Swarms of gnats bug Northwestern students


Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

The afternoon commute on Sheridan Road, where many students have encountered swarms of pesky gnats.

Austin Benavides, Assistant Campus Editor

Take a walk outside and you might enjoy the spring weather, but with the forecast featuring warmer temperatures and more rain, Northwestern students aren’t the only ones adjusting to the seasonal change.

Gnats, small flying insects are closely related to both flies and mosquitoes, have set campus abuzz — with students not taking kindly to their lakeshore neighbors.

Vanessa Obi, a Weinberg freshman, has had several encounters with gnats on campus. Whenever she runs on the Lakefill, she has to cover her mouth so no unwanted insects fly in, and after a run, she has to spend time picking leftover gnats out of her hair.

“Just walking across campus, you walk into a giant swarm of them and they get on your clothes, and some of them fly into your mouth or up your nose or on your glasses,” Obi said. “Sometimes we had to stop because you just run into, like, a vortex of gnats.”

Illinois is home to a variety of insects that people consider gnats. In 2016, swarms of black flies and eye gnats reemerged in central Illinois, according to the State Journal-Register.

Black flies, also known as buffalo gnats, typically live near sources of water and are active after sunrise and just before sunset, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The flies are generally attracted to people’s breath, sweat and dark, moving objects.

Eye gnats are another pest native to the Prairie State. They get their name from their diet — the gnats are attracted to the secretions of the eyes and noses of people, according to the University of Illinois Extension. These gnats, unlike their mosquito counterparts, typically don’t feed on people.

Oliver Holden-Moses had a similar experience to Obi. While going on a run, a gnat flew right up into his nose.

“I could feel it in the back of my throat. It wasn’t the greatest experience,” the Bienen sophomore said. “But I guess I got a little more protein that day.”

To deal with the gnats, Obi changed her routine from running outside to going to the gym, and she carries a scarf with her to stop gnats from getting in her mouth or eyes. Despite her efforts, Obi says, the gnats are “annoying everywhere” on campus and she can’t get away from them.

SESP freshman Morgan Hodges said the gnats are probably attracted to the light color of her hair, which might have made her a target. Her most memorable encounter was when she was caught amid a swarm of gnats on North Campus.

“They were all flying in my face and getting on my clothes and I got one in my lip gloss, and I had to pick it out,” Hodges said. “It had died immediately in my lip gloss and it just drowned in the gloss. And then I didn’t care after that, because the gnats are a part of me now.”

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