Biology professor discusses prevalence of buffalo gnats in west central Illinois

By Gary Scott on May 10, 2018 at 12:35pm

Warmer temperatures are approaching and many are wondering when west central Illinois will start seeing an increase in those pesky buffalo gnats.

As Jacksonville and the surrounding area enter the middle of May, local residents will likely start noticing the effects of a late spring, particularly when it comes to the prevalence of airborne bugs like gnats and mosquitoes.

Illinois College Biology professor Dr. Larry Zettler joined WLDS’ AM Conversation today, where he discussed various topics regarding bugs and the various environmental aspects that might affect how rampant they could be in the area. Dr. Zettler believes last month’s unseasonably cool weather is having an impact on when the buffalo gnats start to emerge.

“It’s anyone’s guess but I think what’s going on is, we had a really cool April, and I think that that may have caused their hatching out of the streams nearby to  be slowed down. My guess is that (the buffalo gnats) are going to come back pretty soon, they were just delayed by the cool April,” says Zettler.

Dr. Zettler breaks down the differences between buffalo gnats and mosquitoes, particularly in terms of where the two respective bugs like to colonize.

“We have the distinction of having mosquitoes and buffalo gnats here in Jacksonville. The two of them bite, the females bite, take a blood meal and they develop their larvae from that. The black flies, or buffalo gnats, breed in clear, unpolluted streams and river systems with sandy bottoms, and they can be hatched and bred about fifty miles from where they’re born. Mosquitoes don’t fly so well, they’re more local, and they breed generally in backyards in stagnant water, things lying around, old tires, things like that that might be laying around in the yard. Together, (the buffalo gnats and mosquitoes) constitute a nuisance here,” Zettler explains.

In terms of trying to steer clear of these pesky insects, Dr. Zettler says that buffalo gnats are typically attracted to dark colored shirts, therefore lighter colored shirts are less likely to attract them. He also suggests using vanilla spray to help keep the buffalo gnats away, however when it comes to mosquitoes, he says regular bug repellent is likely the better option.