little grayish black bugs in all of my potted plants. please help

clint.stevens(9)April 29, 2009

i have about 15 pots on my back porch, each with some sort of tree in them, nothing really that well developed, just beginner stuff. and almost all of the pots are infested with tiny little grayish black bugs, too small to see any real details, i have "Garden Safe House Plant and Garden Insect Killer" spray that i use but it doesn't seem to phase them. i have heard to let the soil dry out but when i do my plants obviously suffer and the bugs are still there. is there anyone that has had this problem or who knows what these little black bugs are? i know they cant be good, and they are annoying and i think they bite. how do i get rid of them? and keep them away? because if they ever seem to go away, as soon as i water my plants they come right back. this can't be a climate thing either, when i lived in Utah i had the same problem, but here in Mississippi its probably even easier for them to survive because its so humid. its so annoying, and i think they are killing my apple trees and my avocado. Someone Please Help!!!!

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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Is it the pots that are infested, or the potting soil, or the plants?

Tiny flying black gnats living in potting soil are usually fungus gnats, and they do not bite or harm your plants. They're a sign that you're watering too often. Beyond that I don't know what they might be.

Stop using insecticides on them until you know what they are. For one thing you need to know what the bug is to know what insecticide to buy, and where and when to spray it. there are no chemical controls for fungus gnat, just changing watering practices.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 1:13AM
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As reg stated you need to identify what you have so you know what to use to control the insect if it is a pest and is causing damage to your plants. Spraying broad spectrum poisons around does much more harm than any insect will.
If these wee buggers are causing damage and are IDd as Fungus Gnats there is a Bacillus thuringiensis that can be used for control, if needed, and one brand is called Gnatrol. However, the simplest and best means of control is to not water so much since these wee buggers do not hatch and grow unless the soil is moist enough (almost too moist for good plant health) and warm enough. Most all insect larva that will hatch in soils will only do so if the soil is too moist for the good health of the plant.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 7:57AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

This doesn't sound anything like fungus gnats or their larvae. That is, unless clint.stevens informs us that the black insects are on the wing flitting around the plants and that there are numerous white-ish wormy larvae in the soil.

I think we need to hear more details before jumping to conclusions. There are several other options regarding critters that live in the potting soil.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 12:37PM
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they may be fungus gnats because they have wings and flitter around the pots. but i have not noticed any larvae in the soil. and i do not over water the plants at all, most of the soil is almost dry or a bit damp at least 2 inches into the soil, nothing is waterlogged and everything has good drainage. and they do bite, whatever they are, whenever i am on my porch they will land on me and bite me, one time i got about 15 bites in less than 10 minutes. and i have watched them land on me and bite me. i looked at a few pictures of a fungus gnat on Google. but none of the pictures really looked like the bug i have, they looked a little bit too big, the bugs look like tiny tiny fruit flies, not small mosquitoes. they have short legs. and i looked up a picture of the larvae and i have never seen anything that resembles that in my soil. thanks for the follow-ups, any additional help is well appreciated.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 4:41PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Fungus gnats don't bite. Perhaps biting thrips? They can be exceedingly annoying in those locations where they're present.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 1:59PM
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aleksandras(7 NC)

I have something like that on my azalea bushes, I also think they are biting people. Does anybody know what kind of insect it is and how do I get rid of them? Here's a picture, they're about 2mm long

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 5:25PM
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Dan Staley

The pic is a minute pirate bug.

What cliff has is anyone's guess from the description.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 8:24PM
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okay so maybe they are fungus gnats, i really looked at them close and they look like tiny mosquitoes. and they don't really fly around too much, just along the dirt and leaves. i really do think that they bite but maybe its just something else, i know that whatever it is that bites me is also very small. but actually might be smaller. i read that the fungus gnat is not only attracted to over watered dirt, but also decomposing material. one of my plants i know for a fact has a lot of wood rot on the root structure. that plant also seems to be the most infested. also it is very very very humid here so they might be finding enough moisture just from that. i am going to continue to try and let my plants dry out as much as possible, and i am throwing away the insecticide because it doesn't effect them and it is kind of harsh on some of my softer tissued plants. i might get rid of the tree that is decomposing, its a wild cherry tree i dug up last year to try and turn into a bonsai but i think its pretty much a lost cause. as for the rest of my plants. i am not only going to try and make sure my plants dry out but i am also going to try and replant all of my plants in soil that is inorganic so that the gnats have nothing to feed on, all of the soil i have now has a lot of wood in the mix. most of it is miracle grow and i think that the dirt was infected when i bought it. so i just need to spend a little more money and get a better quality soil. and just for the record all of the miracle grow soil that i have bought i have mixed in grit so that it is better draining but i don't think that is going to be enough. hopefully i can get rid of these damn bugs!!!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 9:55PM
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aleksandras(7 NC)

Dan_staley, I don't think these are pirate bugs, even if they do look alike. These have long wings. Here are some better pictures

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 11:46AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Your pest is the azalea lacebug. And a very advanced population, I'm sorry to say. This is an insect that can caught much earlier.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:29PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Sorry, you asked what you could do to get rid of them.....

I'd be highly tempted to cut the azaleas all the way back to the ground and keep the resulting new growth sprayed with insecticidal soap applications. The new growth will be nice and green. OR: you could begin with the insecticidal soap sprays and see what kind of progress you make.

In the fall, you could apply a horticultural oil application, too. Make sure that you apply either of the above to the underside of the foliage, where these pests hang out, breed, lay eggs, etc.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:39PM
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aleksandras(7 NC)

Thank you, Rhizo! That helped a lot!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 5:54AM
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if anyone cares to know, i replanted all of the plants that had fungus gnats in a mixture of sphagnum moss and perlite. so there is no soil in this mixture, i have not seen a single fungus gnat since.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 12:38AM
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i think i might have these fungus gnats, i have herb seedlings planted in Miracle Grow organic peat fertilizer... The bugs were not flying just crawling in and out of the soil but today i noticed flying around the pot. Are these bugs harmful to the plant and if i water less will they eventually go away... I would hate to start the seedlings over, i bought heirloom organic seeds online.... Im a first time gardner and know NOTHING! im trying not to over water but its so confusing to know how much based on online info.. I live in South Florida so the soil is never dry... i try to just mist everyday like they say but how long could i go without watering, givin i live in such a humid environment? please answer bug questions too..

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 8:29AM
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