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Good Question: What Are Those Biting Bugs?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They are miniature, silent, sneaky little bugs, still snacking on us even in mid-October.

“What exactly are those little black almost gnat-like bugs and where do they come from?” asked Randi Duchene from Faribault.

“I do not recall having gnats like this in the fall here in Minnesota. Why do we have them this year?” asked Vicki Holst from Woodbury.

The strange explosion of fall biting bugs elicited 130 comments on my Facebook page. Mary Alice Kimball wrote, “I work at Oxbow Creek Elementary, the gnats are awful on the playground!”

Melissa Barnes said: “I am being attacked by them!”

“I was outside with my family and they were everywhere,” said WCCO Chief Meteorologist Chris Shaffer. “It felt like mosquitos biting but every time you look there was nothing there. The one time I caught one it looked like that, tiny, little,” he said.

So what are these bugs?

“This is a pretty unique year,” said Mike McLean, spokesman for the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District. They treat rivers and streams for the culprit: Black flies, more commonly known as biting gnats or biting midges.

“We’ve got 14 different species of gnats in the Twin Cities and about four of them bite us,” said McLean.

“I’ve been bugged by gnats, these were like ninja gnats,” said Shaffer.

Only the females bite. They need the blood to have the energy to lay eggs. That happens in moving water, like streams and lakes.

“When they get nice and big, they emerge on an air bubble, and launch themselves out of the water,” said McLean. “They’re blood feeders just like mosquitos except not nearly as subtle. What they do is take a chunk out of the skin and feed off of the blood in the little hole they’ve made.”

According to McLean, the counts of biting gnats were fairly low all summer, because MMCD treated the rivers and streams. But the last treatment was in September and no one expected this kind of a warm spell in October.

“There’s a few bugs we didn’t get and it’s really taken off now. But it’s nothing a few really cold nights won’t take care of,” said McLean.

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