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10 things you need to know about Lowcountry sand gnats — and how to get rid of them

Natural ways to keep the no-see-ums away

Margie Fox, of Bluffton's Garden Gate Nursery, shares, on Friday, April 8, 2016, a few natural ways to keep those pesky biting midges away.
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Margie Fox, of Bluffton's Garden Gate Nursery, shares, on Friday, April 8, 2016, a few natural ways to keep those pesky biting midges away.

Whatever you happen to call them, you don’t want to mess with sand gnats. And it’s that time of year again.

Sand gnats leave awful little welts where they rip skin to drink blood. The little pests are resilient residents of the Lowcountry and it’s best to know your enemy.

There are some methods to keeping the biters away that work and some that don’t. But almost anything is worth a try to keep them at bay.

Here are 10 things to keep in mind about the terrible, tiny beasts:

 

1. They’re not as dangerous as mosquitoes:

While their bites are still awful, itchy, swelling sites, sand gnats don’t pass around West Nile Virus or the Zika Virus like mosquitoes can. You might want to swat at them anyway, though.

 

2. Use spray and/or lotion deterrents whenever possible:

Anyone who’s not bold enough to simply accept their fate as a meal will be on the lookout for any kind of spray or lotion that might do the trick. Products containing Deet are likely to last longer than those without and can ward off most pesky, biting bugs. Anything containing picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or other essential oils like lemongrass or lavender may also be of use.

 

3. Just because you use the deterrents doesn’t mean they’ll work:

These pests seem to know our human tricks; not everything will scare them off. Nothing seems to be 100 percent effective against all sand gnats, but it can’t hurt to try.

 

4. Sleeves and long pants are a safe bet:

Yes, it’s warm here, but if skin is covered, it’s less likely to become a snacking spot. It’s a trade off, but possibly a worthwhile one.

 

5. Fans might help keep them at bay:

The more feeble sand gnats could be kept away with an outdoor fan. If their tiny wings can’t carry them to you, you’re safe from a few extra bites.

 

6. The color of your clothes could make them hungrier:

Apparently vibrant colors are signs to sand gnats that dinner is served. White clothes tend to disguise the wearer slightly better from their tiny, merciless teeth. Loose clothing can also help.

 

7. They’re not quite vampires, but they’re close:

Sand gnats aren’t big on sunlight and they drink your blood. They’re typically ready for mealtime starting at dusk and feast through the night.

 

8. There are several different types of sand gnats:

Some prefer warmer weather, some slightly cooler. Peak seasons for them tend to be March, April and November.

 

9. Beaufort County is basically a breeding ground for sand gnats:

They love the salt marshes; they set up camp there ages ago. There’s apparently no better place to raise gnat families than in South Carolina’s 420,000 acres of salt marsh. They’ll be sticking around.

 

10. You just have to get used to them:

Everyone will have a different myth or method, but the little buggers aren’t going anywhere. Sand gnats have been here longer than any of us. They’re part of life in the Lowcountry and its best to come to terms with it before you lose your mind swatting away.

Joan McDonough: 843-706-8125, @IPBG_Joan

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