Homeowners and even pest controllers often ask me why gnats follow me and nobody else.
As an entomologist who has spent more than 20 years studying pests and bugs, I surely know a thing or two about why gnats do that.
Gnats’ relentless buzzing and tendency to swarm around individuals can be frustrating and perplexing, but their swarming behavior is critical for survival and biological needs.
Let’s dive in to find out why gnats fly to you and cause annoyance.
Your “Olfactory Signature” Attracts Gnats
Your body chemistry plays a significant role in creating unique body scents that attract gnats.
Your genetic makeup makes volatile organic compounds on your skin that emit that smell.
Your unique smell might be undetectable to humans. But for gnats, it acts like a magnet.
That’s why some individuals are more likely to attract gnats than others.
Gnats are tiny insects that require warmth for survival and reproduction. In the world of gnats, our body heat acts like a magnet.
The heat that mammals, including our pet dogs, emit draws gnats like flame attract moths.
Engaging in physical activity, basking in the sun, and simply being warm-blooded attract gnats swarms while you’re outdoors.
Moisture attracts gnats. That’s why gnats fly into our homes and flock to places like kitchens and bathrooms where there’s a ton of moisture.
Our tears, sweat, and breath contain enough moisture to pique their interest.
This is particularly true for individuals who tend to tear up easily, sweat profusely, or wear glasses that trap moisture.
The worst part is that gnats can be carriers of bacteria that can cause pink eye or conjunctivitis.
Gnats detect carbon dioxide flumes that humans and animals exhale. If you’re a heavy breather, or if you’re engaged in a physical activity, then you will attract gnats for sure.
Do you know why?
Because decaying organic wastes, where gnats like fungus gnats lay eggs, emit carbon dioxide and methane.
So, the carbon dioxide you exhale makes the gnats think you’re a rotting matter (I know it sounds disgusting).
The female gnats fly into your face and body to check if you’re a breeding ground.
Diabetes And Open Wounds
Much research is on how diabetic patients attract gnats such as fruit flies. Fruit flies have a knack for determining high sugar content in diabetic blood.
In the US, where 1/3rd of humans have diabetes, it’s no surprise that gnats fly onto them.
A study published in the journal “Nature Chemical Biology,” found that the breath of diabetic mice contains significantly higher levels of specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than non-diabetic mice.
These VOCs are attractive to fruit flies, suggesting that diabetic breath may be a potential attractant for these insects.
Open wounds in diabetes patients have high sugar content and moisture that attract gnats.
These studies, however, aren’t conclusive despite showing a potential link between diabetes and increased attraction to gnats.
More research is needed to establish and confirm the connection.
Sweet And Fruity Scents
Using sweet-smelling perfumes or bathing in soap or body wash that emit fruity smells plays a significant role in drawing gnats.
It’s because gnats like fruit flies and fungus gnats are attracted to overripe fruits and vegetables.
Some insect repellents also smell fruity and sweet. These so-called repellents rely on fruit attracts.
Unfortunately, the sweet smells make the problem worse by attracting gnats.
Consuming fermented beverages causes bad breath that plays a hidden role in drawing gnats.
Eating food outdoors, such as at a picnic or outdoor activity, and forgetting to wipe down food spills draw gnats.
Open containers of food, forgotten crumbs, and even the residue on our fingers serve as a buffet for these opportunistic scavengers.
So, while outdoors or inside the house, keeping food in sealed containers keeps gnats away.
Dark Colored Clothing
Gnats flying into us is also related to the color of our clothes. Dark-colored clothes absorb heat, making you more visible to these tiny flies.
The worst part is that dark clothes attract biting insects such as biting midges or no see ums, which are tiny bugs you can hardly see.
These are biting gnats that feed on human blood. Their bites are intensely itchy and cause red lumps on the skin.
How To Prevent Gnats From Following You
Now that you know the reasons for gnats’ persistent pursuit, you can take action to make yourself gnat-repellent.
Below are the easy steps you can take right now to prevent gnats from swarming at you indoors and outdoors.
Hygiene: Shower daily, especially during the gnat season, which is late spring and summer.
Avoid Wearing Fruity Smelling Cosmetics: Cosmetics and skin care products that smell fruity attract gnats. Instead, wear natural repellents such as citronella or eucalyptus oil, mainly when you’re engaged in an outdoor activity.
Wear Light-Colored Clothing: Bright and dark colors draw gnats. The sticky traps for gnats are always in bright colors, such as yellow. Wear full-sleeved, light-colored clothes to keep gnats and biting flies such as sand flies or biting midges away.
Keep Your Skin Dry: If you sweat a lot, then it’s best to carry a towel with you and wipe your face, arms, and neck often. Sweat creates moisture on the skin, and it attracts gnats.
Wear skin-friendly DEET-based insect repellents: DEET-based insect repellents prevent gnats from flying onto you. And they’re a great hack to avoid biting insects and mosquitoes away from yourself.
Dispose of Garbage: Regular garbage disposal is vital to prevent the gnat problem. Gnats, such as fruit flies and fungus gnats, lay eggs in decaying food and organic wastes. Keeping your home and yard clean denies the gnats the breeding grounds they need to multiply.
Control Moisture: Leaky pipes in the house increase the moisture levels indoors. They create damp areas in the home that draw gnats. Standing water indoors and outdoors also play a role in attracting gnats. Fix these issues to keep gnats away.
Clean Sink Drains: Clogged sink drains are breeding grounds for gnats like drain flies. Keep the drains clean by regularly cleaning them with a drain cleaner or a mixture of hot water, baking soda, and white vinegar.
Treat The Potted Plants: The wet soil beds of indoor plants are a breeding ground for gnats such as fungus gnats. Treat the soil with 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide or diatomaceous earth to kill the gnat eggs and their larvae.
Seek Professional Assistance: Severe gnat infestation needs the help of pest control experts. If small flies constantly bother you in your home and home remedies aren’t working, hiring a professional is best.
Do Gnats Bite Humans?
Biting gnats, such as midges and buffalo gnats, bite humans and animals to feed on your blood.
Female gnats bite because they need bloodmeals to develop eggs in their bodies. However, the males feed on nectar.
But gnats like fruit flies and drain flies don’t bite humans.
Why Do Gnats Swarm?
Gnats swarm because of reasons like mating, defense, and seeking warmth. Gnats swarming is also a sign that there’s some rotting organic matter, which is their breeding ground.
Swarming is a natural behavior for gnats. The swarms are annoying but play a significant role in their survival and reproduction.
Why Are Gnats Attracted To You At Your Yard?
Fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and fresh flowers attract gnats and bugs. Highly-fertilized and over-watered yard soil causes molds and fungi on the soil.
These molds are food sources of gnats, such as fungus gnats.
Outdoor lighting also attracts gnats. Gnats fly to the light source and can enter homes through the cracks on the windowsills to reach the glowing light bulb.
These are the factors that draw gnats –
- Body odor
- Body heat
- The carbon dioxide fume that humans exhale
- High blood sugar levels
- Open wounds
- Sweet-smelling perfumes or fruity scents from your hair and skin
- Dark-colored clothing
However, keeping gnats away from you is a straightforward task. Following the guidelines I laid out will ensure you’ll never have gnats chasing you.