Sunday, June 26, 2005

Insect invasion raises concerns

(Related Article: June 16, 2005 Daily Republic)

From Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA // June 26, 2005

By Barry Eberling // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - Whatever the Suisun City insect invader is, it sure packs a wallop.

Swarms of the tiny, biting insects turned up in the Lawler Ranch and Montebello Vista subdivisions last week. Police put out a recorded phone message to residents advising them to stay inside.

The problem seems to have subsided in some parts of the subdivisions and persists in others. Lawler Ranch resident Roger Miller has seen swarms of the gnats outside his second-story window in recent days.

"This has never happened before last month," he said. "In the years before, it's never happened."
Dwight Acey no longer sees many of the insects in his Lawler Ranch neighborhood. His problems came last week, when the bugs came streaming down his chimney and out the fireplace.

Acey also encountered them in Potrero Hills. He opened his window and stuck out his arm to leave an item in a mailbox. He got what felt like tiny syringes poking into his arm.

"I've never been bitten like that before," Acey said. "They were like repeatedly attacking me. My arm was just covered with insect bites and eruptions."

His neighbor did some gardening outside and got bit in the face, he said.

Suisun City on its Web site called the invaders black flies, also known as buffalo gnats. It called them "marsh insects" native to most areas of California below 6,000 feet in elevation.

"The flies normally hatch in running water and the local population will likely decrease as creek and marsh levels decline," the city press release said.

But some people think Suisun Marsh is getting a bad rap.

Steven Chappell is executive director of the Suisun Resource Conservation District. Chappell lives in the heart of the marsh. He doesn't see these gnats, he said.

The insects aren't black flies, but black gnats, said Carol Evkhanian, biologist with the Solano County Mosquito Abatement District. District workers in the field battling mosquitoes get bit by them all the time, she said.

These gnats lay eggs in cracked adobe clay soil, she said. Adult females emerge around May, but sometimes later. The gnats can also be found in some areas around Dixon, Travis Air Force Base, Vacaville and Rio Vista, she said.

"It has nothing to do with the marsh itself," Evkhanian said. "These guys can't fly very far. They're very tiny."

Both Evkhanian and Suisun City agree the late rains and cool weather led to the unusual insect invasion.

People who encounter the gnats can try putting on mosquito repellent and wearing long clothing, Evkhanian said. They can stay indoors during the cooler part of the day if there is no breeze. Sustained hot weather will kill the insects, she said.

Jan Greenwell lives in Montebello Vista. She got bit by the gnats a couple days ago while washing windows.

"I don't know what they are," she said. "But I just wish they'd go away."

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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