The cursed buffalo gnats have made their return with the warm temperatures.
The City of Chicago reported unusual, huge swarms of the insect last week moving into the city.
Dr. Larry Zettler, Professor of Biology at Illinois College, says that he’s noticed a few out in Jacksonville already and expects more as the temperatures warm: “Last year, to me, didn’t seem as bad as previous years. I think they are out now. I’ve noticed a few in my yard here in Jacksonville. I was in Menard County recently and they were out there. I think they are going to be out in the same amount as last year, which is my guess. I think you’ll see some and those who are sensitive to their bites will notice them more. I think we are having a late start. I think that it was cooler towards the end of this Spring with a lot of rain. I’ve noticed that their numbers here in town seem to go up when there is a lot of strong south or southwest winds when it starts to warm up. The flowers that open and the chicks in the nest are a source of food for them, so that’s all happening now. The males pollinate the flowers. The females, the biters, are usually the ones who attack birds and nestlings, as well as people.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health says that the insect’s bite isn’t known to transmit disease into humans, however, some people are heavily allergic to their bites which could cause anaphylaxis.
According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, buffalo gnats are most active on calm days, just after sunrise and just before sunset. Individual adults will live for several weeks. Fortunately, once water temperatures start to reach the mid-70s, eggs will stop hatching, and adult populations will begin to decline.
To avoid bites, wear light colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants. Wear clothing that has zippers instead of buttons. DEET repellents and vanilla have been shown to be effective.