Have you been outdoors and found yourself being pestered by a pesky fly like creature buzzing around your head? These small pesky critters are eye gnats.
Eye gnats are non-biting pests that are attracted to secretions associated with the eyes, nose and ears of humans. These tiny flies are a severe nuisance and have been implicated in the transmission of pink eye. They are also known by other common names such as grass flies and another name that I can’t repeat here.
Large numbers of eye gnats are common in areas with moist, well-drained sandy soil containing organic matter such as cut grass or leaf litter.
Disturbance such as clearing, digging, disking, etc. often increase abundance. The life cycle requires from 11 to 90 days depending on temperature and moisture. During the summer, development from egg to adult requires about three weeks. Often populations subside considerably during the driest part of the summer; but with a spring like this year, populations in some areas have remained high.
In addition to being associated with pink eye, the eye gnat has been implicated in animal diseases. For example, this fly may mechanically transmit bovine mastitis. It has also been implicated in the transmission of vesicular stomatitis, a viral disease of horses, cattle, goats and swine.
Effective area-wide eye gnat control is nearly impossible due to the difficulty of reaching the soil with insecticide applications. On a small scale, homeowners can reduce breeding sites by reducing the amount of organic matter incorporated into the soil. Reducing surface soil moisture can also reduce larval survival. Physical exclusion (screen porches) using insect screens or netting will also provide relief. Some homeowners have achieved relief from eye gnats using homemade traps baited with eggs. The use of insect repellents containing DEET or Picaridin can provide temporary relief.
For more information on dealing with gnats, please feel free to contact the Phillips County Extension Office at 870-338-8027.