Fungal Gnats: A Threat to Your Monstera’s Roots

Fungus gnats might seem like a minor annoyance in your home, but these tiny pests can pose a real threat to your beloved Monstera plant.

These small, delicate insects are commonly found buzzing around your houseplants, but the real problem lies beneath the soil.

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The worm-like larvae of fungus gnats feed on root hairs and may even tunnel into the roots themselves, impacting the overall health of your Monstera.

Moreover, with fungus gnats capable of going through multiple generations per year, it becomes crucial to tackle these pests as soon as you spot them.

Learning more about these common houseplant pests can aid you in preventing and addressing issues before they compromise your Monstera’s health.

A black-winged fungus gnat lying on a leaf - Fungal Gnats: A Threat to Your Monstera's Roots

Understanding Fungal Gnats

Fungal gnats can be a major concern for your Monstera plant, as they can damage its roots and cause various health issues.

While these tiny insects might seem harmless, their larvae can be quite destructive as they feed on plant roots and organic matter in the soil.

fungus gnats hanging on to the stems of Chives

Fungal gnat larvae are translucent worms with shiny black heads and they typically feed on fungi and decaying organic matter within the soil.

They thrive in damp environments, particularly in the top two inches of the soil.

Keep an eye out for these small insects and any potential damage to your Monstera’s roots.

The Lifecycle of Fungal Gnats

Here are the stages of a fungus gnat’s life cycle, so you’ll know when and how to act.

Eggs

Fungus gnats begin their life as tiny, white eggs laid in the top layer of the soil.

These eggs are often hard to spot, so this is where being proactive with prevention comes into play.

Larvae

After hatching, fungus gnat larvae emerge and start to feed on fungi, algae, decaying plant matter, and, unfortunately, your Monstera’s roots.

A fungus gnat larvae up close photograph

These larvae are worm-like and can grow up to 1/4 inch in length. They thrive in moist soil, so proper watering practices are essential.

Watch this video below on how the larvae attack plants from the soil.

Pupae

As they mature, the larvae eventually form pupae, which is the stage where they transform into adults. At 72°F, this transformation takes about 4 to 7 days.

Adults

Adult fungus gnats are small, blackish-grey insects with long gangly legs and transparent wings.

Black-winged fungus gnat on a leaf

They are weak flyers and may be seen buzzing around your Monstera, especially near the soil.

Adult fungus gnats live for around 10 days, during which they can lay hundreds of eggs and continue the cycle.

Common Signs of Fungal Gnat Infestation

Knowing the signs of a fungal gnat infestation can help you identify and address the problem early.

Swarms of Tiny Black Flies

If you spot a group of small black flies hovering around your indoor plants, windows, or lamps, it’s likely that you’re dealing with fungus gnats.

These pests are not strong fliers and often emerge from the soil when disturbed.

A yellow fly trap filled with fungus gnats

Moist Soil

Fungal gnat larvae thrive in moist environments and can be found in the top 2 to 3 inches of damp soil.

Overwatering your Monstera can create ideal conditions for these pests and contribute to their growth.

Root Damage

Though fungus gnat larvae primarily feed on fungi in moist soil, they can also cause damage to plant roots.

Woman holding damaged monstera roots

In severe infestations, you may notice stunted plant growth, yellowing leaves, or wilting due to root damage.

Effects on Plant Health and Preventive Measures

An infestation of fungus gnats can damage the roots. The plant might experience inhibited growth, as well as reduced water and nutrient uptake.

The wounds created on the roots and stems could also open up pathways for various root, stem, and crown rot pathogens to invade your plant.

To help prevent the development of fungal gnats, here’s what you can do:

Avoid Overwatering Your Monstera Plant

Avoid overwatering your plant, as fungus gnats thrive in damp soil.

Try keeping the top two inches of soil dry by watering your Monstera from the bottom or using a funnel to direct water into the soil.

Fungus gnat on a leaf

You can also add a one-inch layer of sand on the soil surface to help keep it dry.

Ensure Good Drainage

Ensure proper drainage by using well-draining potting mixes and containers with drainage holes.

Monstera plant roots

This will help prevent waterlogging, which contributes to fungus gnat infestations.

Inspect Carefully

Another strategy is to inspect new plants for fungus gnats before bringing them home.

This will help prevent the introduction of these pests into your existing indoor garden.

Biological Controls

Biological controls can help tackle fungus gnat infestations if they occur. One effective option is to introduce beneficial nematodes (Steinernema feltiae) into your plant’s soil.

These microscopic roundworms will actively hunt and kill fungus gnat larvae.

Use Traps

Using yellow sticky traps around your Monstera can help reduce adult fungus gnats by capturing them as they fly.

Place the traps near the soil surface, but be careful not to disturb the plant or catch beneficial insects.

Fungus gnats trapped in a yellow fly trap

Setting up yellow sticky traps near your Monstera plants can help you catch adult fungus gnats.

They are attracted to the yellow color and will get stuck on the traps, reducing their numbers.

Check out these yellow sticky fungus gnat traps on Amazon.

Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatments should be used as a last resort when other prevention strategies fail.

Opt for less toxic options, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, to control fungus gnats.

Apply these treatments to your Monstera’s soil surface according to the manufacturer’s instructions, being cautious not to harm the plant.

Remember that chemical treatments can have unintended side effects on beneficial organisms in your Monstera’s environment, so use them sparingly and responsibly.

Check out this organic pure neem oil for plants on Amazon.

Proper Care and Prevention Goes a Long Way

A black-winged fungus gnat lying on a leaf

Prevention can go a long way to ensure your Monstera plant doesn’t fall victim to a fungus gnat infestation.

By following the advice above, you can keep your houseplant thriving and free of these pesky insects.

For more Monstera care tips, check out these other articles:

From Basic To Extraordinary: Advanced Care Tips For Monstera Enthusiasts

Ramen Roots and Runaway Monsteras: A Lesson in Timely Repotting