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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
buffalo gnat

Swarming Gnats - That Bite

Posted by John Fulton -

The gnat swarms have been with us a few weeks, and at least some of these are the early buffalo gnat populations. The small flies, or gnats, are hatched in clean, running water. This is one indicator our water protection plans are succeeding. They will continue to hatch until water temperatures hit about 75 degrees. They will also travel up to 10 miles in search of a food source, meaning blood.

These insects can produce serious welts when they decide to bite. They tend to be worse during the day, and are seldom a problem inside buildings. In addition to people, they tend to attack birds. Young poultry and wild birds are especially vulnerable. Some poultry insecticide treatments will help control the gnat populations.

Control is difficult. Sprays of malathion, permethrin, or bifenthrin will help with controlling the buffalo gnats when outdoor activities must be held in infested areas. Dusts of permethrin will also help with outside poultry operations. Repellents of DEET, citronella, vanilla, and some of the other plant based repellents may also provide some relief. It seems like the vanilla, or a commercial product such as Buggins or black fly ointment, are most effective. Remember, only the females bite and the males swarm your face. When the bite occurs, a chemical is injected to help with blood flow. This is often the reason for the painful welts, usually on the face. Children also seem to be bitten, and affected, more than adults. The gnats seem to be attracted to white clothing. Navy blue seems to be the least favorite color of the buffalo gnat.



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