It hasn’t been tough to be a bug recently in Jacksonville.
During an interview on AM1180’s “What’s on your Mind?” program, Larry Zetller talked about the recent exposure to buffalo gnats over the past few months. Zettler talked about how the weather may have something to do with the emergence of these bugs.
“The rain will have a lag effect. These little gnats like to breed in running clear streams within 50 kilometers of Jacksonville and I think that the runoff that we are seeing might have an impact on next year’s burst of these flies rather than now. My guess is that the gnats are slower to take wing right now from the stream because it has been a cooler winter season. I have a hunch that when they come out of the streams as adults and try to take the wing to feed on birds and mammals that if it is raining all the time they are not going to take the wings off and so I think it is an array effect based on their emergence rather than the actual water being high right now.”
The size of these bugs however, along with their ability to be incredibly elusive are what make them so difficult for any predator to catch including humans. For those wanting to try to avoid them, Zettler provides some tips of what to wear when outside along with what to wear.
“They have eyes, they can see shapes. They seem to be drawn more toward dark clothing than white clothing and when they get a little closer, that is when they start to smell CO2. They detect it and then when they get a little closer still, everyone’s body, everyone’s skin, apparently smells different to them and that is why some people are more prominent to being bitten than others. So what my understanding is that the sprays you get, the vanilla spray, kind of confuses them as they get closer to you, locking in on the CO2 perhaps. Then they get confused by that smell and they certainly do not want to be there.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking that only one type of these bugs exist however. Zettler details how buffalo gnats in fact belong to a list of different types of species and that no matter where you are, the severity of them all depend on the type of bug they are and the weather in the area.
“It depends on the species. There is a lot of different species of these buffalo gnats. Some of them come out at different times of the year, some of them like certain Phs’ of water that they breed in. There is a number of different factors and a number of different species so it is hard to say which ones are in Iowa. My guess is same ones we have here. It is called Simulium Meridionale and it is the one that supposedly Lewis and Clark’s expedition had problems with. So I think what typically happens is that when they take to the wing from these streams that they breed in, most of them in these streams or trickles, then I think they are carried somewhat by wind so they can be blown into a certain area some days more than others. It is hard to say I have been in parts of Illinois where they have been exceptionally bad one day or two and the next they are not nearly as bad.”
As we move towards the tail end of June and head into July, do not assume that the buffalo gnats will be leaving anytime soon. According to Zettler, the deciding factor between them staying or going could depend on if the streams stay silk free in the area and whether or not the gnats have laid their eggs and gotten their blood meal or not. If either of these factors prove to be accurate, we may be seeing these critters for up to a year longer.