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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


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Gnat invasion: What’s all the buzz about?

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | September 19, 2014

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People residing or working on Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany have come to expect three things during the summertime: 90-plus degree temperatures, humidity and gnats.

Most deal with the temperature and humidity by staying indoors with air conditioning. However, it’s the gnats people have to cope with once outdoors.

According to Julie Robbins, natural resource manager, Environmental Branch, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany, South Georgia’s non-biting gnats belong to the Genus Liophipelates, appropriately known as the Eye Gnats.

“The Eye Gnats feed exclusively on the moist secretions of animals, favoring the eyes, nose, mouth and wounds,” Robbins said. “They are also attracted to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, body heat and light.”

Breeding in the moist, loose, sandy soils of the coastal plain of Georgia, gnats have life cycles that last from 11 days to 3 months depending upon the species, she said.

Those wanting to escape the gnats will have to travel past the invisible “gnat line.”

“The “gnat line” runs from Augusta through Macon and Columbus, Georgia,” Robbins said. “The “gnat line” represents the area of change from the sandy coastal plain soils where the gnats readily breed to the denser, rockier soils of the Piedmont.”

Unfortunately, the Eye Gnat has few redeeming qualities, she said.

“The gnat does not pollinate flowers or eat destructive insects and it can serve as a vector for diseases such as pink eye,” she said. “About the best thing gnats do is serve as food for other wildlife such as bats, birds and beneficial insects like dragonflies.”

For those who work outdoors, Robinson recommended purchasing a head net that covers the face and ears or use commercial bugs sprays tailored to deter gnats.

“Some people have success keeping gnats away by hanging 1-2 dryer sheets from the back of their baseball caps,” she said. “It may look a little silly but it seems somewhat effective. Also, gnats do not like flying in wind so fans work well to keep them away.”

Sgt. Nathan Phelps, telephone technician, Base Telephone Office, MCLB Albany, recalled his first encounter with the Eye Gnat.

“I went to a softball game and everybody was wearing dryer sheets in their hats,” Phelps said. “I thought people from Albany were crazy. I came to find out dryer sheets keep gnats away. I realized I needed a couple of dryer sheets.”

Phelps, an avid deer hunter, said, “Movement will kill you when you’re hunting, but if you sit there and try not to fight the gnats, you will drive yourself nuts, straight up a tree.

“A facemask does not help because the gnats get in your eyes and they hover outside your ears,” he said.

Phelps said, “Ninety percent of the time you are sitting or standing there swatting and people don’t see what you are swatting at so it makes you look like a crazy person. You look like you have a twitch or something. If there was one critter I could get rid of it would be the gnat.”

He added there is no purpose for a gnat or a known remedy.

“There is a temporary fix with your bug spray, but after 10 minutes, they go right back doing the same thing,” he said. “There is no known fix to gnats. They are terrible. There should be a warning label on every insect repellent and it should say ‘Won’t work on gnats.’”

Phelps described his worst encounter with the gnats while playing in a softball tournament on base.

“I made the tag on third and went to go home and my feet went out from under me,” he said. “I scraped my knee to my ankle on the right side of my leg and it was like a homing beacon. They swarmed it.”

Phelps said the gnats present a challenge while on duty, especially during morning and evening colors.

“You are standing at the position of attention and the first thing they go for is your eyes, ears and nose,” he said. “And they get up in there too and you can’t move.”

For those new to MCLB Albany, Phelps recommended, “jumping out there with both feet and just getting used to them. You’re not going to get rid of them no matter what you do so you might as well as accept the fact and go with it.”

Phelps nicknamed the gnat “always faithful.”

“It doesn’t matter what you do, if you step outside they are always faithful, right in your face,” he said.

Sgt. Deryl Stockton, assistant operations and training chief, Operations/S-3 with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, said the only way to keep the gnats away is to do the “Albany wave.”

“The Albany wave is a constant wave around your ears and trying to keep them away from your face,” he said.

Cody Higginbotham, patrol officer, Marine Corps Police Department, MCLB Albany, likened the “Albany wave” to his job as a patrol officer.

“(It’s) a constant wave, like waving people through the gate and not meaning to,” he said.

In addition, Stockton admitted he has swallowed a few during physical training. Higginbotham called it “protein intake.”

To cope with the gnats during the summertime, Phelps said, “stay inside” while Stockton added work on the “Albany wave.”
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