‘Where do gnats come from and how do you get rid of them?’ It’s a question that is discussed by everybody in South Georgia, young and old, but it seems like no one really has a definitive answer.
Gnats are so common in the summertime in South Georgia that most people have come to grudgingly accept that it’s hard to get rid of them: you can swat them away but they will eventually bug you again.
Where do kids think gnats come from? Kids and gnats seem to be the most pestered by gnats and ‘skeeters. While mosquitoes gradually start increasing in number in March or April, depending on how warm it is outside, gnats seemingly just kind of show up all of the sudden in summer.
“I think gnats show up more around trees and grass because that’s where they feed,” said Michael Conder, a participant in the City of Bainbridge’s Jack Wingate Outdoors Camp.
“I think they hide out in the burrows and bushes in the winter and we just don’t see them as much then,” said Hayden Martin, another Wingate camper who suggested using a product called Swamp Gator to get rid of gnats. “You put it on your arms and legs and face…it stings a little but it’s worth it.”
Sure enough, Swamp Gator was one of the gnat-fighting solutions recommended by Wayne Louviere, an employee at Stone’s Hardware Center in Bainbridge. Swamp Gator, which is actually free of alcohol and DEET, uses Geraniol, soybean oil, rosemary oil and peppermint among its main ingredients. A similar, more expensive product uses citronella oil.
Some people I talked to also recommended Thermacell mosquito repellent lanterns, which can also be found at Stone’s Hardware or Moore’s Ace Hardware in Colquitt, Ga.
But where do gnats come from? We still wanted to know. You’ve heard of The Gnat Line-gnats are usually found only south of Macon, and not in Atlanta at all, although the metropolis still has skeeters, just for less time than we do.
Stephen Wells, a Lake Seminole guide whose wife Pam Martin-Wells is a pro angler, said it’s all about geography.
“You tend to find gnats all over the southern United States along a stretch of land that is about as far from the ocean as we are in South Georgia,” Wells said. “I don’t know why God put them on this Earth exactly, because they are bothersome. Actually, out on the water, regular gnats don’t bother you at all. But on lakes that have grassy banks, there are hydrilla gnats that even using repellents on won’t work.”
Finding gnats along coastal plain areas (parts of Southeast Georgia used to be covered by the ocean a long time ago) might make sense, some people say they’ve heard that gnats are found in areas where there is sandy soil.
A Google search suggests that gnats feed on funguses (fungi) that are found in damp areas. Removing standing water from around your house can limit the breeding grounds for both gnats and mosquitoes.
Wells currently does the Daily Outdoors Report with Al Kale for Flint Media radio stations, a job that Lake Seminole legend Jack Wingate used to have before his passing. I asked Wells to come up with a “tall-tale” explanation for gnats like Wingate would have.
“I just can’t do it, they’re a mystery,” Wells protested at first. But then he told a true? story.
“When I was younger, I was riding in the truck with my brother in a car that had a windshield but no roof. There were gnats all over the windshield. Well, all of the sudden, this little jumping spider comes out of the dashboard and leaps about 7 or 8 inches away and starts eating those gnats off the windshield.”
It’s the Circle of Life, I said. Or rather, the food chain. Something like that.
Here are some other popular insect repellents you can find at Stone’s or Moore’s Ace Hardware: