Gnat is the common name for many small, winged insects in the fly grouping. Contrary to popular belief, these tiny flying insects are not “babies,” they are adults. The tiny flying insects that many people call “gnats” could really be fruit flies or fungus gnats. Depending on species, gnats can be biting or nonbiting and will feed on plants, other insects or blood.
For some species, males assemble in large mating swarms known as ghosts. These swarms occur most commonly at dusk in large fields and above streets. Depending on the species, gnat eggs are laid on land or water. Larvae may be immobile or capable of movement by way of rocks and water plants. Adults range in size but usually are no larger than 33 mm. The larval and adult stages of the gnat are considered both beneficial and detrimental. Some species are excellent plant pollinators and feed on crop pests such as aphids and scales. Other gnats, such as the Hessian fly, are crop pests themselves.
Females of some species, such as the black gnat or black fly, feed on blood. These gnats have been known to carry parasites and spread diseases to humans and livestock. Due to the spread of river blindness and other health concerns, numerous programs have been established throughout the world to control gnat populations.