Turkey gnats can threaten chickens

(04/18/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – Swarms of turkey gnats are an aggravation for people this time of year, but for chickens, the small insects can be deadly.

The bite of the pests can contain a toxin that is deadly for chickens, according to LSU AgCenter poultry specialist Theresia Lavergne.

Also, the insects swarm, and chickens become frantic, piling on top of each other and suffocating the birds on the bottom of the pile, she said.

Fortunately, the gnats aren’t likely to go into an enclosed area, Lavergne said. This means commercial poultry operations with huge chicken houses don’t have a problem with the gnats.

Chickens kept outside or in coops, however, are vulnerable to the insects. “If you can put the chickens in a barn during the day, they will be protected because the gnats don’t go inside,” she said.

In addition, screens can be used on coops, and the insecticide permethrin can be used on the chickens, the coop and the surroundings. An insect repellent containing DEET is recommended for people, and clothing can be treated with permethrin products.

The gnats are a problem starting in April. “Usually they stay around for about four weeks and then they go away,” Lavergne said.

Turkey gnats have been particularly bad this year. “They are worse when it’s wet, and we’ve had a lot of rain this year,” she said

Lavergne has fielded several inquiries about the gnats. “I just returned five phone calls and several emails,” she said. She has heard of instances where entire flocks of chickens died from the gnats.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Lane Foil said the turkey gnat also can cause death of confined birds. He said fans also can help ward off the insects in cages and coops.

4/18/2016 4:07:11 PM
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