I had no real idea what a gnat was, other than an utter and complete nuisance.  I had no real idea what they do, other than swarm about my face, or what, if anything, they bring to the evolutionary table, so I did a little research, and now, I’m more annoyed than ever.  These pesky little insects do more than irritate and ruin a perfectly nice camping trip.   The term “gnat” is actually a catch-all for useless, maddening, biting, stinging, summer spoilers.  Ok, that’s not the scientific definition, but I think you get my point.

Gnat is a term used to describe any small, two-winged fly that bites.  Some specific examples of gnats include mosquito, midge, fungus gnat, eye fly, fruit fly and/or black fly.  Yes, I said eye fly.  Ugh.  Gnats are absolutely capable of causing painful bites and irritation and have the uncanny ability, due to their miniscule size, to eke out places on the human body not fit for discussion on a family blog such as this.  Often times, they seem to attack in large groups, known as mating swarms.  Gnats are attracted to the heat our bodies emit, the carbon dioxide we exhale, and the sweat we produce.  It’s even worse for our four-legged friends.  The aptly named eye fly is attracted to animal secretions of the mouth, nose and eyes.  Oh, good grief.

In addition to attacking warm-blooded animals, including humans, gnats are capable of damaging plants and roots while others feast on decaying matter in the soil or rotting fruit.  The fungus gnat is attracted to moist soil and its larvae feed on fungi, and plant material, particularly from young plants, sometimes killing them.  Established plants are hardier and seldom fall victim to the larvae.  To protect your garden and yourself from these pint-sized menaces, allow the top inch of soil to dry out between watering, and just like mosquitoes, make certain water is not allowed to pool in your gardens and garbage cans.  Keep your gutters clean and pools chlorinated.  Properly dispose of rotting fruit, wear light-colored clothing and keep perfumes to a minimum.  Basically, a lot of the same rules for deterring mosquitoes apply to the gnat.  Personal repellents, bug lanterns and zappers can assist in the battle, but gnats can be terribly tenacious.  Our very own Maria, whose dulcet tones you have grown accustomed to on the phone, swears by dabbing imitation vanilla behind the ears to keep the gnats at bay.  It’s definitely worth a try.  Ah, the glories of summer.

“Towards gnats and fleas we should show no pity. We would do right to hang petty thieves, petty calumniators, and slanderers.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney