Friday, May 11, 2007

Gnattering Nabobs

The Associate Press has picked up the Central Illinois gnat infestation story. In it, we learn that that the gnats may be so numerous because our water here is so clean:

University of Illinois entomologist Phil Nixon suspects clean water in the region's stream, cleaner than it has been in decades and much like the water that would have flowed in when settlers arrived, may be the cause.

Buffalo gnats lay eggs on sticks, rocks and debris near or in running water, he said, and the larvae use a fan-shaped set of bristles to capture whatever floats by.

"They essentially eat whatever gets caught in that fan," Nixon said. "If what gets caught is pollutants, they're poisoned."

And if the water is clean, he theorizes, their populations will be healthier.
So see, you tree-huggers, there is something to be said for pollution. I blame the gnats on environmentalists! [/Limbaugh]

At least we know Lake Springfield can't be hosting many of these things.

Anyway, we also learn that our pioneer ancestors here in Illinois may have also had to put up with the bugs:

Kevin Black, who scouts for agricultural pests for the Growmark Inc. cooperative in Bloomington, Ill., said large gnat hatches were likely a part of life in early downstate Illinois.

"There's old anecdotal information and old stories from this area of the country when it was being settled that the black flies would drive wild animals basically insane," he said.
Or they can kill, if you’re a bird.

The state Department of Agriculture has heard from several people who lost birds from backyard flocks, said spokesman Jeff Squibb, and tested the poultry for bird flu and other ailments.

"There is no test per se for buffalo gnats in a necropsy," he said. "It's a process of elimination, and all other causes have been eliminated."

The birds could die of blood loss, allergic reactions to the bugs' saliva or even asphyxiation, with their airways clogged with gnats, added Colleen O'Keefe, manager of the department's food safety and animal protection division.

Illinois doesn't have much of a poultry industry, and the few big farmers here raise their chickens indoors, safe from the gnats.

The state's outdoor flocks tend to be like the one Betty Dunker keeps in her yard near Hull, about a dozen miles southwest of Quincy along the Mississippi River. The 76-year-old Dunker has a mix of chickens, peacocks, doves and other birds that she says she keeps for her grandchildren.

About 30 of her birds died over the past 10 days after being tormented by gnats.

"My chickens were so tired from fighting these gnats that they could hardly even walk," she said.

The good news is, the gnats (flies) should be gone in a week or two. I’d say from my experience they are already down by at least half from a week or two ago.

Update: The gnat-flies aren't playing well in Peoria either.

No comments: