I have lots of small flies on and around the com­post of my house­plants. Will they dam­age my plants and how can I de­ter them?

The flies sound like fun­gus gnats (scia­rid flies). The lar­vae of these ex­tremely com­mon pests live mainly on dead or­ganic mat­ter just un­der the sur­face of the soil but can some­times dam­age seedlings and cut­tings. The adults can be killed with chem­i­cals but I pre­fer to cover the soil sur­face with fine grit or sand to pre­vent the fe­males lay­ing their eggs. Keep­ing the soil sur­face clean and tidy and al­low­ing it to dry a lit­tle be­tween wa­ter­ings will also help. In the green­house sticky yel­low traps up will also re­duce num­bers.

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