The gnats are back with a vengeance in the Feliciana Parishes. You may have noticed them if you’ve spent more than five seconds outside this week. Black flies, also called buffalo gnats, are a biting fly that tend to swarm around your head and face. They will also attack livestock and are especially hard on chickens. The flies bite, feed on blood, and secrete an anticoagulant that can cause itching and swelling in some individuals.
Immature flies live in water which is why populations are higher around waterways. I don’t notice them much around Clinton but the further I drive west towards the Mississippi River, the worse the gnats get. Yesterday I was visiting farmers around St. Francisville and the gnats were almost too bad to stand! Thankfully, the lifespan of an adult buffalo gnat is about one month. Only 2-3 more weeks to go until populations start winding down.
There aren’t many repellents that are successful in repelling buffalo gnats. Products with DEET don’t seem to work well against them. Some people say Skin So Soft, Victoria’s Secret Amber Romance, and products containing vanilla are successful. There is no research on these products but I guess it can’t hurt to try them. Staying inside during the day may be the only way to avoid them.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your livestock and pets. Products containing the active ingredient permethrin are shown to be effective against gnats. You should be able to find livestock sprays with permethrin at your local co-op. Permethrin is also effective against horse flies and other livestock insect pests. However, you should not use permethrin on cats. It can be toxic to them.
Additionally, buffalo gnats tend to stay away from dark, enclosed places. Make sure your chickens have a dark, enclosed place to escape to. If it’s especially hot, add a fan to keep animals cool. The wind created by the fan may also help deter gnats.
I’ve seen a permethrin clothes treatment spray sold in sporting goods stores in the camping section. After treating clothes, it is supposed to last through multiple washes. I am not sure how much relief you will get from buffalo gnats, but it may be beneficial against horse flies, ticks, and mosquitoes.
Dealing with buffalo gnats is no joke. I hope we all get some relief soon. Good luck!
Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.
Black Fly (Buffalo Gnat)
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Extension publication number IS1861.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture