Originally published on April 22, 2021.
It appears that things are slowly opening back up and the return to some resemblance of normal is hopefully in the not-too-distant future. However, the one constant again this year is the pesky buffalo gnats that enjoy hovering around my head as I am trying to enjoy the outdoors in between rain shower events. These gnats have many common names and cover several different species. These pests are called turkey gnats, buffalo gnats and no-see-ums, just to name a few. These gnats have sure become a nuisance to people and livestock across the parish.
As a member of the black fly family, these gnats are a problem mostly during late winter to early spring. So unfortunately, the cooler weather we have been experiencing will likely keep them around for the next several weeks until we can see a raise in the temperature. Once the temperatures stay consistently around 80 degrees, their numbers will diminish.
According to Sebe Brown, an LSU AgCenter entomologist at the Dean Lee Research Station in Alexandria, the adult gnats are like mosquitoes and feed on blood. Therefore, we see them swarming around people, livestock, and pets. “Black flies will secret an anticoagulant that can cause an allergic reaction and prolonged itching in sensitive individuals,” Brown said. “In livestock they can cause toxemia, anaphylactic shock, and in extreme cases, have caused suffocation.” The female gnats have the capability to lay between 100 and 600 eggs. The adult populations exist for about one month in the spring, and the eggs laid by the females will develop the following spring.
Unlike mosquitoes, there are few effective options for controlling gnats around people. Some people have seen success from using unconventional products such as Avon Skin-So-Soft or Victoria’s Secret Amber Romance. Some are even using naturally derived ingredients such as citrus or vanilla, which may contain some repellent properties. However, there is no scientific research to support these unconventional products from controlling these insects around people or homes.
For livestock, repellant products containing permethrin or ivermectin ear tags, smoldering fires that produce dense smoke and providing shelters with fans and minimal light may offer relief from these pests. Generally black flies will not enter enclosures or barns and are only active during the day according to Brown. So, keeping them inside during the day and turning them out at night when the gnats are less active is recommended.
Brown said that permethrin or any pyrethroids-class products should not be used on cats. As a reminder, when using products of this kind please follow all labeled rates, which may differ between species of livestock animal.
With warmer weather we will see relief from these bothersome pests. But with warmer weather we know that the next pest we will have to defend ourselves from when in the great outdoors is the mosquito. At least with mosquitoes we have more effective options for control.
If you have questions or concerns about the gnats or any other related topic, please contact Mark Carriere, County Agent, by calling the Pointe Coupee Extension Office at (225) 638-5533 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on this and numerous other topics can be found on the web by visiting the LSU AgCenter website.