Fleas vs. Gnats: What's the Difference?

Fleas vs. Gnats: What's the Difference?

March 07, 2024

When it comes to household pests, it can sometimes be a challenge to tell the difference between them. This is especially true for small pests that look quite similar from a distance and oftentimes populate similar areas. Two such pests that you'll want to learn the differences between are fleas and gnats - both incredibly small insects that can multiply rapidly and create infestations if you don't know how to deal with them. In this guide, we'll discuss the differences between each type of insect and what to do if you spot them around your home.

What Are Gnats?

Gnats are small flying insects attracted to decaying organic matter, standing water, fruits and vegetables and even the dead skin on your body. The term 'gnat' is a catch-all for multiple types of tiny flies, including fruit flies, drain flies, fungus gnats and biting midges. These insects are quite small, averaging around 5 to 10mm, and are usually brown or black. These insects aren't strong fliers and aren't typically harmful, but they can be a nuisance and tend to reproduce quite quickly, so if a handful of gnats find a source of sustenance, you can quickly find yourself dealing with an infestation.

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are tiny, parasitic insects that survive by consuming the blood of humans or animals. They are flightless insects but are well known for their jumping abilities which can quickly get them where they desire to be. Fleas typically populate on a single host, and most often this is a household pet or barnyard animal where fleas have laid eggs. Flea infestations can become massive problems if not dealt with quickly, as their eggs can survive on carpeted or clothed surfaces for months at a time and will hatch when they come into contact with the warmth produced by an animal. Fleas also spread diseases and can create serious health problems for pets. Fleas are brown or black and are typically 1 to 3mm long.

Telling the Difference Between Gnats and Fleas

While the actions of gnats and fleas are drastically different, telling them apart is not always easy due to their similar sizes and colors. Due to the ability of these insects to create infestations, if you manage to identify one of them, it will likely be the identity of the rest - or will at least give you an idea of how to proceed.

Identifying gnats is much more straightforward than identifying fleas as many characteristics differentiate them. The first, most obvious way of identifying a gnat is its ability to fly. If it is flying around in the air, it is a gnat not a flea. This also extends to the presence of wings on the insect. Fleas do not have wings, so a tiny, winged insect must be a gnat. Gnats can also easily be identified based on where they congregate. If you're finding a large number of these insects near the trash can, sink drain, fruit bowl, plants or bathroom, these are most likely gnats. You can confirm their identity by forcing them to fly.

Fleas are much more difficult to identify, but certain conditions will make the likelihood much greater. The most prevalent condition for fleas is the presence of furry pets. If you own a cat or a dog, they can bring fleas in from outdoors. The fleas will then lay eggs on the host pet or in household carpeting. Check your pet's fur for any small, dark-toned insects or dried blood on its skin. If you come across an insect you believe to be a flea, its ability to jump great distances quickly will give it away. Infestations of fleas without the presence of pets are much less likely, but still possible if your home has carpeting or rugs. In both cases, checking between fibers is the easiest way to identify fleas.

Should You Get Rid of Gnats?

Now that you know the difference between gnats and fleas, you might be wondering if gnats are that big of a deal in comparison to their bloodsucking brethren. Unfortunately, gnats inside the home can become a great nuisance, especially if the type of gnat carries diseases or bites living creatures. Outdoor gnats can eat other insects harmful to plants, but most outdoor gnats are simple pests that can ruin your summertime fun.

To get rid of indoor gnats, you'll first want to eliminate their food source. If you have fruit flies, dispose of any exposed fruit or place it within sealed containers. Be sure to remove trash promptly and seal trash bins so no flies may enter. For drain flies, apply a solution to your kitchen or bathroom drains that will clean the interior and kill any eggs laid inside. For most gnats, there are also many DIY solutions like gnat traps that mix a type of food craved by the gnat, like apple cider vinegar, with something that will poison it, like dish soap. For outdoor gnats, the most effective way to eliminate them is to install pest control devices like MosquitoNix® misting systems or to utilize a portable insect-repelling system.

How Do You Eliminate Fleas?

Fleas are much more difficult to eliminate completely, but by using pet-friendly flea shampoos, frequent vacuuming of carpeted surfaces and flea insecticide powders for carpeting, you can reduce their numbers dramatically before the infestation gets out of hand. For larger flea infestations, it's recommended to have an expert service like MosquitoNix PestNix™ division eliminate them.

Keeping Your Home Pest-Free

No one likes household pests. Fleas, gnats, ants, cockroaches, bed bugs and of course, mosquitoes can transform your everyday life into a nightmare. With the right equipment and the right professional support, you can keep pests out of your home and yard and enjoy freedom from insects where you want them least. Contact MosquitoNix today to find out more about our services and to schedule a free consultation.

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