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Getting Bugged? Wet Spring Has Brought More Gnats And Mosquitoes

Centers for Disease Control

All the rain that has fallen in the midwest this year has led to flooding and kept farmers from fields.  But there's also another result: more flying insects.  

For many, being outside for even brief periods has meant fighting off swarms.  

Nick Seiter is a research assistant professor of field crop entomology at the University of Illinois' Department of Crop Sciences.  He said the biggest concern is with the rise in population of mosquitoes, which are showing up earlier than usual.

"When we have a lot of standing and especially stagnant water that's a lot of great breeding spaces for mosquitoes," he said. "There's also a variety of other insects that aren't necessarily biting insects. Midges and other types of small flies that breed and develop in that standing water. They won't necessarily bite people, but they can be more of a nuisance."

And what about the buffalo gnats which seem more prevalant?  "In areas where there is more running water, more flowing water like where the rivers are high, you can see an increase in buffalo gnats," Seiter said.

Buffalo gnats are another term for black flies. They are tiny and attack humans, birds and animals.  The females are the ones that bite, needing to feed on blood to reproduce.  They tend to not carry much disease, unlike mosquitoes.  But their bites are painful.  

The black flies tend to subside as the weather heats up in the summer months.  In the meantime, there are repellant products, but Seiter said they often tend to be different than what is used to keep mosquitoes away.  To battle moquitoes, he recommends products with DEET, and wearing protective clothing when possible, and removing sources of standing water on your property. 

"We're blessed in the midwest that we don't have a tremendous source of mosquuito-borne diseases in humans," Seiter said, although encephalitis like west nile virus can appear. "Don't forget about your pets.  Heartworms is spread by mosquito bites so it's a good idea to take your animals to the vet and make sure they are up to date on their medication."

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