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HELP! Gnats in houseplants/soil taking over!!!!!!

W.T. Morgan wtmorgan at pilot.msu.edu
Sat Apr 20 15:31:53 EST 1996

In article <Pine.SCO.3.91.960418151120.11428A-100000 at student.cc.fc.ul.pt>,
Israel Silva <bisrael at cc.fc.ul.pt> wrote:

> Please, I would like to know something about those fungus gnats you are 
> talking about. Are they Diptera, or something else? Tell me something 
> about their sistematics, and other interesting things. Thanks.

These belong to the dipteran family Mycetophilidae, which means "fungus
lovers". The family fits into the suborder nematocera, along with
mosquitoes, black flies, crane flies, midges, and others. A related family
(Sciaridae) are the dark-winged fungus gnats.

Most members of both families feed on fungus or on decaying vegetation
(where there's decaying vegetation, there's usually fungus). Both prefer
damp soil. A few species in each family are occasional pests in mushroom

The Sciaridae includes a few species which attack plant roots. Most
notable is the potato scab gnat, which vectors that disease.

The Mycetophilidae includes a subfamily (Keroplatinae, if you want to
delve more deeply in the library) whose larvae spin mucous webs. This
group includes not only fungus feeders, but a number of predators (in the
larval stage). Some of the predators are bioluminescent, and are the only
(known) glow-in-the-dark Diptera. These occur in heavy shade, or in caves.
They use their light to attract small insects, which get caught in the
webs, and become food for the larvae. In some species, the light is
continuous, while others are able to turn it on and off. The famous ones
from caves in New Zealand are of the latter type.

So the annoying house guest has interesting relatives. 


wtmorgan at pilot.msu.edu
Center for Room Temperature Confusion

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