Just when you think it would be nice to go out and enjoy some pleasant warm weather these pesky insects show up to spoil your fun. Complaints have been numerous so far this year and many contribute it to the fact that we didn’t really have much of a winter. The unseasonably warm weather and rain we have had so far has given them a jump start on the season. Biting gnats like moisture and they thrive when temperatures climb above 60 degrees.
The female No-See-Um lays her eggs on water, mud or wet sandy areas. The time for a complete life cycle from egg to adult varies from 6 to 15 weeks with up to six generations in a year. The warmer the temperature, the more accelerated the life cycle. It’s no wonder we have such an abundance of these little devils.
Unlike mosquitoes, gnats are not as easily controlled by preventive measures. Mosquito larva need to surface for oxygen, thereby making them susceptible to insecticides that can coat exposed water preventing the larva from breathing. The larva of the gnats have gill mechanisms allowing them to extract oxygen from the water, not requiring them to surface for air. In addition, gnat larva can also breath air and don’t require submergence in water to hatch. The eggs can be laid in moist sand or mud (even moist potting soil) and hatch and develop. Direct contact of the adult with an insecticide will kill them. Now your gnat free, until the next hatching which could be within the hour. Now you begin to see the problem with controlling them, particularly in large areas where water and moisture are abundant.
Here are some suggestions for protecting yourself from the annoying bites:
- Clothing. By covering as much exposed skin as possible, you minimize the areas where they can bite. Long sleeve shirts, long pants and head coverings will all help to reduce bites. Gnats tend to like the soft areas (ears, eyes, nose, backs of hands, etc.) so pay special attention to protecting those areas.
- Although you can find gnats any time of day, they are particularly active at dawn and dusk. By avoiding outdoor activities at those times, you can reduce your exposure to these pesky insects.
- Repellents. Here are recommendations from John Gordy, Fort Bend County Extension Agent “…mixtures of DEET with other repellents like MGK 111, MGK 264, and MGK 326 appear to be better against blackflies than DEET alone. Some products that contain the above repellents include Avon Skin-so-soft Bug Guard, Coleman Skin Smart, Deep Woods Off, Sawyer picaridin repellent, and Cutter Backwoods.” Some home remedies also include vanilla oil (not synthetic), lavender oil and lemongrass oil. Fishermen swear a little dab of vanilla extract behind the ears keeps the gnats at bay.
- Control gnats in your yard. Gnats, like mosquitoes, are attracted to you by the carbon dioxide that you expel. In more controlled spaces carbon dioxide mosquito traps have proven very effective in reducing gnat populations. For more of a home remedy try mixing one forth cup of dish soap with 1 cup of brown apple cider vinegar. The gnats are attracted to the concoction and, once in the liquid, can’t free themselves. Remember to empty the container and replenish often.
So, as we begin our “gnat season” early this year, let’s remember the three R’s:
- Reduce exposed skin
- Repel with a recommended repellent
- Remove from your yard by means of commercial or home remedy for exterminating the gnats