Thank goodness Julie Surratt & Phil Wilkinson only were outside for a little bit yesterday, for the buffalo gnats were crazy!
What’s a buffalo gnat? They’re these little black flies with a surprisingly big bite. You end up with a welt, and if you’re allergic even worse. When we moved to Jacksonville about 12 years ago, the gnats were not much of a problem. Only in the past few years have the swarms been something to consider.
Julie, an Illinois College alumna, wanted to stop on campus after the wedding to get some photos. A couple steps from the parking lot, as the wedding party walked past Sturtevant Hall, they were swarmed by gnats. We took a couple of quick photos, but there was more evading than posing. (Even worse, poor IC had their commencement outside the next day.)
This morning I was chatting with Pat Ward, an avid birder from Murrayville, who said the larval stages of the gnats come from local waterways. In years past pollution and silt meant fewer of the larval gnats survived, but now that streams and rivers are cleaner the gnats are making a comeback. He said frontier Illinois pioneers told of clouds of buffalo gnats driving horses crazy, and chickens would get suffocated (that happened two years ago to area chicken breeder Phil Bartz).
The University of Illinois suggests using DEET, but what I’ve found to work is vanilla. A bit of vanilla-scented lotion, or spray, or even the extract keeps the little buggers away.
Last year Lisa & David Jamiolkowski had their wedding at the end of May at Pere Marquette Lodge near Grafton, Illinois. We visited the lodge a couple days before the wedding and the gnats were bad, and we suggested Lisa & David to be prepared. They had spray bottles of vanilla on hand just in case. But, thankfully, the swarms disappeared right before their wedding. (The bugs die off after the water gets up to a certain temperature.)
So if you’re planning a wedding in Central Illinois in May, and you’re planning to have events outside, make some contingency plans for those pesky gnats.