Fungus Gnats

Darkwinged fungus gnats are 1-11 mm in length and closely resemble the Mycetophilidae except that their eyes meet above the base of the antennae. The adults (Fig. 8.9A) are usually encountered in moist, shady habitats. The larvae (Fig. 8.9B) feed on a wide range of materials, including fungi, decaying plants, manure, and, in some cases, the roots of greenhouse plants, soybeans, and clovers. Lycoriella mali is a major pest of commercial mushrooms, feeding on compost and all stages of mushrooms. Bradysia species are known to infest greenhouses, where they damage plant roots and consume fungi in potting soil; they also transmit spores of plant-parasitic fungi of the genus Pythium. There are four larval instars. The adult-to-adult life cycle lasts 15—49 days in some of the economically important species. Like the myctetophilids, the sciarids may emerge inside houses from ornamental plantings and potted plants.

Sciarids pose no medical problems except for rare reports of household pets becoming ill after eating adult flies. In one Florida case, a 4-month-old dog died after ingesting large numbers of an unidentified sciarid species during an unusually large emergence in early May. The dog exhibited seizures and shock and was comatose by the time it was seen by a veterinarian. The dog died a short time later after experiencing extensive internal hemorrhaging and hepatic toxicosis. Examination of the stomach contents revealed several hundred sciarid adults (G. R. Mullen, personal communication).

There are more than 100 Nearctic species, for which keys to the genera of adults and larvae are found in

(B) larva. (Original by Takumasa Kondo.)

Steffan (1981). The ecology of some species is presented in Madwar (1937).

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