Fruit Flies vs. Gnats – How to Distinguish Them & What’s The Biggest Difference?

Struggling with those little bugs flying around in your kitchen? Both fruit flies and gnats can be pretty annoying and disgusting, and let’s agree, not so hard to get rid of. 

But which bug is actually infesting your house? How can you distinguish fruit flies vs. gnats, and what are the main differences between fruit flies and gnats?

Although they might look like small black flies to the untrained eye, several differences set the two insects apart, and understanding them will help you learn how to get rid of an annoying infestation. So, keep on reading to learn about fruit flies vs. gnats. 

Main characteristics of fruit flies

Fruit flyFruit flies are tan-brown tiny flies that are usually 3mm long and 2mm wide, with three pairs of segmented legs, where the female fruit fly is slightly larger than the male. During a closer examination, you can see that the male fruit fly has more black stripes on the abdomen and appears browner black, and both sexes have a single pair of wings. 

Fruit flies have bright red eyes and feathery antennae. These flying insects are usually seen swarming around the house, especially if you leave decaying produce on a table or a kitchen countertop. The larvae of fruit flies are white with no defined head. And you can learn if fruit flies bite here. (Spoiler alert: they do not bite, but some people might have allergic reactions to it.)

Main characteristics of gnats

cecidomyiidae fly - gnatGnats can be tan brown or yellowish and are typically small and slender flies with lengthy antennae and a single pair of wings. They look a lot like common house flies, but they have long legs and mosquito-like bodies that make them easy to identify. 

A fungus gnat is about 2.5mm long, and some species can bite humans. The mouths of these species have developed to have piercing parts that can penetrate the flesh, and the larvae look like long worms. 

Gnats are usually attracted to moisture, so they’re more likely to infest your house during summer, especially if you have decaying produce. Although some fungus gnat species are pollinators, most species are considered annoying pests. 

What’s the reason behind fruit fly infestation in your home?

Fruit flies can infest your house in the following cases. 

  • You leave the doors and windows open, or there are cracks in the walls that let these tiny flies in. 
  • You bought produce that is infested with fruit flies, their larvae, or eggs. Fruit fly larvae feed on ripening produce. 
  • You’re buying jarred or bottled food that’s not properly sealed or is already infested with larvae and eggs. 
  • You have a compost pile in your garden. 
  • You’re not cleaning your garden properly, and there’s a lot of decaying plant matter on the soil. 
  • The garbage bin isn’t properly sealed. 
  • The drain isn’t properly cleaned and is left exposed.
  • You don’t get rid of decaying fruits, vegetables, or any other type of food and leave them on a table or a kitchen countertop. 
  • You have damp and dirty cleaning rags and mops. 

What’s the reason behind gnat infestation in your home?

Gnats can infest your house in the following cases. 

  • Your house is humid during the summer months. 
  • You’ve bought food that’s infested with gnats’ eggs or their larvae. 
  • You have leaky pipes in your kitchen or bathroom. 
  • You don’t keep your kitchen or bathroom dry after cleaning. 
  • You have overwatered plants in your backyard or garden as the moist soil attracts those bugs. 
  • The garbage can is left exposed, and the garbage disposal doesn’t work. 

How to get rid of fruit flies quickly?

Fruit flies reproduce and multiply fast, as one female fruit fly can lay as many as 50 eggs per day. They reproduce in rotting places and on top of sugary fruits, but there are a few things that you can do to get rid of them. 

