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Ag officials warn of insect that poses danger to livestock

Ag officials warn of insect that poses danger to livestock

March 14th, 2019 by Miller County Extension Service in Texarkana News

Buffalo gnat outbreaks may occur in the Texarkana region along the Sulphur River, according to agricultural officials.

While treatment is necessary, officials say the river levels are too high.

Every year, from November through March, the Miller County Extension Agency officials scout the Sulphur River to scout for Buffalo gnat larvae.

"They're a type of tiny blood-sucking black fly, related to the turkey gnat, but more detrimental to wildlife and livestock," said Jennifer Caraway, Miller County Extension Agent.

The insects need cold, flowing water to hatch, Caraway said.

Swarms of buffalo gnats tend to kill animals in several different ways, Caraway said.

"Buffalo gnats will attack your livestock. They will get up in the airways, cause toxemia, anaphylactic shock. They would even die from blood loss because they make little incisions on the animal," Caraway said.

Bites from the insects can also be painful for humans.

In the past few weeks, Caraway says they've noticed an increase in buffalo gnat larvae, which is not a good sign for the Southwest Arkansas region.

Last year in Arkansas County, about 300 wildlife and 100 livestock died.

Researchers believe even more died, but were not reported.

"Arkansas County is in the Delta. There are more livestock here. If we were to have the same outbreak, here as they did last year, it would be substantial," Caraway said.

Former Miller County Extension Agent Doug Petty says now would be a good time to treat for the buffalo gnats using a natural insecticide called BTI, but nature has not cooperated with their plans.

"This year it's been out of the banks the whole winter. With as much rain as we've been getting, the Army Corps of Engineers is having a hard time for us to make the treatment affective," Petty said

Normally about 45 miles of the Sulphur River is treated, he said.

Other control options include moving livestock about five miles away from the river, sheltering them, or burning hay bales. The last outbreak of Buffalo Gnats in Miller County was in the late 1980s, said Petty.

"We probably lost a few hundred head of cattle and horses, since then we've been keeping a good handle on it," Petty said.

"The weather has helped in the last four or five years by not having substantial rainfall," Petty said.

While heavy rains may have created problems with buffalo gnats, windy weather may have helped move them away from livestock.

Southern buffalo gnats usually decline when temperatures rise to above 80 degrees, Petty said.


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