gnats vs fruit flies

5 Differences Between Gnats Vs Fruit Flies

When you have small little bugs in your home, or that are irritating you, sometimes you just don’t care what they are, as long as they go away soon. However, knowing the differences between gnats and fruit flies and being able to identify the differences between them can help you to understand what is attracting them to you, and how to get rid of them.

Learn about the differences between gnats vs fruit flies in the article below, so you can get to work removing them from your home.

Gnats Introduction


Gnats are tiny little flies that rarely get above 2.5 millimeters in length. They usually fly in large groups in a sort of cloud. While they aren’t usually dangerous to people, they are very irritating, as they tend to fly into the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth of anyone nearby.

However, despite being irritating, they don’t cause a lot of damage to people. They can cause problems to household plants, so you will want to be cautious of them if they get inside or you bring them in with an infected plant.

Gnats that come from plants only focus on plants, digging into roots and stems and causing damage. However, some species will bite people and animals. These can be even more irritating, though the bites aren’t as painful as mosquito bites. There are only a few species that can spread disease.

Gnats are often found during the summer. They are often attracted to humid, wet spaces, but will also swarm around rotting fruits and vegetables. Keeping your home clear of standing water and rotting fruit, as well as taking out the trash regularly, will often keep them away.

Unfortunately, they can also be attracted to indoor plants. Sometimes, if you aren’t careful, you can bring them in with new plants. If you chronically overwater your plants as well, that can bring in gnats, as there will be a lot of moisture in the soil.

Fruit Flies Introduction

Fruit Flies

Fruit flies are often confused with gnats. They are small and tend to group together similarly. Their name comes from the fact that they often appear and surround rotting fruits and vegetables.

Interestingly, though they are attracted to rotting produce, they don’t eat the fruit. They are instead interested in laying their eggs in the soft fruit and eating the fungus that grows inside of them. When not eating or laying their eggs, they tend to stay in moist, smelly areas.

The most common places you will find fruit flies are around empty glasses, bottles, and cans, in trash cans, drains, and mop buckets. Fruit flies have a pretty strong sense of smell, so keeping your home clean is key to keeping these pests away.

Fruit flies are only a nuisance. Since they enjoy rotting fruits and vegetables and the fungus inside them, they don’t really harm healthy plants. They also don’t bite people or animals. However, like gnats, they tend to fly in clumps, and will often end up around your ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.

The biggest danger of fruit flies is that of regular flies. They have the possibility of spreading bacteria, mold, and fungus from rotting foods to healthier ones or kitchen surfaces as they move around.

Gnats Vs Fruit Flies: 5 Differences


While fruit flies and gnats seem to have a lot of similarities, especially in size, where they live, and behavior, there are quite a few differences as well.

Since each species acts a little differently and needs slightly different ways to eradicate them, understanding how to tell them apart can be key to effective prevention and removal.

1. Appearance

The most obvious difference is the color when it comes to appearance. Gnats tend to be darker than fruit flies. This isn’t always true, but when it is, it makes for an easy way to tell them apart.

For the most part, fruit flies tend to be tan. They can be gray or black as well though. Additionally, their body shape is similar to what you would see from a traditional house fly, though in miniature. Fruit flies also have red eyes that are fairly large compared to the rest of their body.

Gnats are always dark. They always appear black. Instead of the traditional fly shape, they have both long legs and bodies, and may look a little like miniature mosquitoes at a glance. This is because they are more closely related to mosquitos and share a lot of similarities.

When they fly, their legs dangle down much like a mosquito’s as well. Gnats also have much smaller eyes, and unless you are looking very closely, their eyes aren’t visible.

2. Lifespan

Unless you are paying close attention to specific insects, you likely won’t be able to see a difference in their lifespan. However, it is still there.

Gnats tend to have a shorter lifespan, only living around five to 10 days on average. Fruit flies, while still having a short life, tend to live longer, between 14 and 20 days.

This may initially sound like good news, as you might expect these pests to die off after a week or two. Unfortunately, these pests are able to reproduce in their short lifespan, which means that you can’t just sit and hope for these flies to disappear on their own.

3. Size

Gnats and fruit flies are both very small. Sometimes, they can be almost the same size, which can make it harder to tell them apart. Fruit flies, though, tend to be smaller in size.

Fruit flies stay right around an eighth of an inch. Gnats can be as small as an eighth of an inch but tend to get up closer to a quarter of an inch.

4. Habitat

While gnats and fruit flies both enjoy moisture, their habitats are a little different. Fruit flies tend to be in areas that have a strong odor and are moist, such as trash cans and sinks. They may be near to produce, but often produce has to be rotting first.

Gnats, on the other hand, like cleaner areas. They are usually around organic matter like fresh fruits and vegetables, or plants.

Finding out where your pests tend to be the most tells you where to put most of your focus when getting rid of them, and can also allow you to identify what kind of pest you have.

Their habitats differ because of the foods they eat. Since fruit flies enjoy the fungus in rotting produce, they tend to stay around places where that fungus would be. Most gnats eat organic and dying organic matter, so they will be near plants and areas where organic matter is.

5. Behavior

Though there can be a large number of gnats or fruit flies in one space, gnats have a habit of swarming when they are mating. Gnats mating is what causes the big clouds of the pests you may have seen before while walking around outside.

Fruit flies can live in big groups, but they don’t swarm when mating and don’t necessarily sit and hover in one area. They will often instead sit around trash or fruits until scared off.

While not all gnats can bite, some can. So if you find the little bugs in your home or outside biting, they are more than likely gnats.

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