Since mid-April, a tiny black fly known as the turkey gnat has been causing these problems for people and birds, according to Lane Foil, LSU AgCenter entomologist.
The turkey gnat develops in bayous and flooded areas and attacks during the daytime, causing a nuisance as well as a painful bite, Foil said.
“Starting around April 21, 2010, reports began to come in that gnats were causing people problems,” Foil said. “On approximately the same date in 2011, the black flies began to appear. This year, reports began approximately two weeks earlier.”
These gnats can cause death of poultry and other captive birds because of the toxins in their saliva, but they are more a nuisance to humans and pets, according to LSU AgCenter poultry specialist Theresia Lavergne.
“In the spring, the adults are around for about a month, and then they go away,” Foil said. “However, the females will deposit eggs that will develop next spring,”
People can protect themselves by treating hats, bandanas and other clothing with permethrin as an effective way to lower annoyance, Foil said. “There are several products available that can be found in sporting goods stores and online.”
Foil said once clothing is treated and allowed to dry for a couple of hours, it can provide effective protection for weeks even with multiple washing. Insect repellents containing DEET also can provide temporary relief.
For pet protection, products containing permethrin are available for most animals, other than cats, and are often effective, depending upon application and formulation, Foil said.