How to Control Gnats Outdoors

Gnats tend to congregate in mulch and shrubbery.


My back yard is infested with gnats, and it’s driving me nuts! I have a dog, so I want to be careful about what products I use. Could you please help? -Trisha



While we frequently use the word “gnats” to refer to any number of tiny winged insects (such as biting midges, punkies, and no see ums), true fungus gnats are small nonbiting insects that are drawn to wet, rotten organic matter where they lay their eggs and soon hatch into larvae. In general, they are relatively harmless creatures, but their incessant swarming is annoying enough to drive even the toughest of gardeners indoors.


Like mosquitoes, gnats can be difficult to control, because the problem may go beyond your property line. It’s pretty hard to deal with any insect in your own yard if they’re flying in from a nearby lake or farm, and some parts of the world seem to be overrun during the warmer months.



A little vanilla extract on the brim of your hat acts as a “natural” gnat repellent.


Take these steps to make your yard less inviting to gnats:

•Keep your garden free of mold, fungus, and rotting plant debris. Pay particular attention to shady areas with poor air circulation. Put your compost pile as far from the house as you can, cover your trash cans, and keep fallen debris cleaned up.

•Amend your garden soil to improve drainage.

•Occasionally rake or turn your mulch to allow sodden, moldy layers to dry out.

•Avoid overwatering, and allow enough time between waterings for the top layer of soil to dry out.

•Water in the morning to avoid overnight fungal growth.

•Make sure you have no standing water in gutters, drainage areas, or low spots.

•Keep birdbaths and water features clean.

•If your garden still has naturally damp areas, you can top dress the soil with an inch (or less) of sand, to discourage gnats looking for moist soil.

•Use sodium light bulbs in outdoor areas to reduce attraction at night.


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