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If one has the impression that the potting soil in the planter lives and moves, it is usually a scary mosquito, also known as mushroom back. Even if they look like little flies at first glance, they are not. Especially in winter, the small pest ghosts appear, but also come back for the rest of the year. The little mosquitoes themselves are not dangerous, just annoying when they are everywhere. The actual pest is the larva that lives in the earth. It feeds mainly on decayed plant remains such as dead roots, but can also damage seedlings or the stem base. Older plants survive this infestation usually unscathed, for seedlings, cuttings and young plants it can be dangerous.
Adult sciarids are quite easy to fight. It is more difficult with the larvae, especially if you do not want to use chemical agents. What you need to know about the prevention and control of sciarid mosquitoes, read in the following text.
To recognize are greyish brown, 3 to 4 mm large, narrow mosquitoes, which crawl over the earth's surface in the flower pot. However, they also fly around, settling slowly and gently on leaves. They are similar to fruit flies. Each female lays between 100 and 200 eggs, from which the larvae hatch after one week. These are up to 5 mm long, maggot-shaped, whitish colored and have a black head. They live in the soil and can damage the plant. The plants are weakening. You can not really find a cause except the small flying insects.
Prevention is difficult and even if successful, infestation can not be ruled out. The pests are often introduced, when buying a new plant or with fresh potting soil. It makes no difference whether you buy cheap or expensive earth. Even in bio-earth are the eggs, which is due to the fact that the different types of mourning-mosquitoes are quite useful. This is why they are especially common in organic farms. The mosquitoes like to settle when the plants are outdoors in the summer. However, it does not bring much to leave them in the room, because through open windows, sciarids also reach into rooms. Individually, they are hardly noticed, but when they multiply and appear in masses, they become annoying, because they do not stay exclusively on the plants, they fly everywhere.
It is important not to keep the houseplants moist. The topmost layer of earth must not be constantly wet. Something the scary mosquitoes love. Preventively, the soil can therefore be covered with sand, small stones, small shells or similar materials. The sand layer should be about 1 cm thick. Especially good is quartz sand.
Tip - Planters with irrigation system are good for plants that need a bit of damp soil. Once grown, the plants pull the required water from the reservoir from below, the upper layer of soil barely comes into contact with water and stays dry.
It is also helpful to treat new potting soil in the microwave or in the stove with heat. Insect eggs are killed. Depending on the amount and wattage of the microwave, the soil should be heated for 2 to 5 minutes. In the oven, the soil is spread on a plate and heated at 100 degrees for about 1 half hour. In the process, larvae are killed, regardless of which species.
Even better is to use no earth in the usual sense more. With hydroponics spider mosquitoes can be spared, at least for the most part. Not all plants are suitable, but there is a lot. Regardless of whether seramis, gravel, perlite or other mineral substrates are used, they can not multiply. Condition is that all potting soil was removed when repotting. Also, dead root parts and dead organic matter must be removed.
It can also help not to water the plants in potting soil from above, but always from below, ie into the planter or a saucer. About 30 minutes after pouring, however, excess water should be poured off.
Fighting adult sciarids
Adult sciarids are quite easy to fight. They like strong colors, especially yellow. That is why non-toxic yellow stickers or yellow boards help. You put them in the soil of the infected flowerpot or put them in the immediate vicinity. The mosquitoes sit on the sticky surface and will not let go. In case of heavy infestation the stickers should be changed every now and then, whenever they are almost full, there is not much room for new pests. It is important to leave the stickers or plates in place for weeks, so that the following generation is still eliminated. In case of heavy infestation, the mosquitoes can be sucked with the vacuum cleaner.The fight is important, so that no eggs are laid and grow new generations.
Fighting sciarid fly larvae
The larvae can be fought in different ways. From the old home remedy to the chemical insecticide, there are numerous possibilities. Sometimes several have to be tried out, not everything shows effect.
The trick with matches is old, but usually works pretty well. There are just a few matches with the head stuck in the potting soil. The ignition head contains sulfur components that kill the larvae in the soil. However, the matches have to be replaced after a few days. In addition, you have to keep the soil drier. Useful is also a proper layer of sand on the ground, which prevents adult animals continue to lay eggs.
Also helpful is a mixture of lukewarm water, baking soda, some oil and some salt. This mixture is sprayed directly on the infested soil. The flies then dare no longer dare to the vessels.
Against the adult animals and the larvae helps to completely close the potting soil for 4 to 5 weeks. This works best by putting the whole flower pot in a nylon stocking and sealing it tightly. Even the drainage holes have to be. So no flies come to the earth to lay eggs and no newly hatched larvae out of the earth. Since a cycle lasts 4 to 5 weeks, it should be quiet afterwards.
Nematodes are small roundworms, tiny, barely perceptible by the eye. They are introduced into the soil with the irrigation water. There they attack as parasites the larvae of the funerary gnat and kill them off. Nematodes are harmless to humans and animals. You can order hundreds of thousands of these nematodes by mail order. Meanwhile, they are also available in plant markets, but only on order. It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks for the problem to be resolved. Best suited are Steinernema feltiae. In case of heavy infestation, the treatment should be repeated after about 4 weeks. It is important that the treatment is not carried out in the sunshine, because nematodes are sensitive to light. In addition, the substrate must not dry out in the treatment time, ie about 4 weeks, otherwise the nematodes die off. But the earth should not be too wet either.
Microorganisms, especially bacteria, can be valuable helpers in the fight against scary mosquitoes. The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis var. Israelensis (BTI) forms permanent spores with protein crystals, which are toxic to the larvae of the funerary gnat. The bacteria can be acquired as nematodes and they are also in the irrigation water. They are absolutely safe, except for the larvae.
Predatory mites (Hypoaspis miles)
Predatory mites feed on the larvae of the funerary gnat. Particularly advantageous is their use in greenhouses and enclosed conservatories. Predatory mites live in the upper soil layers. There they hunt the larvae and eat them. This usually goes on until there are no more. Even then, the predatory mites can still exist for several weeks.
Particularly desperate plant lovers use a mosquito repellent that is used in ponds and other stagnant waters. This added to the irrigation water, kills the pests ghosts. There are also biological agents, you have to look at it when buying a closer look.
Chemistry should always be only in emergency be used. There are different insecticides in the trade. One should seek advice, which are currently up to date. Every year funds are withdrawn from the market and new ones used. Experts know the advantages and disadvantages, hopefully, otherwise you have to compare yourself. It is important to adhere to the manufacturer's instructions when dosing.
Mourning gnats are usually unpleasant and not particularly dangerous to plants, unless they are young plants, seedlings or cuttings. It is important to eliminate the sciarids themselves and especially the larvae. Yellow stickers are very helpful. In addition, the plant substrate should be kept drier and sprinkled with a layer of sand. If nothing helps, nematodes, bacteria or predatory mites are a good biological control measure
With coffee grounds and Co. to deal with the flies
The even distribution of coffee grounds on the surface of the potting soil has proven to be extremely effective in the past. Another extremely effective trick is the placement of matches (head-down) in the ground.
After only two to three days, infestation with the little tormentors is a thing of the past. In particular, the use of fruit fly traps has always been very popular. A special fruit fly cocktail (a mixture of organic acids and fruit juice) is poured into the fly trap, whereupon the small insects are attracted and crawl into it.
The special construction of the fruit fly trap makes flying out or crawling impossible for the flies. This means the end of the little flies.