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Flying midges, gnats 'bugging' humans, pets

Monday, June 23, 2008

Have you noticed the large number of pesky gnats and flying midges hovering around the area since the Flood of 2008?

They are terrible and very annoying.

The midges' bite cause little whelps to develop and literally "bug" a person so bad that being outside is a real challenge.

Ed Borter, a veterinarian from Odon, says the number of fungus gnats and biting midges this year is up because of all the flood waters that have covered the region, producing mounds of decaying materials like wood and old corn shucks when they receded.

Borter says that he's treated several dogs in recent days with what look like to be numerous gnat bites to the ears.

Purdue Extension Service Educator Lindy Miller, assigned to the Greene County office, agrees there is a problem and says it seem to be worse this year than normal.

"We've been getting a lot of calls on them. They are about as bad as we have seen them for a while," he said.

Miller said the area is being bombarded by an abundance of biting midges (also known as sandflies) and also fungus gnats.

"The ones that are hovering around your face are the midges. It looks like an itty-bity fly," he said. "They are about the same size as a gnat. The gnats don't bite as much. These biting midges are causing quite a little bit of trouble. One of the problems you run into is, they are a blood sucker and so they hover around warm-blooded animals. They detect those warm-blooded animals by their respiration. That's why they get around your nose and mouth and they are easy to suck in when you breathe. They get in your ears and every other thing."

Material from Purdue Extension Service says biting midges are small robust insects with piercing and sucking mouth parts that belong to the family of flies Ceratopogonidae. Only a few groups within this family are known to suck blood and their distribution is almost world wide. These small flies are renowned for their nuisance biting associated with habitats such as coastal lagoons, estuaries, mangrove swamps and tidal flats.

They also have seemed to invade central Indiana since the recent flood.

The gnat is a close and annoying cousin.

Chironomid midges -- gnats -- are small flies that range in size from 1/16 to 1/2 inch long. They range in color from light tan to light green to nearly black, depending on the species. Midges can be confused with mosquitoes, which are similar in size, appearance and habitat, according to Purdue Extension Service.

Midge larvae are small and worm like and develop in lakes, ponds, slow-moving streams, drainage ditches, wet mud and even in highly polluted sewage water.

Midge larvae are often the most abundant aquatic insects in these habitats. They feed on algae and organic matter in the water, and in turn, are readily fed upon by fish. It takes approximately one month to complete the life cycle from egg to adult.

Large numbers of adult midges emerge at sundown, gather in swarms and produce a humming sound that can be heard several feet away. Adult midges are attracted to lights, which is the reason they are often found near human structures. When abundant, they are capable of completely covering areas of the home and other objects near lights.

Several different species live and develop in a single body of water, and most of these species produce more than one generation per year.

In some locations, the result can be almost nightly swarms, one after another, throughout the summer months. Some midge species are small enough to go through ordinary window screens and infest indoor areas.

Miller said two factors have fueled this flying insect explosion.

The really wet spring and the hot weather caused what he called "a really substantial" hatch.

"I think as we see things dry out, you will see some headway on reducing the number you see flying around in the yard," Miller stressed.

Material from Purdue Extension Service also says the gnat and biting midges problem should be around for at least another two weeks or so.

Extension personnel offer the following recommendations for keeping the little bugs away from you:

* Use Avon Skin-So-Soft. - Safety Tip - This will make your hands greasy. You should wash them after applying it.

* Apply a thin layer of Vick's Vapor Rub to the brim of a hat. - Safety Tip - Do not apply to your forehead (Sweat will make it run into your eyes). Be sure to wash your hands after application.

* Original Listerine sprayed on exposed skin. - Safety Tip - Just like using Listerine as a mouthwash do not swallow the Listerine or spray into your eyes.

* Stuff dryer sheets in your clothing. Greene County Foundation Executive Director Kerry Conway recommends rubbing one of those dryer sheets on your body to help with the situation.

* A mixture of vanilla extract and water has also been an effective repellent, used by construction crews, according to Nyle Riegle of Linton.

Miller says none of these homespun methods are guaranteed, but they might be worth a try if you intend to spend any time outdoors in the near future.

"The repellents aren't working really well for these flying insects primarily because they don't bite on you all of the time like mosquitoes. These midges do more trouble while they are hovering around and they bite pretty quickly. Physical exclusion is about the best thing while they are really thick like this.

"We've gone to nettings. If you go to an outdoor/camping supply store of some sort, they sell those mesh things you can pull over your hat and it's got elastic around the neck and you can pull your collar up into it. If you have to work outside it will help. We have gone to that ourselves because they (the flying bugs) have been so bad you can't even stand it for five minutes without it. As the breezes come through, obviously it clears them a little bit because they don't have the ability to hover quite as much."

Miller said the outdoor foggers will help for a limited period of time, but he said the dryer weather in the past week has lessened the severity of the problem.

"I think they were at their peak three or four days after that flood (in early June). So if we can get this water that is out standing around dried up, it will be amazing how quick the problem will get better," he added. "Bug zappers and repellents will work, but it's just like a drop in the bucket."

For the latest information from Purdue Extension go to the following link.


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People here are finding that a simple dryer sheet rubbed on your face and arms helps a bunch

-- Posted by greene co native on Mon, Jun 23, 2008, at 9:21 PM

Skunk pheromone works very well and can be obtained at some hunting supply stores.

-- Posted by dorindaJ on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 12:03 AM

And the black flies, the little black flies

Always the black fly no matter where you go

I'll die with the black fly a Pickin' my bones

In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, In North Ontar-i-o

-- Posted by per moenia urbis on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 8:23 AM

The vanilla and water works really good to.

-- Posted by AMyers8289 on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 8:49 AM

per moenia urbis - you should give credit to the person that wrote The Blackfly Song - Wade Hemsworth.

I believe that he worked the bushlands of Northern Ontario and Quebec in the 1940s and 50s. If I recall correctly, the song tells about the difficulties of working on the Little Abitibi survey crew, specifically how the workers had to cover themselves with bacon fat and balsam gum to keep the bugs away.

Just thought that you should know.

-- Posted by tgson6060 on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 8:56 AM

I lived on the coast for a while. The insect nets will sometimes keep them out, but you have to get the smaller mesh kind - they go right through mosquito netting...

-- Posted by Possum on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 12:51 PM

We'd like to know if these biting midges are carrying any viruses.

-- Posted by Angymama76 on Fri, Jun 27, 2008, at 2:16 PM

I have heard that fresh Basil keeps the bugs away. You can crush fresh leaves and rub on skin and then chew fresh Basil to keep them away from your face, since they hover around your breath.

-- Posted by KoffeeLady on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 11:32 AM

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