Turkey Gnats Pose Problems for Birds

US - From now until early May, a tiny black fly known as the turkey gnat can cause problems for birds, especially caged or cooped poultry.
calendar icon 17 April 2012
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The swarming of these gnats can disturb poultry and cause them to injure themselves or pile up on each other, which can lead to suffocation and death, according to LSU AgCenter poultry specialist Theresia Lavergne.

These gnats attack during the daytime but are not a problem in barns or enclosures, Dr Lavergne said.

Her advice is to keep poultry and other birds in an enclosure during the daytime, such as a barn or shed. “If an enclosure is not available, put screening over their coops to keep out the gnats,” Dr Lavergne said.

The turkey gnat develops in bayous and flooded areas, according to Lane Foil, LSU AgCenter entomologist.

“Starting around 21 April 2010, reports began to come in that gnats were attacking poultry, quail and other caged birds,” Dr Foil said. “On approximately the same date in 2011, the black flies began to appear. This year, reports began approximately two weeks earlier.”

These gnats can cause death of poultry and other captive birds because of the toxins in their saliva, but they are more a nuisance to humans and pets, Dr Lavergne said.

“In the spring, the adults are around for about a month and then they go away,” Dr Foil said. “However, the females will deposit eggs that will develop next spring.”

Poultry producers may want to purchase an insecticide containing permethrin, which can be sprayed on the birds and their surroundings, Dr Lavergne said.

Using fans to protect birds during the day is recommended in some states, Dr Foil said.

People can protect themselves by treating hats, bandanas and other clothing with permethrin as an effective way to lower annoyance, Dr Foil said. “There are several products available that can be found in sporting goods stores and online.”

Dr Foil said once clothing is treated and allowed to dry for a couple of hours, they can provide effective protection for weeks even with multiple washings. Insect repellents containing DEET also can provide temporary relief.

For pet protection, products containing permethrin are available for most animals, other than cats, and are often effective depending upon application and formulation, Dr Foil said.

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