, and gnats gravitate to dampened, potted plant areas around the home.

Murrietta suggested replacing the soil in indoor potted plants and keeping potted plants away from entrances into the home.

Gnats feed mostly on plants, while fruit flies, a different species, are drawn to fruit.

Murrietta also recommended keeping fruit refrigerated rather than in bowls on counters or in cupboards.

She said fruit flies are particularly attracted to bananas, so peels should not be left out.

“The (gnat presence) is a temporary problem,” Murrietta said. “Unless someone has a big issue, spraying is never our first recommendation.”

One home remedy for getting rid of gnats is filling a jar with apple cider vinegar and poking small holes in the lid with a nail; the gnats are attracted to the vinegar and fly in but then can’t escape, according to an article on wikihow.com.

Another home remedy is a glass of red wine with a drop or so of dish soap mixed in. The gnats are drawn to the wine, fall in and drown, according to the site.