Kill my bugs.
February 6, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

What are these bugs living around my plant, how do I get rid of them, and will they hurt my cats? Photos inside.

I have a plant. The plant has bugs on it and around it. They are small black flying things. My cats like to sit and stare at them. And probably eat them.

I've started noticing them in the kitchen around tomatoes which makes me think some sort of fruit fly. I'm in Seattle, WA, in case that matters. I water the plant weekly.

I want the bugs gone. How can I safely and effectively rid my plant of these bugs?

And while you're here, do you know what kind of plant it is?
posted by kthxbi to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look like fruit flies to me. I doubt that your cats will be harmed by them. And the plant is a Dracena fragrens, aka "corn plant".
posted by Ideefixe at 8:57 AM on February 6, 2012

Response by poster: By the way - the dead material at the end of the bottom leaves is from my cats gnawing on them, not from the bugs.
posted by kthxbi at 8:58 AM on February 6, 2012

They're probably fungus gnats.

Scrape away about a half inch of top soil to gather up their eggs, and sprinkle the dirt with cinammon to deter them. I also leave bowls of warm water out, they seem to like to go die in them.

Your cats will be fine I'm sure.
posted by Think_Long at 9:00 AM on February 6, 2012

We leave out a cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with dishsoap. The gnats/flies are attracted to the vinegar and get stuck by the soap. It takes a couple generations to completely kill the bugs but they go away eventually.

If you are afraid of your cats drinking the vinegar (would cats do that?), you can build a gnat trap and put the same fluid in the bottom.
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, probably fungus gnats. They're a real PITA. I tried the vinegar for months, but they stayed, the best solution I found was to put an inch of sand on top of the soil. Then the young gnats can't burrow out after hatching to renew the cycle.
posted by Monkeyswithguns at 9:23 AM on February 6, 2012

Fungus gnats tend to live in plants that are kept slightly (or severely) too wet. So your solution in the grand scheme of things is to water the plant less frequently. You definitely should not be watering if the soil is still at all moist from the last time you watered. It should be dry two inches down before you rewater.

Also, cinnamon as Think_Long noted is a natural anti-fungal and will help kill their food source; thick sand is also a deterrent (but they can come out the bottom of the plant as well, so put some down there, too).

I'd combine all those methods with mixing in a little insecticide with pyrethrins in the water you give to your plant. You can buy stuff that's organic and can be used the day before eating something but that will still knock those flies out. But those are the main ingredients you want - pyrethrins. Mix it into the water consistently for a while until all the gnats are gone, and then you can stop.

The vinegar bowls, if kept near the plant, will slow or stop the flies forays into the kitchen by drowning them near their home front, but it won't stop the cycle.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:31 AM on February 6, 2012

These things work sometimes.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:34 AM on February 6, 2012

Seattlite with fungus gnats in our past.... None of the regular tricks (rocks, sand, etc) did any good. Instead we used Gnatrol. It contains a bacteria that infects and kills fungus gnat larvae, but nothing else. You mix a tiny amount (like a tsp per gallon? follow the instructions) with the water you give your plants. Because it doesn't affect the adults, for the first week you won't notice any difference and wonder if you wasted your money. After that, the adults will die and you'll notice a big drop-off. Keep using it for around 3 weeks and you'll be sure to catch 'em all.
posted by rouftop at 1:33 PM on February 7, 2012

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