They’re Not “Mosquitos!” Gnat-Swatters and Drain Flies

Following a three-week absence, we returned to our house in the Alentejo … which we had cleaned thoroughly and removed every bit of trash before leaving.


Nonetheless, we were greeted by an infestation of “gnats” everywhere: During the day, they’re attracted to the light emanating from our windows, forming beaded curtains against the glass and marching brazenly across our mirrors; at night, it’s the light bulbs that propel them; while, regardless of the hour, they dart aggressively around my computer screen, dive-bombing unmercifully as I’m trying my best to conduct some work while waving them away.

You haven’t truly lived until you nick yourself shaving or shoo them away in the bathroom while dealing with “personal hygiene.” Or, sharing your dining table with these unwelcome visitors. Or, fishing around a wine glass to remove an errant gnat floating in your tinto.

Without exaggeration, we have encountered and tried our best to remove hundreds of these nasty no-goodniks. Yet, each time we ass-u-me we’ve dealt with them — Surprise! — more of them miraculously appear.

There’s not even a proper Portuguese word that translates “gnat” appropriately: “Mosquito,” say the English > Portuguese dictionaries and Google Translate. No, I think not. We’ve got real mosquitos, too, as well as moscas.

Since we can’t convey the substance of our dilemma, seeking help from merchants won’t work. Instead, I contact Facebook friends. I want to know: Where are all these unwanted pests coming from? Why are they paying us unwelcomed visits? More importantly, how do we get rid of them … once and for all?

• “I am/was having a similar problem,” shared Teri. “A contractor friend suggested covering all open water pipes, drains, etc. I used clear packing tape around the dishwasher and washing machine drainage pipes; put a plug in the tubs; pulled up the stopper for the bidets; installed small mesh filters on all the sinks; closed off the chimney; closed the vents in the bathroom. Surprisingly, those irritating gnats have almost disappeared. Not sure what had the biggest impact because I went with the sawed off shotgun approach.”

It’s incredible the lengths we go to against these smallest of predators in our own daily David v. Goliath battles!

• “I think you might have ‘drain flies,’ offered my friend Robin. “I had a horror film-like infestation when I had a plumbing leak and my ceiling was opened up. Check for leaks or built-up water or waste in pipes. I’m no expert, but hopefully this might put you on the right track.”

Robin was onto something …

 Immediately, I keyed “drain fly” into English > Portuguese online dictionaries and Google Translate. Again, all I got was “mosquito.”

• “We had those little fruit-loving gnats and flies in the three open stories to our house,” commiserated Beverly, who bought three cans of the tall fly spray and started at the top floor with all windows closed. “I sprayed everywhere up high to let it fall to the floor. I sprayed going down the stairs and then the next floor … and then the last. I closed all the rooms with doors, andI then left for a few hours. When I returned I had not one!”

God bless you, Beverly. You’ve redeemed us as not the only stewards of nature who want to pulverize these little demons for invading our space. We, too, went through entire cans of “all-fly-killer” sprays and thoroughly doused our 50m2, single story bungalow.

But determined they were and a few remain, flitting about.

• According to María, “If they’re fruit flies, you can create a trap with a small glass and a little red wine in the bottom. Make a funnel out of stiff paper or plastic so they can fly in, but not out. Keep the trap away from the areas you don’t want them in, so you direct them away from the spaces where they irritate you the most.”

“Gnats and mosquitoes come in through the electrical outlets, whose conduits are open to the outside,” Lila pointed out.


But, despite Googling pictures, I still don’t know if they’re gnats, mosquitos, drain or fruit flies because we really don’t want to get up close and personal to them. But, we’re willing to try (almost) anything to purge our property. .

• Henry advised using a “fogger,” but the logistics of dealing with our three pets delayed us from trying it. Instead, we followed Deb’s advice: “A little bleach in the drains also helps kill any larvae developing.” Cristina added that, “yellow sticky traps used in greenhouses are effective.”

I added the fly paper to our shopping list.

Already, we’d gone through three tall cans of “fly” killer and put bleach down the drains and pipes, which we then plugged. We bought — and lit — some vanilla candles for the bathroom and near our computers, hoping the “sweet” smell would attract them to the flame and the molten wax below. Still on our to-do list are taping electrical outlets and drainage pipes.

Next time we go shopping, we’ll buy and hang some of that sticky fly paper. What a lovely accessory that will be to our furnishings and decorating scheme!

Yeah, right.

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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