Illinois College Biology Professor Larry Zettler, who has lived in Jacksonville for the past 20 years, says the gnats have been especially bad over the past five years.
Zettler believes the buffalo gnats are part of an ongoing cycle that Illinois residents are going to have to learn to deal with.
“The males pollinate flowers and so they don’t bite you, but the female flies do. When the flower and nectar start to dry up, I think you are going to start seeing them disappear,” says Zettler.
Zettler says buffalo gnats are all over North America, but a specific breed has become a problem in the Midwest Region.
“This particular one seems to be pretty aggressive about biting. They are breeding in probably rivers and streams around the Illinois River and west of here,” notes Zettler.
Zettler explains why buffalo gnats are so attracted to birds, humans and other mammals.
“The females need the blood meal for their reproduction and egg development. They see us and when they get closer, they can pick up the carbon dioxide from our breath, some of our smells and our skin. They can sense where you are at. Then the rest is history,” Zettler says.
According to Zettler, buffalo gnats are more active when clouds and storms are in the area. Zettler suggests using bug sprays with mint and wearing light colored clothing to keep the gnats away.