On Gardening: Worry less about gnats, more about winter pests
Sep 22, 2013 | 3388 views |  0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There has been a lot of talk about the dark-winged, flying insects that have appeared in the last couple of weeks. They’re not hard to miss — it seems like they number in the thousands. My own back porch has been covered with these insects as of late.

These insects have dark wings, heads and legs with a reddish-orange belly that’s easy to miss unless you look closely. They’re often misidentified as lovebugs, which are found in South Alabama, and derive their name from a tendency to fly while still coupled during mating.

But the insects that seem to have taken over Central and North Alabama are actually dark-winged fungal gnats in the genus Schwenckfeldina. They should not be confused with another fungal gnat, in the genus Bradysia, which is much smaller and brown and white in color, the larvae of which feeds on plant roots in greenhouses or container-grown plants when excessive moisture is present.

Very little is known about the Schwenckfeldina variety, but its larvae are not known to attack plant roots. It likely feeds instead on decaying organic material or fungus growing on decaying organic material. They’re found in damp, shady areas around homes and landscapes, and summer in Alabama this year certainly provided plenty of damp places.

Although they may be a nuisance, these gnats are not harmful. There is no need to use chemicals as they will only be around for a short time. Adults may emerge for some time, but are very short lived.

Prevent winter guest pests

While on the subject, it’s about time for the Asian ladybug and insects like it to seek out a warm place to overwinter. In general, the best solution is an Integrated Pest Management approach, which incorporates all available control methods into one program. Keeping pests from entering your home in the first place is key. These small insects can enter from a space less than ⅛-inch wide, so take these preventative measures:

• Caulk cracks along windows, doors and other portals of entry.

• Seal and screen attic vents.

• Install tight-fitting door sweeps. Gaps under glass sliding doors may be sealed with foam weather stripping.

• Seal utility openings (pipes, dryer vents, cable TV wiring ports, etc.) with caulk, steel wool or other mesh.

Should pests get in, the use of insecticides indoors is not generally recommended since beetles have to be sprayed directly or come in contact with a treated surface. Make good use of a vacuum or broom to rid the area of beetles. This eliminates the possibility of pesticide residues on walls, furniture and eating areas. And remember to discard the vacuum bag afterward.
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