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Buffalo Gnats: General Information, Bites on Humans and Animals & How to Control

Buffalo gnat on black background

Buffalo gnats are also known as the black flies. These are the types of the insects who live on blood. Feeding on the blood means they cause many diseases, river blindness is one of them. Most of the time they get their diet from the mammals and other animals, sucking blood. However, the male species get their nourishment from nectar. Over 18,000 species of black flies are present in the world.

Recognizing a Buffalo Gnats

Black flies or buffalo gnats are like the other flies, tiny and disgusting. Their size ranges from 5-15mm and adults are healthy and robust. They also have an arched thoracic region and large eyes. These creatures have short legs, a pair of antennae and fan-shaped relatively large wings. Mostly their color is from gray to black, but some of them have yellowish orange pigments one their bodies. The antennae serve the purpose to suck the blood from its prey.

Life Cycle and Breeding Habits

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The adult buffalo gnat goes through a complete metamorphosis during its lifecycle. It means that it develops into a full feeding adult after the last stage of development. The females lay around 300-500 eggs in a single batch after feeding on blood. They lay eggs mostly in flowing water or some wet surfaces like aquatic grass and flowers. The hatching period varies from species to species. Some of the eggs hatch in 4-30 days whereas some take months. There can be 4-9 larval stages. Depending upon the environment, temperature and food supply, the larvae develop in the timespan of 1-6 months. The last stage larvae usually attach to rocks and concrete surfaces if the life cycle stage passes through winters.

The pupal stage also occurs at the same site in spring or early summer once the larval stage ends. The pupae are of mainly orange color, and they have formed a unique, delicate layer around themselves called cocoon to protect themselves. In this phase, they look like a mummy since they have wrapped the legs and wings around themselves. After 4-7 days the pupa transforms into an adult. They can live for few weeks and mostly active from May to July. The black flies complete one or more generation per year, but that depends on their types.

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Feeding Habits

According to the study, 90% of the female buffalo gnats suck blood for their survival and development of the eggs. They usually get blood from mammals like cow, sheep, horses and even humans, whereas other feed on birds’ blood. They have fascinating phenomenon about their feeding. Many of the female species have their particular prey or host from which they get their feed. However, some of the flies suck blood from more than 30 different hosts. There are some species as well that suck human blood exclusively and also bite them.

The male black have different feeding habit. The mouth of male wasp is not robust enough to bite the host. Moreover, they are not attracted to the blood. They live on the nectar from flowers and other plants. The female bite during the daytime unlike mosquitos and target upper body and head mostly.

【Read more about Gnats】

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Geography

The buffalo gnats can be found all around the world from warm to cold regions of the Arctic Circle. They can live anywhere where they find their food supply which is mammals and birds. The main thing they require for their survival is clean and tidy water, and the excellent hosts. If we say that they are found everywhere, then it will not be an understatement.

Public Health Risks

The buffalo gnats are annoying pests, and they can be a threat to humans and other animals’ health. These insects live solely on blood. Therefore, there are much chances to get infected. The black flies may live on above 30 different hosts hence transmitting the infections and diseases. One of a fatal human disease caused by them is river blindness. These little pests bite the skin and can cause serious issues. Different reactions on human due to gnats bite are known as black fly fever. It includes a headache, fever, nausea and inflammation of wounds and node lymph in the neck of the victim. Since they mostly attack the upper body and had so, there are high chances that they get inside your ear, eyes, and nose. The area in which the species exclusively attractive is the human blood.

Buffalo Gnat Bites on Humans and Animals

The buffalo gnat usually bites near the head or upper body. The bites leave a small wound on the skin that can result in swelling. Sometimes the wound swells like the size of the golf ball and can cause inflammation and itching. The bite can be bit painful and stingy for the time being. They can be itchy later on.

Besides humans, they are a serious threat to the livestock. They transmit some diseases and infection agents to the cattle like worms and protozoa. The buffalo gnats also cause suffocation by crawling into the nose of the animal eventually leading to death. There have been many cases when the animals had died due to blood loss done by the severe biting of the black flies. The saliva of this pest can cause toxic shock in cattle and poultry that leads to the death.

Gnat Bite Treatment

The bite can cause the wound to swell. You should apply the ice to the wound to reduce the inflammation and swelling. If that does not work, then you should visit the paramedic and smear the advised ointment to the affected area. Also before that, wash the area with cold water and soap to avoid any infection. Cleaning the wound with antiseptic is even better choice.

How to Control Buffalo Gnats

Control of black flies is relatively difficult because they are the pests of drinking water and environment. Controlling under such condition can be very challenging. However, following ways can be helpful in the control of buffalo gnats.

1. Wear Bug Spray when Doing Water Activities

These insects live in water. Interaction with water can be risky for you. Whenever you do activities like cleaning the pool or swimming, always make sure you wear bug spray. It will keep the insects away from your body and chances of gnat bite reduce to a great extent.

2. Wear Hats with Mesh Nets that Can Extend over your Face

The buffalo gnats attack the head and upper body. If you work in some farm or poultry where there is gnat infestation then always wear the hats with a mesh net. It will protect your face and head from the attack of buffalo gnat and also you will not have any problem while breathing even with your face covered.

3. Wear Light-colored Clothing with Long Sleeves

Dark and bright color not only attracts the black flies but also other insects like mosquitos. Always try to wear light colors and also the dresses that adequately cover your body. However, inside the house, there are very fewer chances of these insects to exist. However, when going outside, always be very careful and cautious.

4. Try to Get Rid of as much Vegetation from Moving Stream as Possible

The female lays eggs in the running and clear stream of water. When we vegetate from the moving rivers, there are very high possibility that the larvae are attached to it which can be harmful to you. Try to get rid of it and use tap water instead.

5. There are fewer Buffalo Gnats at Higher Altitudes

The black flies mostly live at lower altitudes. When you look for a new place to live, choose it to be at higher altitude since there is less risk of getting infected by these annoying pest. Farm houses that are at higher elevations tend to have less gnat infestation.

6. Wait until Sunset to Go near Flowing Water

If you are planning to swim or some other activities near flowing water then try to schedule it after sunset. Once the sun is set, the black flies become less active because they tend to bite during the daytime. It will reduce the risk gnat bites, and other infections cause by them.