Bugged by pesky gnats?


By Kim Hurley

Register Freelance Writer


“Shoo fly, shoo fly, don’t bother me!” has been a common refrain heard this spring. This is not in reference to the typical pesky fly buzzing around inside and outside all through summer but, rather, the biting gnats also known as black flies, buffalo gnats, or turkey gnats.

According to Duane Gissel, an ISU Extension horticulturist, these gnats hatch only once per year, and now is the time for that to occur.  He predicts we’ll bid riddance of them four to six weeks from now.  Unlike mosquitoes, which lay eggs in stagnant water, biting gnats lay their eggs in rivers and streams where water moves.  Ken Holscher, an ISU entomologist, states that they depend on last year’s water supply.  Hence, the high rainfall last year has given rise to the huge infestation of biting gnats this year.  

 The biting gnats feast on anything with warm blood.  As most of us can concur, the bite of a gnat can cause intense itching, local swelling, and soreness. Although they can attack any exposed body part, they favor the head, just beneath the hat rim.  In the United States, these gnats are not known to transmit diseases to humans, according to the ISU Extension.   

Livestock, pets, poultry, and wildlife are also irritated by the gnats.  Particularly in poultry, the gnats can swarm the face and nostrils, eventually causing death.  This is because poultry, such as chickens and turkeys, are covered with layers of feathers.  Hence, the gnats go upward and cloud around the head.  According to Holscher, the toxins from gnat bites, alone, can kill poultry and other birds.

 So, are there any effective remedies? The typical bug spray will not prevent the gnats from biting, according to Gissel. Rather, he recommends trying vanilla extract (without cornstarch) or Absorbine Jr.  It’s also advised to spend time outdoors when it’s overcast and breezy, as opposed to sunny and stagnant. An Iowa company has also launched an effective, all-natural product called Bug Soother. The company is having difficulty keeping up with demand for the product, so if you come across some, better grab it while you can.



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