If you live north of Macon, Columbus or Augusta and you think you’ve been seeing more gnats this year, you could be right. Even so, Jeff Burne says it could be worse.
“I’ve been some places in the tropics where I literally had to wear a respirator because they’d clog up your nose,” he said during a recent interview in his office.
“That’s a lot of gnats.”
Burne is an entomologist who teaches at Middle Georgia State University in Macon. He says he’s heard complaints about gnats from people around town. Which leads to this question: is the gnat line moving?
“It can’t move unless you have an earthquake,” he said. “It’s a change in the soil type and it happens to run right through Georgia.”
The gnat line is more or less the Fall Line, where the Piedmont meets the Coastal plain. Any point south of that and you find the eye gnat, so named because they get into your eyes, your nose and your mouth.
As much as they like your face, they like the sandy soil of the coastal plain better. Jeff Burne says they need it, in fact. That’s where eye gnats go from egg to larva and finally to adult. So the gnat line isn’t changing and eye gnats aren’t moving, but Jeff Burne said something else is.
“What has changed is temperatures,” he said.
Burne says with climate change, other flies just as annoying as the eye gnat — but who grow up under leaf litter or in the water — have been moving north. Burne said you can be forgiven if the distinction is lost on you.
“Because to a person who’s got gnats buzzing around him and annoying him, it doesn’t matter what kind it is,” he said. “It’s just the gnat”
Burne said the gnats are a sign of what’s to come. As mosquitoes move north, diseases such as chikungunya and Zika are coming, too.
“Everything’s moving north because it’s getting warmer,” Burne said.
So Jeff Burne says even if the gnat line isn’t changing, something bigger is.