  • Discard any ripe or rotting fruit and vegetables that have been left in a fruit bowl on a dining table or a kitchen countertop. This food will be infested with eggs, and the larvae of the fruit fly will continue their life cycle and infest your house even if you get rid of the adult ones. 
  • Clean all kitchen counters and the bottom of the trash can and make sure that there’s no spilled food. 
  • Clean the drain to get rid of drain flies. 
  • Turn on the AC, as the fruit fly doesn’t prefer the colder weather. 
  • Keep all fruits and vegetables in the fridge to prevent future infestations of these tiny pests. 
  • Create a funnel trap for the flies by placing an overripe fruit in a glass jar and a funnel over the top of the jar. The flies will be able to enter through the sprout to feed but won’t be able to leave. You can put the jar in the freezer to make sure that the adult flies have died. 
  • Use a bottle of apple cider vinegar or beer, and cover the top with plastic wrap. Poke the wrap to create a few holes to attract the fruit flies to the liquid. They’ll be able to enter through the holes, but the wrap will prevent fruit flies from leaving. 
  • Put some dish soap and apple cider vinegar in a glass bowl and microwave it to make it more aromatic. The scent will attract the fruit flies, and the soap will change the surface tension of the liquid, so they’ll drown. You can also use the Ceramic Fruit Fly Trap.
  • Use fruit fly traps like Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch inside the house. It will attract and kill fruit flies, and it can be safely used near food. It’s made using safe components and lasts for 30 days.
  • If you have a severe infestation, hire the services of a pest control company, but most likely you can get rid of fruit flies yourself if you follow the suggestions above.  

How to get rid of gnats quickly?

Gnats can damage your house plants, and although they don’t spread diseases, some species can bite people, causing an itchy rash. Nevertheless, several potent methods can help you get rid of them. 

  • Avoid overwatering your potted plants as water puddles in the potting soil will attract adult fungus gnats to your garden and backyard, as well as any indoor plant pots you have.
  • Seal any cracks in the walls, windows, or doors to prevent these small flying insects that live outdoors from entering your house. 
  • Fix any leaking pipes that are creating water puddles outside or inside your house because they attract those tiny pests. 
  • Keep the trash bin properly sealed, and take out the trash more often, especially in the warm and humid months, to avoid fungus gnats that feed on organic material. 
  • Mix some apple cider vinegar with dish soap and add a tablespoon of sugar to a bowl. The smell will attract the fungus gnats, and the soap will prevent the gnats from flying, so they’ll drown in this mixture. You can also use a ready-made trap like the Terro Fruit Fly Trap.
  • Clean the sink drain in your bathroom and kitchen using a potent cleaner like the Xion Lab Garbage Disposal Cleaner and Deodorizer to deprive the fungus gnat of its food. 
  • Get a dehumidifier and turn it on during the most humid months to keep your kitchen and bathroom dry to keep gnats and other pests away. 
  • Set up gnat traps like Garsum Sticky Houseplant Traps in your indoor plant pots. The bugs will be attracted to those sticky traps that you can later dispose of to stop the bug’s life cycle and kill gnats. 
  • Hire the services of a pest control company to put a severe infestation under control and get rid of these small flies. 

Frequently asked questions

1. Do fruit flies lay eggs? If yes, where?

Yes, a fruit fly lays its eggs on top of decaying fruits and vegetables. The fruit fly’s mouth can pierce the skin, and it lays the eggs inside so that fruit fly larvae have access to food when the eggs hatch. 

It can also lay its eggs near any decaying materials like decaying potted plants and fallen leaves, exposed garbage bins, empty food cans and bottles, damp drains, and wet mops. 

2. Do gnats lay eggs? Where?

Yes, gnats lay their eggs in dark and hidden places, usually close to food sources. They prefer moist and humid areas near decaying food, compost piles, and garbage cans.

Poorly-maintained drains also attract some gnat species because they’re wet and contain decaying organic matter that represents a primary food source. They can also lay their eggs in your potted plant. 

3. What attracts gnats?

Gnats are usually attracted to sweet scents and can also be attracted to humidity and heat. This is why they’re usually found swarming around decaying food and plant pots and can also bite the warm bodies of humans. 

4. What attracts fruit flies?

A fruit fly is mainly attracted to ripened fruits and vegetables, but it’ll also be attracted to dirty drains, leaky pipes, exposed garbage cans, and moist mops and cleaning rags. 

Conclusion

Gnats vs. fruit flies might look very close to each other, but several traits set them apart.

However, keeping your house clean, dry, and sealing cracks will help you keep both fruit flies and gnats at bay.

There are several home remedies that can help you kill gnats and fruit flies, but if nothing works, hire the services of a pest control company. 

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