Gnats–Gnuff Said!

gnatsThey hover around your eyes, ears, nose and mouth.  They levitate in swarms called ghosts, not only in Wyalusing State Park but any open area.  Gnats are annoying. Anyone who has swallowed a few while enjoying the outdoors can attest to that.
What is it about summer and gnats? Gnat larvae live in moist environments. Given the average annual precipitation and ample waterways and wetlands in the area, finding the perfect gnat breeding site does not seem to be a problem.
You may think a gnat is just a gnat. But to an entomologist, it’s a fungus gnat, eye gnat, gall gnat, sand gnat, or any number of other small biting flies that are often mistaken for gnats, such as the fruit fly.
Gnats are small flies of the suborder Nematocera, which also includes midges, craneflies and mosquitoes. Whether we like them or not, gnats serve a purpose in nature. They are an important food source for birds, bats and larger insects. They also pollinate flowers.
They are not blood-thirsty like their cousin the mosquito. In fact, some adult gnats don’t even eat during their short lifespan. Gnat larva, which hatch from eggs laid in moist soil and other wet environments, feast on fungus, algae or plants.
Besides humidity, a gnat’s life cycle also depends on temperature.  Fungus gnats that live in Alaska can survive temperatures lower than 25 degrees below zero by freezing their bodies.
There are various ways to rid yourself of gnats; however, many use chemicals that may be harmful to small animals or food and leave a chemical smell in the air. Using vanilla to repel gnats is effective and leaves a pleasant aroma.
Rub vanilla extract or essential oil around the rim of your hat to keep gnats away from your body. The vanilla will keep the gnats away from your face as you work outside. The vanilla does need to be applied each day you need coverage.
Pour 3 to 4 teaspoons of vanilla in a cup or bowl and place the container close to the picnic table. This works well for picnics and barbecues. If the table is longer than 6 feet, use multiple vanilla containers to protect the entire table.
Create a mix of 2 cups of water, one squirt of dish soap and 2 tablespoons of vanilla and pour the mix into a spray bottle. Shake the bottle five to 10 times to mix the solution and spray the ground around any areas that may be attracting gnats.
Visit the Friends of Wyalusing State Park Concession Stand and try some Vanilla Spray.